Toms Seeking Special Delivery

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 22, 2006, 4:00 pm
2006 FedEx St. Jude ClassicBigger is better on the PGA TOUR. The bigger the drive, the better. The bigger the purse, the better. And, the bigger the lead, the better.
But bigger doesnt always equate to easier. Hitting the ball a country mile doesnt mean a player can contend each and every week. When the stakes are higher, the noose is tighter. And the bigger the advantage, the bigger the opportunity to choke it all away.
Justin Leonard
Justin Leonard reacts to his narrow escape at last year's FedEx St. Jude Classic.
Justin Leonard knows the latter quite well. He held an eight-stroke lead through 54 holes of last years FedEx St. Jude Classic, but shot 3-over 73 on Sunday and escaped with a one-shot win over David Toms, who closed furiously in 63.
I didn't think it was ever going to get that close, said Leonard, who didnt make a birdie in the final round and had to make a 3-foot par putt on the final hole to avoid a playoff.
Leonard almost became a dubious part of history that week in Memphis, Tenn., as no player has ever blown a lead that big on the PGA TOUR with 18 holes to play.
Six strokes is the largest wasted advantage entering the final round. Five players have had the misfortune of doing that, most recently Sergio Garcia.
Garcia led by a half-dozen to start the final day of last years Wachovia Championship, but his closing 72 was good enough for only a playoff, which he lost to Vijay Singh.
This year, for the most part, those leading after Saturday have had very good Sundays.
In 20 stroke-play events on TOUR, only three times have players come from behind in the final round to win. Tiger Woods overcame a one-stroke deficit to win the Buick Invitational; Kirk Triplett closed in 63 to erase a six-stroke deficit in Tucson; and Brett Wetterich earned his first TOUR title by winning the EDS Byron Nelson Championship after beginning the final round one back.
This years field features only two top-20 players: Toms and Chris DiMarco. The event has an unenviable position on the TOUR schedule ' situated after two popular stops in Texas and before two popular stops leading up to the U.S. Open.
Next season, as a part of the new FedEx schedule, the tournament will move to the week preceding the U.S. Open.
As for this week, Leonard will try and become just the fourth repeat winner in this tournaments 48-year history. Dave Hill won in 1969-70; Lee Trevino in 1971-72; and Toms in 2003-04.
Toms has a spectacular record on the par-70, 7,244-yard TPC at Southwind course. And its no surprise that he leads the list of favorites.
David Toms
David Toms
David Toms has had plenty of reasons to celebrate over the last four years at the TPC at Southwind.
Toms has played this tournament on 14 occasions. The first 10 times, he never had a top-10s. But in his last four starts, he has finished fourth, first, first, second. Toms earned his 12th career TOUR victory earlier this season at the Sony Open. Hell now be trying to garner his first multiple-win campaign since 2003. After a hot start this year, Toms cooled off with missed cuts in The Players Championship, Masters Tournament and Shell Houston Open. He has since tied for 47th in New Orleans and tied for 30th last week at Colonial.
Justin Leonard
Last years win in Memphis was a breakthrough for Leonard. It marked the first time since 1997 that he won more than one event in a single season (Bob Hope). Leonard is still in search of win No. 1 this year. The Dallas native has only two top-10s in '06, and none since the FBR Open in February. Leonard has had success here, however, as he has three top-10s in six starts to go along with last years triumph. This will be the first time since he played here from 1994-98 that he is in the field for a second consecutive year.
Bob Estes
Every player has tournament sites where he plays particularly well. This is such a site for Estes. He has played this tournament 17 times, but it wasnt until recently that he found his groove at Southwind. Estes has four top-5s in his last seven starts here, including a victory in 2001. He also tied for eighth a year ago. His best finish this year is a runner-up in Houston.
Chris DiMarco
DiMarco has to win again on the PGA TOUR. Right? Though he won in Abu Dhabi on the European Tour earlier this year, he hasnt won in the States since 2002. He doesnt have a top-10 in a stroke-play event on TOUR this season. He has, however, had some pretty good moments at this event. DiMarco tied for second in 2000, tied for 12th in 2001 and tied for ninth in his most recent appearance in 2003.
Fredrik Jacobson
Jacobson snuck in a top-5 finish at this years Ford Championship, but up until last week that had pretty much been the extent of his 2006 success on TOUR. He then shot 62 in the second round of the Bank of America Colonial on his way to a tie for 17th The Swede has a tremendous record in just a handful of appearances at the FedEx. In three starts, he has finished T3, T5 and T6.
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    Recovering Thomas thinks Match Play could help cause

    By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 10:07 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – It’s been a tough couple of days for Justin Thomas, and he hasn’t played an event in three weeks.

