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Archive for Monday, May 23, 2011

Toms cries again — this time, for joy

May 23, 2011

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— When his putt dropped on 18, David Toms pumped his fists. Then he cried.

It seemed a fitting end to a week of conflicting emotions.

In the span of seven days, Toms went from playoff loser at the Players Championship to winner at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.

At Hogan’s Alley, he shot consecutive 62s to take a seven-stroke lead. Then he blew that lead. Then he overcame a one-stroke deficit to beat Charlie Wi by one.

Toms’ plaid winner’s jacket was certainly appropriate because he was one mixed up dude.

“I’m not dreaming, am I?” he said. “This is actually happening, right? Oh, man, wow, I didn’t know is this day would ever come again to be quite honest.”

Toms’ waited more than five years between his 12th and 13th victories.

The last player to win the week after losing in a playoff was Phil Mickelson in 2000. He was defeated by Jesper Parnevik at the HP Byron Nelson Championship and then won at Colonial.

At 44, Toms is a major champion (PGA Championship, 2001) with nothing to prove. But he felt like he needed to prove something to himself.

“It helps me just to know that, No. 1, I can still win,” he said. “No. 2, that I have the game to play no matter what the tournament, no matter what the conditions. I’ve always had a problem with self-doubt, and maybe that’s because of the way I have to play golf.”

Known for his accuracy and not for his power, Toms went to the brink at rugged TPC Sawgrass before claiming victory on the ultimate shotmaker’s course. Hogan’s Alley is short and tight, one of the few courses where power does not rule.

“I don’t always feel like I’m at an advantage every week on the courses that we play,” he said. “After a while, it kind of beats you up. And to come back after what happened last week is probably the most satisfying victory I’ve ever had out of all the ones, even the major championship, even winning in my home state. To win after this time frame and to come back after what happened last week certainly means more to me than any other victory.”

Toms needed a pick-me-up after making only one birdie on the front nine. It came on the par-5 11th, where Toms hit his wedge from 85 yards. The ball landed several feet past the hole and then sucked back into the cup.

About the same time, contender Stuart Appleby’s drive clanged off a tree and rolled into a bunker on 11. Appleby was beginning a slide that culminated with a back-nine 43. He finished tied for 16th place.

Toms took the lead for good with his eagle. Although Wi birdied 11, he bogeyed 12. His birdie on 16 followed by Toms’ bogey on 17 brought them to the final hole with Toms nursing a one-shot lead.

Both made par on 18, which meant Wi would still be searching for his first victory. He has finished second four times.

“I had a three-shot lead after the second hole and I thought I had a pretty good handle on myself,” said Wi, “But I knew there was a lot of golf to be played and David hit some great iron shots coming down the stretch.”

Toms can relate. Since his victory at the Sony Open in January 2001, he has six runner-ups.

Those can add on a player entering the twilight of his career. Toms also has dealt with hand surgery, an injured shoulder, and a rapid heartbeat.

He’s had plenty of reasons to cry over the last five years. On Sunday, finally, it was time to celebrate.

“That just took a lot of guts, that’s really all,” Toms said. “That’s what I got by on today.”

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