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Playing it safe is right call

David Toms sets up winning putt by laying up.

By BOB HARIG

© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 20, 2001


DULUTH, Ga. -- There were a few boos and plenty of murmurs, and David Toms wondered: "They probably think I'm a wimp."

That didn't stop him from doing what he believed to be the smart thing at the 18th hole on Sunday during the tense final moments of the PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club.

Instead of going for the green, which was 206 yards away, Toms hit a simple layup shot at the 490-yard, par-4 hole. He then hit a wedge onto the green, and made the 12-foot putt for a one-shot victory over Phil Mickelson.

"The yardage I had was 3-iron yardage, but I had a lake in front of me and knew I could not stop the ball on the green," Toms said. "So I pulled out the 5-wood and got to thinking about it.

"The best I could do was hit it over the green. And I saw where some of the guys were (Saturday) back there. It didn't look very good. You are chipping back toward the water. I asked my caddie (Scott Gneiser), 'What do you think about just laying up?' "

Toms hit a wedge, which stopped 88 yards from the pin. From there, he hit an L-wedge, which stopped 12 feet from the pin.

Mickelson waited as Toms thought about what to do.

"The ball was slightly above his feet on a downhill lie, and I didn't think there was any way the ball could get on the green and stay there," Mickelson said. "So I was kind of wanting him to go at the green, because one of two things were going to happen: He was going to go over and be in that long rough, or he was to come out and go in the water.

"That was a very intelligent play. Played right to his strength. He's a very good sand wedge player. ... That was really his best opportunity to make par."

After Toms laid up, Mickelson hit a 6-iron to the middle of the green from 198 yards. He had a 30-footer for birdie that he barely left short. Toms had his putt for the victory, one set up by what turned out to be a smart play.

"The more I looked at it and looked at it, (going for the green) just wasn't the right thing to do," Toms said. "Even if I lost that golf tournament because I laid up ... how bad would I have felt if I would have hit in the water and made double (bogey) or hit it over the green and made double? At least I gave myself a chance. I knew it was my best chance to make a par."

The PGA majors

2001 RESULTS

PGA Championship, Sunday, David Toms wins by one shot.

British Open, July 22, David Duval wins by three shots.

U.S. Open, June 18, Retief Goosen beats Mark Brooks in 18-hole playoff.

Masters, April 8, Tiger Woods wins by two shots.

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