LEMONT, Ill. – David Toms has been around long enough to realize that good play takes care of everything. That’s especially true at the BMW Championship, where a strong week could pay big dividends.
Toms, whose win at the Colonial was his first PGA Tour title in five years, is No. 20 in the FedEx Cup standings. He is all but assured of returning to East Lake for the Tour Championship, but needs to move up to have a better shot at the $10 million prize.
And then there’s the Presidents Cup.
Toms is at No. 10 in the standings - the top 10 after this week automatically qualify - but this is one tiny bubble. His lead over Brandt Snedeker (No. 11) is a mere $28,000. That would be the difference of finishing 19th and 23rd at Cog Hill. Then again, Toms is only $15,810 behind Jim Furyk, who is ninth in the standings.
And remember, U.S. captain Fred Couples essentially has only one pick because the other has been promised to Tiger Woods.
Even at this stage in his career, Toms wants to be part of the team that goes to Australia.
“I had planned on being part of that team. I was in good position,” he said. “Then I was hurt for a little while in the summer, had a couple of good finishes, got hurt again the first week of the playoffs and Boston is not a good course for me. Neither is this one, to be honest with you.
“I’m in a spot where I have to play well,” he said. “I’ll probably put extra pressure on myself. But I feel like I have to play well to get in the chase for the FedEx Cup and for the Presidents Cup.”
The Presidents Cup scenario is too much math for Toms. He just knows it’s extremely close with Furyk ahead of him and Snedeker behind him. Bill Haas, at No. 12, is $185,899 behind Toms.
“There’s a lot of guys right behind me,” said Toms, who last played on a U.S. cup team in 2007. “It’s all about playing well. If those guys have a great week, they’re going to pass me. So I need to have one myself.”
PLAYOFF PERFORMANCE: Only 70 players made it to Cog Hill for the BMW Championship, the third leg in the FedEx Cup playoffs. For those who didn’t have good years, they still can make up ground by performing well in the playoffs.
Ernie Els has done just that.
He is the only player at Cog Hill who has yet to register a single top 10 this year. The Big Easy barely made it to Boston with a tie for 32nd at the first playoff event. Then, he tied for 16th to barely advance to the third stage of the playoffs.
The streak will have to end if Els is to advance. He needs at least a top 10 finish to get to the Tour Championship.
Four other players - Johnson Wagner, Chad Campbell, Sean O’Hair and Lucas Glover - also made it to Chicago with only one top-10 finish during the regular season. O’Hair, Glover and Wagner all won tournaments.
BUSY FALL: Masters champion Charl Schwartzel skipped the first FedEx Cup playoff event because he needed rest - not for the rest of the playoffs, rather the rest of the year.
Once the Tour Championship is over, the traveling begins for the South African.
Schwartzel goes straight to Scotland for the Dunhill Links, then halfway back across the Atlantic to Bermuda for the PGA Grand Slam of Golf. After that are two tournaments in China, the Taheiyo Masters in Japan, then four straight weeks of the Presidents Cup in Australia, the World Cup in China, the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa and the Dubai World Championship.
“I think that’s eight tournaments in six different countries,” Schwartzel said.
Schwartzel plans to stay closer to home to start the year. Instead of coming to Hawaii for the PGA Tour’s season opener at Kapalua, he said he will be in South Africa for two European Tour events. The Africa Open and the Volvo Golf Champions, which had been in Bahrain. Schwartzel said that event will move this year to Fancourt, which hosted the 2003 Presidents Cup.
PACE OF PUTTING: Dustin Johnson rarely takes more than about 20 seconds when it’s his turn to play. Get him on the putting green, however, and Johnson has learned to slow down.
His 10th hole in the second round of the Deutsche Bank Championship was a good illustration. He crouched from the other side of the cup for some 10 seconds. Then he looked at his 20-foot putt from a side angle, before crouching behind the ball for the longest time, then bringing in caddie Joe LaCava for an opinion.
Why the extra time? Johnson struggled with his putting earlier this year, and simply wants to make sure he pours everything into it.
“The more comfortable I get with line, the more comfortable I am over the ball,” Johnson said. “I’ve been trying to get good reads, get as much confidence as I can going into the putt. I can’t control if the ball goes in the hole, but I can control how I hit it.”
Not to worry. Johnson is as efficient as ever with the rest of his game.
“The only time, I take a lot of time is on the putts, to make sure I’m reading it right,” he said. “Other than that, I don’t take any time at all.”
FAXON THEORY: While talking about the rage over long putters, Brad Faxon wondered if players needed to change their attitude instead of their equipment or their style.
Faxon long has been a believer that players should putt like they don’t care - in other words, stop getting so uptight about the result that it prevents them from having a fluid stroke or a swing
“When people start changing their style, they immediately feel a freedom,” he said. “It’s kind of like, `This is so different that if I miss, it doesn’t matter as much.’ It’s a new way of trying. When you see someone else’s club, you take a couple of strokes with his putter. Inevitably you hit good strokes, because you’re not thinking about making or missing. You’re hitting it to see how it feels.
“Rather than thinking, `Oh my gosh, I should think like this with my putter,’ you think it’s the style or the putter that makes it better.”
DIVOTS: Bob Verdi, a longtime columnist for the Chicago Tribune and later for Golf Digest, has been selected to receive the 2012 Memorial Golf Journalism award. He will be honored next year at Muirfield Village. … The USGA has hired Sarah Hirshland as its senior managing director of business affairs. She completes the USGA’s new senior leadership team that includes Mike Davis (executive director), John Bodenhamer (rules and competition), Mike Butz (championships) and Rand Jerris (public services). The USGA also hired Joe Goode as head of communications. Goode previously worked at Bank of America.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Yani Tseng is No. 1 on the LPGA in earnings, scoring, driving distance, greens in regulation and birdie average. She is No. 3 in putting.
FINAL WORD: “They’re a very young team - besides me.” - Juli Inkster, 51, on the U.S. Solheim Cup team.