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Archive for Sunday, August 19, 2001

PGA Championship: Toms aces Atlanta course with 65

Hole-in-one gives former LSU golfer two-stroke lead over Mickelson

August 19, 2001

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— Phil Mickelson doesn't have to worry about Tiger Woods getting in the way at this major only David Toms, and that doesn't make it any easier.

With an ace to snatch the lead from Mickelson and a 35-foot birdie putt to set a major championship record, Toms brought new meaning to "Go, Tiger!" with a 5-under 65 on Saturday for a two-stroke lead in the PGA Championship.

David Toms, right, and caddie Scott Gneiser celebrate after Toms
aced the par-3 15th hole Saturday at Duluth, Ga.

David Toms, right, and caddie Scott Gneiser celebrate after Toms aced the par-3 15th hole Saturday at Duluth, Ga.

Toms made a hole-in-one with a 5-wood from 243 yards on No. 15, the ball bouncing three times before it lapped up the base of the flagstick and dropped. It might not have been the shot heard around the world, but it gave him a shot at his first major.

Toms was at 196, breaking the 54-hole scoring record for majors last set by Ernie Els (197) in the 1995 PGA Championship at Riviera.

"I think I'm capable of winning," said Toms, who has never been in contention going into the last round of a major. "I showed that today, because I hung in there early when I didn't have my game, and I finished up strong."

Mickelson did his part.

Despite a double bogey and two mistakes on treacherous par 3s down the stretch, his eight birdies gave him his third consecutive 66 and yet another chance to win a major. It will be his seventh time going into the final round of a major within two strokes of the lead.

He has been denied by players like Ben Crenshaw and Woods in the Masters, and Corey Pavin and Payne Stewart in the U.S. Open.

Toms is no stranger.

Earlier this year, Toms closed with rounds of 63-64 in New Orleans and came from six strokes behind in the final round to beat Mickelson.

Just like then, shouts of "Go Tigers!" followed him down the stretch at Atlanta Athletic Club. Toms went to school at LSU and has LSU Tigers written on his bag.

As for that other guy?

Woods provided his share of thrills. He holed a 103-yard shot from the fairway on No. 9 for an eagle that made him wonder if he still had a shot to win his third straight Wanamaker Trophy.

Bogeys on the last two holes answered that question. He finished with a 69 and was 13 strokes out of the lead by the time Toms was finished.

It might not be a two-man race today.

Shingo Katayama didn't ride off into the sunset with that goofy cowboy hat. He had a 69, saving par on the last hole after his approach splashed out of the water and safely into the rough on the other side. He was at 200, along with Steve Lowery (66).

David Duval might be hitting the ball as well as anyone this week, but the British Open champion has been haunted by his putter. Duval missed an 18-inch par putt on No. 6 and hit a chip shot about that distance on the 18th. He still managed a 67 and was at 201.

Davis Love III matched Toms' 65 for the low round of the day, but he was still seven strokes back at 203.

Mickelson will be playing in the final group at a major for the second time this year. He never had a chance against Woods at the Masters, but this could be his time to shed the label as the best golfer never to have won a major.

He has made 16 birdies and an eagle, and the damage has been minimal. He took double bogey early on by chopping up the third hole with a questionable decision, trying to scale a row of trees from the deep rough. He didn't get far, hitting his next wedge over the green.

He answered with two birdies, and then appeared to be on the verge of running away from the field just the way he said he had intended to do.

A wedge on No. 9 into 3 feet for birdie. Another wedge into No. 11 that stopped inside a foot from the hole. A 2-footer on No. 12 and then his best shot of the day on No. 14, the ball hopping once and hitting the base of the flag before stopping inches away.

"I have some ground to make up, but I certainly like the position," Mickelson said.

It could have been better, except for one incredible shot.

Toms stared his 5-wood all the way to the hole, threw his hands in the air and turned into a Tiger the high-five, the fist pump and a whooping yell.

"It never left the flag," Toms said. "I didn't know it was in until the people behind the green jumped up out of the stands. It was quite a sight."

Mickelson was walking by down the 16th fairway and heard the roar. It didn't shake him, however. He stuck a wedge into 3 feet for birdie to reclaim a share of the lead.

Mickelson gave back a shot on the 17th with a tee shot that went into the deep rough. The best he could do was chop out to 20 feet and two-putt for bogey, but a par on the 18th left him in great position to claim that elusive major.

Besides, it could have been much worse.

The closing holes killed so many other chances, not only to contend for the PGA Championship but to earn a spot on the Ryder Cup team.

Chris DiMarco, 11th in the standings, played the final four holes in 3 over to shoot 71, leaving him seven strokes out of the lead and in need of a strong Sunday to get into the top 10 a must if he wants to overtake Tom Lehman.

Toms probably needs a fourth-place finish to make his first Ryder Cup team.

That can wait. With an amazing ace and a nice finishing touch, there's a major championship to be won.

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