Toms Wins in a Cakewalk

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Defending champion David Toms only managed a 2-over 73 on Sunday, but that was all that was required to repeat as champion at the St. Jude Classic. He finished at 16-under-par 268 and won by six over 2001 champion Bob Estes.
 
The win was Toms' first of the 2004 season, a campaign that has been marred by a wrist injury. After surgery, Toms collected two top-10 finishes in the winter, but had one top-25 since the Honda Classic in the second week of March.
 
'This does a lot for me, makes me feel a lot better about my golf game, about myself,' said Toms, who pocketed $846,000 for his 10th PGA Tour victory. 'When you're struggling in golf it's not a whole lot of fun being on the road, but I've been grinding it out hoping that it would come around, and it has.'
 
But on Sunday, Toms matched Chad Campbell for largest margin of victory on tour this season. Campbell set the pace with his six-shot win at Bay Hill Invitational, but Toms joined Ernie Els (Sony Open in Hawaii), Mike Weir (Nissan Open) and Tiger Woods (WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship) as the four players who have successfully defended a title in 2004.
 
Toms also became the third repeat winner of the St. Jude Classic and the first since Lee Trevino who won at Colonial Club in 1971 and 1972. Dave Hill won back-to-back titles in 1969 and 1970.
 
Estes, who recorded seven consecutive birdies to close out his second round, posted a 2-under 69 on Sunday and came in at 10-under-par 274. Steve Lowery carded a 4-under 67 and tied for third with Tim Herron, who shot a 1-under 70 in the final round. The pair finished at minus-9.
 
Toms took a seven-shot margin, the largest 54-hole lead on tour this season, into Sunday's final round and the conditions were much different than on Saturday. With storms forecasted for the afternoon, final-round tee times were moved up, but wind gusts that reached 30 miles per hour greeted the players.
 
The 2001 PGA Champion felt the toughness of the course at the first when he bogeyed the hole, but back-to-back birdies at five and six erased anyone's chances of a final-round comeback.
 
Toms took a nine-shot lead on to the back nine at the TPC at Southwind, but things did not go smoothly. At the 11th, Toms knocked his 7-iron tee ball into the right bunker. He had an impossible lie and blasted his second through the green. Toms got up-and-down for bogey, but his drive at the next went into the water and it was back-to-back bogeys.
 
None of Toms' closest competitors made a move up the leaderboard to catch Toms. Toms hit a safe shot into the par-3 14th green that came up 40 feet short of the hole. He left his birdie try 5 feet short, then missed his par putt on the right side. Toms' lead was cut to five, but he birdied the 16th to stop the bleeding.
 
Toms bogeyed No. 17, but it did not matter. The conditions made it almost impossible for anyone to come near Tom's spot atop the leaderboard.
 
'Even though I was a couple over par today, I felt like I was still pretty much in control of what I was doing,' said Toms. 'I was just trying to make par on every hole. If I made birdie on any particular hole, that was a bonus. That's the way I tried to play the golf course, because I knew that there weren't going to be any low scores as far as people coming from way back.'
 
Estes may have come closest, but he was never a factor on Sunday. He chipped in three times, twice for birdie and once for an eagle at the 16th. Estes birdied the final hole to go past Lowery and Herron and take second place, his highest finish since he lost a playoff last year in New Orleans.
 
'I knew I just needed to just keep hitting quality shots and hopefully make a pitch shot or a putt like I did at the end to give myself that opportunity,' said Estes.
 
Vaughn Taylor, the tour rookie who took the first-round lead, carded a 3-over 74 on Sunday and tied for fifth place with Stewart Cink (69), Fredrik Jacobson (69) and Brian Gay (73). That group finished the tournament at 8-under-par 276.
 
Charles Howell III (69), Paul Stankowski (70), Craig Bowden (71) and Hirofumi Miyase (73) shared ninth place at minus-7.
 
John Daly will be missing the U.S. Open in three weeks. He needed to crack the top-10 on the tour's money list or top-50 in the World Rankings after this week.
 
The two-time major winner struggled to a 4-over 75 on Sunday and tied for 42nd place. Daly only made $16,450 and finished more the $286,000 behind Cink, who moved to 10th.
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - FedEx St. Jude Classic
  • Full Coverage - FedEx St. Jude Classic