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Toms Plays Practice Round Minus Partner

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PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico -- David Toms split fairways with his drives and tossed iron shots at the pins Tuesday as he got his first look at one of Mexico's plushest courses.
 
Not on hand to witness Toms' solid exhibition was Phil Mickelson, his playing partner in this week's World Cup two-man team event at the Jack Nicklaus-designed Vista Vallarta course.
 
``It was fun, just trying to get used to the course,'' Toms said. ``I think it's one you have to play a couple of times. There's a lot of bunkers out there and you're not sure of the carries.''
 
Toms played the first few holes alone, and then joined the Canadian team of Mike Weir and Ian Leggett. Toms rarely played in anything but the short grass during his practice round.
 
Mickelson wasn't due to arrive until Tuesday night, and will get just one practice round before competition starts Thursday.
 
``That was the plan all along,'' Toms said of Mickelson's decision.
 
Mickelson, ranked No. 2 in the world, and Toms, No. 6, are top-seeded in the 24-team field. But Mickelson has struggled with his game lately and said last week he might have played too much once the PGA Tour's regular season ended.
 
He scrambled his way through The Skins Game because of an erratic driver, and it was more of the same last week at the Target World Challenge, where he shot 74 in the second round and finished 10th in the 16-player field.
 
Toms isn't concerned.
 
``I have all the faith in the world that he'll come down here and play good,'' Toms said. ``If we don't, so be it, but I think we'll have a chance to have a good week.''
 
The pair played well together at this year's Ryder Cup, compiling a 2-1-1 record.
 
This World Cup is missing several of the game's biggest names, including Tiger Woods. The world's top-ranked player is skipping this event for the first time in four years.
 
Woods, who teamed with Mark O'Meara to win in Malaysia in 1999 and won with David Duval in 2000 in Argentina, had a packed schedule in November and December, playing in four events over three weeks. Woods also was disgruntled when the PGA Tour changed the qualifications for the World Cup that mandated the highest-ranked player from each country play with the next available player from the world rankings.
 
That likely would have meant a Woods-Mickelson pairing. Woods prefers to pick his partner for the World Cup.
 
Others not competing include British Open champion Ernie Els and former U.S. Open winner Retief Goosen, who won last year's event in Japan. This year, South Africa is represented by Tim Clark and Rory Sabbatini.
 
Ireland's Paul McGinley said scheduling the World Cup so close to Christmas keeps some players home.
 
``It's the date,'' McGinley said. ``Two weeks before Christmas. It should have precedence over some of the invitationals.''
 
Next year's World Cup will be played at Kiawah Inland, S.C., the week of Nov. 10-16.
 
Nick Faldo withdrew last week because of a sore elbow, and Paul Casey took his spot and will play with Justin Rose on England's team.
 
The World Cup is the last of four tournaments that make up the World Golf Championships.