    The world’s second-ranked player had his wisdom teeth removed on March 7 following the WGC-Mexico Championship and has been recovering ever since.

    “I'm feeling OK. As funny as it is, as soon as I got over my wisdom teeth, I got a little strep throat,” Thomas said on Tuesday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. “I was pretty worried yesterday, to be honest, how I was going to be doing, but I feel a lot better today and just keep taking medicine and hopefully it will be good.”

    Thomas, who is listed in the Tour media guide as 5-foot-10, 145 pounds, said he lost about 6 pounds when he had his wisdom teeth removed and has struggled to put that weight back on because of his bout with strep throat.

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    As a result, his energy levels are low, which is a particular concern considering the marathon nature of the Match Play, which could include as many as seven rounds if he were to advance to Sunday’s championship match. Thomas, however, said the format could actually make things easier this week.

    “I told my dad, I only have to beat one person each day. I don't have to beat the whole field,” said Thomas, who has won just one match in two starts at the Match Play. “If it was stroke play then I may have a little harder time. But hopefully each day I'll get better and better. Who knows, maybe that will help me win a match in this golf tournament, because I've had a pretty hard time in the past.”

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    Spieth thought Mickelson blew him off as a kid

    By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 7:50 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – Phil Mickelson is widely recognized as one of the PGA Tour’s most accommodating players when it comes to the fans and signing autographs.

    Lefty will famously spend hours after rounds signing autographs, but sometimes perception can deviate from reality, as evidenced by Jordan Spieth’s encounter with Mickelson years ago when he was a junior golfer.

    “I think I was at the [AT&T] Byron Nelson with my dad and Phil Mickelson and Davis Love were on the putting green. I was yelling at them, as I now get annoyed while I'm practicing when I'm getting yelled at, and they were talking,” Spieth recalled. “When they finished, Phil was pulled off in a different direction and Davis came and signed for me. And I thought for the longest time that Phil just blew me off. And Davis was like the nicest guy. And Phil, I didn't care for as much for a little while because of that.”

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    Entering his sixth full season on Tour, Spieth now has a drastically different perspective on that day.

    “[Mickelson] could have been late for media. He could have been having a sponsor obligation. He could have been going over to sign for a kid’s area where there was a hundred of them,” Spieth said. “There's certainly been kids that probably think I've blown them off, too, which was never my intention. It would have never been Phil's intention either.”

    Spieth said he has spoken with Mickelson about the incident since joining the Tour.

    “He probably responded with a Phil-like, ‘Yeah, I knew who you were, and I didn't want to go over there and sign it,’ something like that,” Spieth laughed. “I’ve gotten to see him in person and really see how genuine he is with everybody he comes in contact with. Doesn't matter who it is. And he's a tremendous role model and I just wasn't aware back then.”

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    This week, let the games(manship) begin

    By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 7:47 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – The gentleman’s game is almost entirely devoid of anything even approaching trash talk or gamesmanship.

    What’s considered the norm in other sports is strictly taboo in golf - at least that’s the standard for 51 weeks out of the year. That anomaly, however, can be wildly entertaining.

    During Monday’s blind draw to determine this week’s 16 pods, Pat Perez was the first to suggest that this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play is the exception to the stoic rule on the PGA Tour.

    “Me and Branden [Grace] played a nine-hole match today and were chirping at each other the entire time,” Perez laughed. “Stuff like, ‘go in the trees.’ We were laughing about it, I didn’t get mad, I hit it in the trees.”

    Although Perez and Grace may have been on the extreme end of the trash-talk spectrum, it’s widely understood that unlike the steady diet of stroke-play stops in professional golf, the Match Play and the Ryder Cup are both chances to test some of the game’s boundaries.

    “There’s been a couple of different instances, both in the Ryder Cup. I can't share them with you, I'm sorry,” laughed Jordan Spieth, before adding. “I think they [the comments] were indifferent to me and helped [U.S. partner Patrick Reed].

    Often the gamesmanship is subtle, so much so an opponent probably doesn’t even realize what’s happening.

    Jason Day, for example, is a two-time winner of this event and although he was reluctant to go into details about all of his “tricks,” he did explain his mindset if he finds himself trailing in a match.

    “Always walk forward in front of the person that you're playing against, just so you're letting them know that you're pushing forward and you're also letting them know that you're still hanging around,” Day explained. “People feed off body language. If I'm looking across and the guy's got his shoulders slumped and his head is down, you can tell he's getting frustrated, that's when you push a little bit harder.”

