Toms A Work In Progress

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When David Toms drives home, hes greeted with a familiar face ' his own.
 
Toms is posterized on a billboard as you enter his subdivision. It says: Congratulations, Shreveports own, David Toms, Winner of the 2001 PGA Championship, he said with a grin that was born from both pride and humility.
 
Its been two and a half months since Toms won the seasons final major ' his first ' and hes still trying to adjust to the changes it has brought in his life.
 
All the perks, all the media attention, all the stuff that goes along with playing great golf, I am not good at handling that, Toms said. I just want to go out and play good just because thats fun.
 
If playing well is fun, then Toms has had one jubilant year. Entering this weeks Tour Championship in Houston, TX, he has three wins under his belt and over $3.4 million in earnings.
 
I exceeded my expectations, Toms said. I think winning early in the year (at the Compaq Classic in May), which I had never done before, kind of gave me that extra confidence for the rest of the year to play well.
 
Then, obviously, winning a major, that was the highlight of my career. And then, I followed it up a few weeks later and was able to win again (at the Michelob Championship).
 
Hopefully, this week Ill end up on a high note.
 
Toms is one of 29 players competing for the $900,000 first-place prize at the Champions Golf Club. Hes a bit banged up, with tendonitis in his left wrist and a minor disc problem in his neck. He withdrew from last weeks Buick Challenge as a precaution, and had an MRI on Monday. Doctors put Toms on medication, and he said he still feels less than 100 percent ' but, I have played hurt before and played well, so I am not concerned about that.
 
This is the 34-year-old former LSU Tigers third consecutive appearance at the Tour Championship. And his second at the Champions Club, having played here in 1999.
 
Obviously, a lot has changed in 24 months.Two years ago, Toms was just another solid player. Someone who had captured a trio of tour titles along the way and made a nice living for himself.
 
Then, everything changed in August 2001.
 
Toms transitioned from good to great. From tour winner to major champion. From public obscurity to fan favorite.
 
Hes risen to a plateau where the likes of David Duval and Phil Mickelson reside; though, his next ascent is into the rarefied air breathed only by Tiger Woods.
 
I dont think I am a challenger to him. I think I am just a guy thats starting to, you know, play up to my potential, and I still dont think that my potential is that level, Toms said.
 
Even guys like Phil Mickelson - Hes a great player. But I just ' I dont see us and David Duval and all those ' they are not as good as Tiger and I am not as good as Tiger. I just think he is gifted.
 
Recently, the media has tried to stir up a debate as to whom might be Player of the Year ' should Toms win this event.
 
Would it be Toms with four wins; including a major and the Tour Championship? Or Woods, with five wins; including the Masters Tournament, The Players Championship, the Memorial Tournament, Bay Hill and the WGC-NEC Invitational.
 
Simple decision, says Toms.
 
I saw Duvals quote the other day. He said, I dont really think its a contest. Thats the way I feel about it.
 
This was my 29th event (on the PGA Tour this season). Tiger has played (20). I had (almost) ten more opportunities to win golf tournaments than himIf he played a full schedule, it would be unbelievable what he could do.
 
Unbelievable. Many would use that word to describe what Toms has done this year.
 
'I have been able to build on my experience and just get better,' he said. 'I think I can still win a lot more golf tournaments and make a very nice living.
 
'This year...it's been pretty special.'