Notes Big Things for Toms On and Off Course


DUBLIN, Ohio -- Not long after winning his first pro title at the 1997 Quad City Classic, David Toms became a father for the first time.
He's hoping to follow that formula again this year -- either winning this week's Memorial Tournament or possibly the U.S. Open in two weeks -- before wife Sonja has a daughter to go with son Carter.
'She's actually not due until midweek after the U.S. Open, somewhere in there,' Toms said Wednesday. 'She's got a C-section scheduled for Monday after the U.S. Open, so that gives me enough time to get home (from the Open). Maybe we'll move it to Tuesday if I'm in a playoff.'
Toms has not played at the Memorial since 1999. It's not because he doesn't like the tournament or the Muirfield Village layout.
'The reason I haven't been here the last five or six years is it just didn't quite fit my schedule,' said Toms, never higher than a tie for 26th in his three previous appearances. 'I played about five or six tournaments in a row almost every year leading up to this event. This year, I changed a little bit.'
He skipped the Byron Nelson, freeing him up to play at the tournament founded by Jack Nicklaus.
Toms has won 11 times on the PGA Tour, including this year's Match Play Championship. The winner of the 2001 PGA Championship said his return to Ohio has been an eye-opener.
'Now I see what I was missing,' he said. 'It's a great place and a great tournament, which I knew because I had played here before. But just the last couple of days around here, with the people being excited about this tournament, reminded me of what a great tournament it is.'
Each year the Memorial Tournament remembers those who have made great contributions to the game. The 2005 honorees are Betsy Rawls and the late Carey Middlecoff.
Rawls won 55 LPGA events, including eight major championships, from 1951-75. In 1959, she won 10 tournaments, had the lowest stroke average and led the tour in earnings.
'Betsy's legacy is not only her record, but the people she has touched and her dedication to the game,' said fellow hall of famer Kathy Whitworth, who introduced Rawls on Wednesday to a large gallery surrounding the 18th green.
After picking up the game at 17, Rawls traveled the world as a successful pro.
'I guess you can tell I really love the game,' she said. 'I can't imagine any other way I would have spent my life.'
Middlecoff, who died in 1998, was the top PGA Tour money-winner of the 1950s. He captured U.S. Open titles in 1949 and 1956, and won the Masters by seven strokes in 1955.
Memorial Tournament founder Jack Nicklaus, who like Middlecoff was known as a methodical player, said he was paired with Middlecoff only once.
'We both got penalized two shots,' Nicklaus said, joking. 'That's how slow we were.'
The media honoree was longtime sportscaster Jim McKay.
Davis Love III is back and feeling good heading into Thursday's opening round of the Memorial Tournament.
Love said he has regained his confidence after overcoming an injured disk in his neck that caused him pain and altered his swing.
'I've let it progressively get me weaker, and now I'm progressively getting stronger,' he said of his exercise regimen. 'I seem to swing better if I'm in the gym and stretching and working out rather than hitting balls. That tells me I've done enough ball hitting the last couple years. I just haven't done enough strengthening.'
Love tied for fourth at last week's FedEx St. Jude Classic.
The major change at Muirfield Village, site of this week's Memorial Tournament, is that the par-4 10th hole has been lengthened by 31 yards.
'It's a better hole now than it was,' said Vijay Singh, the 1997 Memorial winner. 'I was always very uncomfortable playing off the old 10th. Now it's much longer but much better to play. It's a much better golf hole.'
Course designer Jack Nicklaus said the big hitters on tour were not challenged by the uphill hole tilting toward a green surrounded by deep bunkers. The tee was moved back and the landing area was tightened.
'I heard Tiger played it with a driver and a 9 iron, and that someone else hit wedge into the green,' Nicklaus said Wednesday. 'I've played it three times and I've hit two 3 woods and metal 2 (to the green). I think it (the added length) has made a LOT of difference.'
The 108-player field includes 22 players who have won a major championship, and 41 international players from 19 countries. ... Nicklaus is the only person to have played in each of the 29 previous Memorials. ... The defending champion is Ernie Els, who finished with a pair of 66s on the weekend to win by four shots over Fred Couples. ... No. 2 Phil Mickelson is the only of one of the top seven on the 2005 money list who is not playing the Memorial. He bypassed the tournament for the third year in a row so he could prepare for the U.S. Open in two weeks at Pinehurst No. 2.
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