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Toms terrific

David Toms makes a dramatic par putt for a one-shot victory, adding to Phil Mickelson's misery in the majors.

By BOB HARIG

© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 20, 2001


DULUTH, Ga. -- The scene is now familiar. The eyes peering out from under a visor, Phil Mickelson unable to play defense, his fate to be determined by another man with dreams of his own.

Mickelson stood on the 18th green at Atlanta Athletic Club early Sunday evening, a boisterous crowd reduced to a whisper all around, and watched again as another major championship got away.

This time it was David Toms who broke his heart, draining a dramatic 12-foot par putt to win the 83rd PGA Championship and deny Mickelson that elusive first major title.

"What I had facing me was what you just dream about," said Toms, who had to lay up on the 490-yard, par-4 hole and then hit a wedge to set up his winning putt. "Those are the kind of putts you're supposed to make to win a major.

"That's what I used to do on the putting green when I was a little boy. I pictured myself making that 12-footer to win a major championship. I wanted to seize the day."

He did, just as the late Payne Stewart did two years ago to win the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, making a 15-foot par putt to beat Mickelson by a stroke.

Mickelson's 72-hole total of 266 would have been good enough to win each of the 379 previous major championships in golf history. Here, it was one stroke too many.

For the seventh time, Mickelson entered the final round of a major within two strokes of the lead and failed to capture a Grand Slam title.

"I'm not going to beat myself up, but I'm certainly disappointed," said Mickelson, who is 0-for-34 in major championships as a pro. He is one of five players in PGA Tour history who have won at least 19 tournaments without a major.

"I've got a long time now between majors and a long time before Augusta (for the Masters in April). Everybody is talking about breaking through to win one major. I'm trying to win a bunch of them. And to have so much trouble winning the first one is the tough thing."

Toms, 34, defeated Mickelson down the stretch this year in New Orleans, and was one of just seven players over the past five years to win five PGA Tour events.

Nonetheless, Toms, from Shreveport, La., is no match on paper for the second-ranked player in the world. Mickelson had two victories and 11 top 10s this season; since May, Toms had not cracked the top 30 in a tournament.

"I'm somewhat shocked that it's happened to me," said Toms, who earned a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team and won $936,000 from the $5.2-million purse. "But I'm very proud of the way I played and finished it off."

Toms shot 1-under-par 69 to record the lowest aggregate score in major-championship history, 265. Greg Norman shot 267 in winning the 1993 British Open and Steve Elkington shot 267 at the 1995 PGA Championship. Mickelson added 68 to three 66s for his 266 total, which was 14 under par.

Steve Lowery (68) finished third, three shots back. Mark Calcavecchia (65) and Japan's Shingo Katayama (70) tied for fourth.

There are so many key moments in any tournament, but Toms will look back fondly at his hole-in-one Saturday on the par-3 15th, a shot that will go down in major-championship history. That gave him the lead for good.

Mickelson kept the heat on, however. Three times Sunday he tied Toms but could never take the outright lead. The last occurred at the par-3 15th, where Mickelson trailed by two but chipped in for birdie while Toms bogeyed. They were tied with three holes to play.

"All of those times, I felt like if I could get a 1-up lead that would change the momentum," Mickelson said. "And the outlook, from being a leader to actually trailing is actually difficult to overcome sometimes and I was just never able to get ahead."

Mickelson ultimately lost the tournament at the 441-yard, par-4 16th, where he pulled his tee shot into the trees. The ball bounced into the fairway, but he had 198 yards to the pin. His 7-iron approach came up 50 feet short of the pin, and he three-putted to fall behind by one.

After pars at the 17th, the stage was set for the longest par-4 in PGA Championship history. When Toms missed the fairway, he took several minutes to decide whether to go for the green, guarded in front and to the side by water.

He played safe, laid up and hit a wedge to 12 feet. Mickelson hit his approach on the green and narrowly missed his 30-foot birdie putt.

The stage was set for Toms.

"I knew when it was halfway there," Toms said, "unless it hits something, it's in. And it went right in the middle."

Mickelson dropped his head, still the best player never to win a major championship.

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