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Side issues sent Toms' game off course

By BOB HARIG, Times Staff Writer
Published May 26, 2005

When he shot a final-round 67 in March at the Honda Classic, David Toms had secured his fifth consecutive top-five finish on the PGA Tour, including a dominating final-match victory over Chris DiMarco, to win the Match Play Championship.

Then, suddenly, Toms lost his game.

Of his next 14 rounds, 13 were over par. He missed cuts in three of his next five tournaments, including the Masters. What happened?

Turns out that Toms had a few things on his mind.

A lawsuit he filed against his management firm, Links Sports Management, seeking money from an endorsement deal and termination of their player-management contract, was a major distraction.

"I don't like controversy," Toms told his hometown newspaper, the Times, in Shreveport, La. "I like people to get along, things to be smooth. That's the way I try to live my life. Any time it's not that way, mentally, it's taken its toll . . ."

Toms begins defense of his Fed Ex/St. Jude title today in Memphis at least with a better outlook. He is coming off a tie for third at the Colonial, where he finally got his game back.

He is 11th in the Official World Golf Ranking and fourth on the PGA Tour money list with more than $2.5-million.

"It's out there now, so people will stop talking about it," said Toms of his off-the-course issues. "I don't have to worry about walking around thinking, "Does somebody know this, does somebody know that?' I was able to focus on golf a lot better. I only made one phone call to the attorney (last week). It's usually every day. That's a good thing."

SCHEDULE TALK: Ever since PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem acknowledged in March that major changes could be in store for the PGA Tour schedule beginning in 2007 - including moving the Players Championship to May and the Tour Championship to September - the rumor mill has been churning.

Several reports have suggested that the WGC-Accenture Match Play could move from California to the Westin Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, kicking off the Florida swing of tournaments.

There are two major flaws with that scenario. One concerns Chrysler, the sponsor of the Chrysler Championship at Innisbrook. Would the tour want to push the automaker aside? The other revolves around the running of such a tournament. The PGA Tour has a management arm that conducts several events, including the World Golf Championship tournaments. Would it want to bump Suncoast Golf Classic Inc., the non-profit organization that has been involved for more than 25 years?

Chances are the Match Play Championship will not be moving here. It still could wind up in Florida, but likely at a venue not already in use for a PGA Tour stop.

AROUND GOLF: Scotland's Colin Montgomerie needs a high finish at this week's BMW Championship to move into the top 50 in the world ranking and earn a spot in next month's U.S. Open. The top 50 as of Monday are exempt. The BMW Championship, which is played in England, is the PGA European Tour's flagship event. ... Sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open will be held June 7 at Old Memorial in Tampa. The qualifier will have 55 players competing for approximately five spots in the Open, June 16-19, at Pinehurst in North Carolina. ... When Paula Creamer, 18, won the Sybase Classic on Sunday, she became the youngest player to win since Amy Alcott , at 19, won the 1975 Orange Blossom Classic at Pasadena Yacht & Country Club. ... Japan's Tommy Nakajima makes his first start on the Champions Tour at the Senior PGA Championship. ... Meanwhile, J.C. Snead will be playing in his 1,000th combined event on both the PGA and Champions Tour joining six others to reach quadruple digits: Miller Barber (1,292), Dave Eichelberger (1,143), Charles Coody (1,054), Gay Brewer (1,023), Arnold Palmer (1,014) and Gene Littler (1,013).

LOCALLY: The First Tee has several things going at its local affiliates. Today, Creamer will hold a golf clinic at the First Tee of Sarasota/Manatee at Tara Golf & Country Club in Bradenton from 4-6 p.m. Creamer, is coming off the victory Sunday at the Sybase Classic and is in town for her high school graduation. For information, call (941) 685-5072. ... The First Tee of St. Petersburg has announced its summer tournament schedule with events to be played at courses including Mangrove Bay, Vinoy Club, St. Petersburg Country Club, Seminole Lake, Isla del Sol, Pasadena and the Bayou Club. Age divisions for boys and girls range from 7 to 18. The entry fee for each tournament is $15. For information and registration forms, call (727) 892-5905. ... The grand opening of the First Tee of Clearwater at the Chi Chi Rodriguez Golf Course will be June 25. Call (727) 786-8829.

Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

[Last modified May 26, 2005, 01:18:13]


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