Toms looked like Jack Nicklaus when all was said and done.
Knowing hed be roundly second-guessed had Phil Mickelson made three to his possible five, Toms displayed tremendous courage. And clearly it was the only sensible play, given the lie and the potential disaster which awaited.
He put his trust in his very solid wedge game, and then followed the layup with a slam dunk.
Its hard to find fault with Mickelson, save for the three-putt at 16. How do you dog a guy who shoots three straight 66s and then 68?
Still, theres a Norman-esque quality to Mickelson these days. That said, his game is so good right now that its completely unfathomable to think he wont win a bunch of these.
One prominent player told me that Mickelson is a stone-cold competitor whose only weakness may be that he thinks theres nothing he cant do. He added that if Mickelson ever got himself as finely tuned physically as Duval and Woods, hed be absolutely frightening.
Toms, meanwhile, makes the huge jump from very respectable PGA Tour player to upper-echelon type. Hes now been on the winning end of two of the most exciting tournaments of the season ' in New Orleans and Atlanta ' proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that he can more than handle the kind of heat hell feel at The Belfry next month.
Interesting, in both of Tomsvictories this year Mickelson was the victim.
By the way, Mickelsons two most disappointing major losses came as a result of a lay-up by the eventual winner. In 1999 at Pinehurst, Payne Stewart laid up before making his historic clincher.
Not to be forgotten here is Shingo Katayama, who played the galleries like Clapton plays guitar. Shingo was to Atlanta what Sergio was to Chicago two years ago. And the love affair the crowds had with Shingo tells you that people are screaming for some personality in the game, someone who reaches out, smiles and tells you with his face and actions that this game is actually fun.
With Toshi Izawas playoff loss in L.A., Shigeki Maruyamas win in Milwaukee and now Katayamas run in Atlanta, 2001 has been a breakout year for the Japanese players.
Next up is The Ryder Cup. Well need the month to catch our breath after this one. In the era of the highflying slam dunk, who knew the most talked about shot of the year would be a simple little lay-up.
What a game.