- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 21, 2009

For the past year, Canadian amateur Nick Taylor has listed missing the cut at the 2008 U.S. Open among his career highlights.

Not anymore. Not only did Taylor make the cut at Bethpage Black, he climbed the leader board.

Matching the best score by an amateur in U.S. Open history, Taylor finished his second round of 5-under 65 on Saturday, putting him 2 under for the week and tied for seventh at the midway point of the season’s second major championship.

Surprised?

“A little bit,” said Taylor, who started the third round six shots behind leader Ricky Barnes.

Taylor was among 15 amateurs in this year’s U.S. Open field, the most since 18 competed in 1980 and 1981. Of those, three made the cut for the second straight year. Joining Taylor were former Virginia Tech player Drew Weaver and Kyle Stanley, who finished second for Clemson in this year’s NCAA championship. Weaver was 1 over and Stanley 4 over, advancing right on the cut line.

Weaver had a highlight early in the third round, spinning his approach into the par-4 second hole within three feet of the cup. The former British Amateur champion, who made the cut at a major for the first time in three attempts, then sprinted toward the green, pumping his fist and slapping high-fives with caddie Victor Velaquez.

“It’s a good feeling to be able to make the cut and play the weekend,” Taylor said. “You know, I’m a couple under par, have really no expectations… so just go out and play as well as I can and not have any pressure out there for the most part.”

In other words, he’s approaching this U.S. Open much differently than he did the 2008 tourney at Torrey Pines.

On the opening tee last year, Taylor was so nervous that he remembers not even being able to feel the club in his hands. He got to the tee - he thinks he was shaking but isn’t sure of that either - and pushed his opening drive well to the right.

Taylor wound up missing the 2008 cut by three shots. On Saturday, his 65 was tied for both the second-best round of the day and the championship and equaled the rounds put up by amateurs James McHale in 1947 and James Simons in 1971.

He even posted better scores in both rounds than Tiger Woods.

“The course… is playing as easy as it could ever play,” Taylor said.

Reaching the final two rounds is only half the battle for Taylor, who finished second at the 2008 NCAA championships for Washington.

In the past three decades, only two amateurs - Matt Kuchar (14th in 1998) and Spencer Levin (13th in 2004) - have posted a top-20 finish at the Open. Taylor’s countryman Mike Weir doesn’t have much doubt Taylor can hang around the leader board the rest of the way.

“I’m not surprised at all,” said Weir, who practiced alongside Taylor earlier in the week. “He’s got a great head on his shoulders. Impressed with him and hopefully he keeps going. He’s got a great future.”

His immediate future is a bit cloudy.

Taylor is scheduled to appear at a Royal Canadian Golf Association event in Toronto on Monday, although with ominous weather looming over the U.S. Open - light rain is forecast all day Sunday, and a Monday finish is far from out of the question - he might have to cancel.

He thinks the RCGA will understand.

“If I miss that,” Taylor said, “I won’t be disappointed.”

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