Toms Seeking Special Delivery

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 22, 2006, 4:00 pm
2006 FedEx St. Jude ClassicBigger is better on the PGA TOUR. The bigger the drive, the better. The bigger the purse, the better. And, the bigger the lead, the better.
 
But bigger doesnt always equate to easier. Hitting the ball a country mile doesnt mean a player can contend each and every week. When the stakes are higher, the noose is tighter. And the bigger the advantage, the bigger the opportunity to choke it all away.
 
Justin Leonard
Justin Leonard reacts to his narrow escape at last year's FedEx St. Jude Classic.
Justin Leonard knows the latter quite well. He held an eight-stroke lead through 54 holes of last years FedEx St. Jude Classic, but shot 3-over 73 on Sunday and escaped with a one-shot win over David Toms, who closed furiously in 63.
 
I didn't think it was ever going to get that close, said Leonard, who didnt make a birdie in the final round and had to make a 3-foot par putt on the final hole to avoid a playoff.
 
Leonard almost became a dubious part of history that week in Memphis, Tenn., as no player has ever blown a lead that big on the PGA TOUR with 18 holes to play.
 
Six strokes is the largest wasted advantage entering the final round. Five players have had the misfortune of doing that, most recently Sergio Garcia.
 
Garcia led by a half-dozen to start the final day of last years Wachovia Championship, but his closing 72 was good enough for only a playoff, which he lost to Vijay Singh.
 
This year, for the most part, those leading after Saturday have had very good Sundays.
 
In 20 stroke-play events on TOUR, only three times have players come from behind in the final round to win. Tiger Woods overcame a one-stroke deficit to win the Buick Invitational; Kirk Triplett closed in 63 to erase a six-stroke deficit in Tucson; and Brett Wetterich earned his first TOUR title by winning the EDS Byron Nelson Championship after beginning the final round one back.
 
This years field features only two top-20 players: Toms and Chris DiMarco. The event has an unenviable position on the TOUR schedule ' situated after two popular stops in Texas and before two popular stops leading up to the U.S. Open.
 
Next season, as a part of the new FedEx schedule, the tournament will move to the week preceding the U.S. Open.
 
As for this week, Leonard will try and become just the fourth repeat winner in this tournaments 48-year history. Dave Hill won in 1969-70; Lee Trevino in 1971-72; and Toms in 2003-04.
 
Toms has a spectacular record on the par-70, 7,244-yard TPC at Southwind course. And its no surprise that he leads the list of favorites.
 
David Toms
David Toms
David Toms has had plenty of reasons to celebrate over the last four years at the TPC at Southwind.
Toms has played this tournament on 14 occasions. The first 10 times, he never had a top-10s. But in his last four starts, he has finished fourth, first, first, second. Toms earned his 12th career TOUR victory earlier this season at the Sony Open. Hell now be trying to garner his first multiple-win campaign since 2003. After a hot start this year, Toms cooled off with missed cuts in The Players Championship, Masters Tournament and Shell Houston Open. He has since tied for 47th in New Orleans and tied for 30th last week at Colonial.
 
Justin Leonard
Last years win in Memphis was a breakthrough for Leonard. It marked the first time since 1997 that he won more than one event in a single season (Bob Hope). Leonard is still in search of win No. 1 this year. The Dallas native has only two top-10s in '06, and none since the FBR Open in February. Leonard has had success here, however, as he has three top-10s in six starts to go along with last years triumph. This will be the first time since he played here from 1994-98 that he is in the field for a second consecutive year.
 
Bob Estes
Every player has tournament sites where he plays particularly well. This is such a site for Estes. He has played this tournament 17 times, but it wasnt until recently that he found his groove at Southwind. Estes has four top-5s in his last seven starts here, including a victory in 2001. He also tied for eighth a year ago. His best finish this year is a runner-up in Houston.
 
Chris DiMarco
DiMarco has to win again on the PGA TOUR. Right? Though he won in Abu Dhabi on the European Tour earlier this year, he hasnt won in the States since 2002. He doesnt have a top-10 in a stroke-play event on TOUR this season. He has, however, had some pretty good moments at this event. DiMarco tied for second in 2000, tied for 12th in 2001 and tied for ninth in his most recent appearance in 2003.
 
Fredrik Jacobson
Jacobson snuck in a top-5 finish at this years Ford Championship, but up until last week that had pretty much been the extent of his 2006 success on TOUR. He then shot 62 in the second round of the Bank of America Colonial on his way to a tie for 17th The Swede has a tremendous record in just a handful of appearances at the FedEx. In three starts, he has finished T3, T5 and T6.
 
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    Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

    Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

    The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

    Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

    “I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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    Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

    Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

    Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon. 

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    Stock Watch: Spieth searching for putting form

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:50 pm

    Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

    RISING

    Patton Kizzire (+8%): By today’s accelerated standards, he’s a late bloomer, having reached the Tour at age 29. Well, he seems right at home now, with two wins in his last four starts.

    Rory (+7%): Coming off the longest break of his career, McIlroy should have no excuses this year. He’s healthy. Focused. Motivated. It’s go time.

    Chris Paisley (+5%): The best part about his breakthrough European Tour title that netted him $192,000? With his wife, Keri, on the bag, he doesn’t have to cut 10 percent to his caddie – she gets the whole thing.

    Brooke Henderson (+3%): A seventh-place finish at the Diamond Resorts Invitational doesn’t sound like much for a five-time winner, but this came against the men – on a cold, wet, windy, 6,700-yard track. She might be the most fun player to watch on the LPGA. 

    New European Ryder Cuppers (+2%): In something of a Ryder Cup dress rehearsal, newcomers Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton each went undefeated in leading Europe to a come-from-behind victory at the EurAsia Cup. The competition come September will be, um, a bit stiffer.



    FALLING

    Jordan’s putting (-1%): You can sense his frustration in interviews, and why not? In two starts he leads the Tour in greens in regulation … and ranks 201st (!) in putting. Here’s guessing he doesn’t finish the year there.

    Brian Harman’s 2018 Sundays (-2%): The diminutive left-hander now has five consecutive top-10s, and he’s rocketing up the Ryder Cup standings, but you can’t help but wonder how much better the start to his year might have been. In the final pairing each of the past two weeks, he’s a combined 1 under in those rounds and wasn’t much of a factor.

    Tom Hoge (-3%): Leading by one and on the brink of a life-changing victory – he hadn’t been able to keep his card each of the past three years – Hoge made an absolute mess of the 16th, taking double bogey despite having just 156 yards for his approach. At least now he’s on track to make the playoffs for the first time.

    Predicting James Hahn’s form (-4%): OK, we give up: He’d gone 17 events without a top-15 before his win at Riviera; 12 before his win at Quail Hollow; and seven before he lost on the sixth playoff hole at Waialae. The margins between mediocre play and winning apparently are THAT small.

    Barnrat (-5%): Coming in hot with four consecutive top-10s, and one of only two team members ranked inside the top 50 in the world, Kiradech Aphibarnrat didn’t show up at the EurAsia Cup, going 0-3 for the week. In hindsight, the Asian team had no chance without his contributions. 

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    Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

    By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

    “I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

    Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

    “If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”


    Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)


    Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

    Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

    “He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

    As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

    "I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

    Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”