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    Some moments are not so innocent, as evidenced by a story from Paul Casey from a match during his junior days growing up in England.

    “I remember a player’s ball was very close to my line, as his coin was very close to my line and we were still both about 10 feet away and he kind of looked at me,” Casey recalled. “I assumed he looked at me to confirm whether his marker was in my line and it needed to be moved. I said, ‘That's OK there.’ So he picked [his coin] up. And then of course he lost his ability to understand English all of a sudden.”

    While the exploits this week won’t be nearly as egregious, there have been a handful of heated encounters at the Match Play. In 2015 when this event was played at Harding Park in San Francisco, Keegan Bradley and Miguel Angel Jimenez went nose to nose when the Spaniard attempted to intervene in a ruling that Bradley was taking and the incident even spilled over into the locker room after the match.

    But if those types of encounters are rare, there’s no shortage of mind games that will take place over the next few days at Austin Country Club.

    “It's part of it. It should be fun,” Spieth said. “There should be some gamesmanship. That's the way it is in every other sport, we just never play one-on-one or team versus team like other sports do. That's why at times it might seem way out of the ordinary. If every tournament were match play, I don't think that would be unusual.”

    It also helps heat things up if opponents have some history together. On Tuesday, Rory McIlroy was asked if he’s run across any gamesmanship at the Match Play. While the Northern Irishman didn’t think there would be much trash talking going on this week, he did add with a wry smile, “Patrick Reed isn’t in my bracket.”

    McIlroy and Reed went head-to-head in an epic singles duel at the 2016 Ryder Cup, which the American won 1 up. The duo traded plenty of clutch shots during the match, with Reed wagging his finger at McIlroy following a particularly lengthy birdie putt and McIlroy spurring the crowd with roars of, “I can’t hear you.”

    It was an example of how chippy things can get at the Match Play that when McIlroy was asked if he had any advice for Spieth, who drew Reed in his pod this week, his answer had a bit of a sharp edge.

    “Don't ask for any drops,” laughed McIlroy, a not-so-subtle reference to Reed’s comment last week at Bay Hill after being denied free relief by a rules official, “I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth, guys,” Reed said on Sunday.

    Put another way, this is not your grandfather’s game. This is the Match Play where trash talking and gamesmanship are not only acceptable, but can also be extremely entertaining.

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    Romo set to make PGA Tour debut at Punta Cana

    By Will GrayMarch 20, 2018, 6:43 pm

    While much of the attention in golf this week will be focused on the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Tony Romo may send a few eyeballs toward the Caribbean.

    The former quarterback and current CBS NFL analyst will make his PGA Tour debut this week, playing on a sponsor invite at the Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship in the Dominican Republic. The exemption was announced last month when Romo played as an amateur at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and he's apparently been hard at work ever since.

    "I'll be treating it very serious," Romo told reporters Tuesday. "My wife will tell you she hasn't seen me much over the last month. But if you know me at all, I think you know if I care about something I'm going to commit to it 100 percent. So like I said. you'll get the best I've got this week."

    Romo retired from the NFL last year and plays to a plus-0.3 handicap. In addition to his participation in the Pebble Beach event, he has tried to qualify for the U.S. Open multiple times and last month played a North Texas PGA mini-tour event as an amateur.

    According to Romo, one of the key differences between pro football and golf is the fact that his former position is entirely about reactive decisions, while in golf "you're trying to commit wholeheartedly before you ever pull the club out of your bag."

    "I'm not worried about getting hit before I hit the ball," Romo said. "It's at my own tempo, my own speed, in this sport. Sometimes that's difficult, and sometimes that's easier depending on the situation."

    Romo admitted that he would have preferred to have a couple extra weeks to prepare, but recently has made great strides in his wedge game which "was not up to any Tour standard." The first-tee jitters can't be avoided, but Romo hopes to settle in after battling nerves for the first three or four holes Thursday.

    Romo hopes to derive an added comfort factor from his golf in the Dallas area, where he frequently plays with a group of Tour pros. While Steph Curry traded texts with a few pros before his tournament debut last summer on the Tour, Romo expects his phone to remain silent until he puts a score on the board.

    "I think they're waiting to either tell me 'Congrats' or 'I knew it, terrible,'" Romo said. "Something along those lines. They're probably going to wait to see which way the wind's blowing before they send them."

    Romo will tee off at 8:10 a.m. ET Thursday alongside Dru Love and Denny McCarthy.