PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Carter Toms was certain his father’s last putt at the 17th island hole was going to extend Sunday’s playoff at The Players Championship.
Behind the green, David Toms’ 13-year-old son held his breath.
“I was a little bit nervous, but I had a feeling he was going to make it,” Carter said. “I had a really good feeling, but it didn’t go in. You know what, though? It was still a really cool day. It was a lot of fun watching dad play today.”
After David missed that last 3 1/2-foot putt to lose to K.J. Choi, Carter put his right hand over his face and buried his head in his mother’s shoulder, but there were no tears.
Afterward, Sonya, David’s wife, got a heartfelt hug from Candie Clark, wife of 2010 Players Championship winner Tim Clark.
“Such a heartbreak,” Sonya told Candie. “Such a heartbreak.”
There were no tears in Sonya’s eyes, either. Or even in the eyes of little Anna, the Toms’ youngest child. That’s because Sunday’s loss wasn’t a crushing defeat for the Toms family. It didn’t break anyone’s spirit or
While this loss came with a sting, to be sure, something else swept in quickly behind it.
There was a wave of hope and encouragement. The entire family felt it.
The weekend run was a sign that Toms is pointed in the right direction again, that something big may be on the horizon with his ball striking returning to world-class form and with the PGA Championship returning to the Atlanta Athletic Club this summer. That’s where Toms won his lone major a decade ago.
When Toms gets hot, he can knock down flagsticks with the world’s best. He can drive his ball through tiny corridors. He can win in bunches.
But at 44, with back, shoulder and wrist injuries behind him, with a heart ailment in his past, Toms hasn’t won anything in five years.
This loss showed the world a new spark the entire family is seeing in Toms’ game.
It was fitting that Sonya flew here with Carter and Anna on Friday night, because David’s resurgence is very much a family affair.
David spoke early in the week about how he’s inspired by Carter’s growing interest in the game.
“I can see that,” Sonya said. “I see can see that at home when they’re going to the golf course together. I see how it’s helping David get excited about the game again.”
David said he’s playing more golf when he’s back home in Shreveport, La., because he’s having so much fun teeing it up with his son. Carter, who has just started playing local junior tournaments, is beginning to break 80 with some consistency.
“It’s funny, when I’m picking out my outfit for the next day, he’s picking out his outfit for the next day,” David said. “Those young kids look up to the young guys out here on Tour, and he follows it all the time. It’s on his phone. It’s on his computer. He’s watching the Golf Channel all the time.”
David has won 12 PGA Tour events, but his last was the Sony Open in 2006. When David won the PGA Championship, Carter was just 3 years old.
“When I was really winning a lot of tournaments, he knew about golf and he was around some, but he didn’t play it and wasn’t into it,” David said. “Now, he is. It would have been nice to win for him today.”
Carter walked the entire round with his father.
“If I were to make a bogey, or hit a bad shot, you look over and you see him in the crowd, and it just kind of put a smile on your face and puts it all in perspective,” David said.
Sonya left the course more focused on how David got up and down from a divot to make birdie at the 72nd hole to force the playoff than she was about his missed putt at the end. The clutch 17-foot birdie David made sent a chill down her spine.
“It really reminded me of the putt he made to win the PGA Championship,” Sonya said. “It was surreal.
“The loss is kind of hard, but he’s playing some good golf. It was uplifting to see that. He’s been so close. I think it’s just a matter of time until he wins again. There were a lot of good things to take away from this week”
That’s why you didn’t see any tears in this loss.
With Toms’ history of riding hot streaks, Toms looked like a man who might be catching fire again.
'I think I'm going to win again soon,' he said.
Follow Randall Mell on Twitter @RandallMellGC