Tuesday, June 15, 2021

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Toms searches for shot of confidence

David Toms, 54, has been almost exactly the player one would figure he would be since joining PGA TOUR Champions when he turned 50.

The Louisiana native, a 13-time winner on the PGA TOUR, has been as consistent as anyone this side of Bernhard Langer. Need proof? Here you go:

Toms in 2017: 22 events, 15 top 25s, seven top 10s, three finishes outside the top 50.

Toms in 2018: 22 events, 15 top 25s, 11 top 10s, three finishes outside the top 50.

Toms in 2019: 21 events, 15 top 25s, nine top 10s, one finish outside the top 50.

Toms in 2020-21: 14 events, eight top 25s, three top 10s, two finishes outside the top 50 (he admits to being a little thrown off schedule by the, well, thrown-off schedule caused by the COVID-19 pandemic).

So why almost? Well, despite 30 top-10s in 79 events, the resume has only a single victory: the 2018 U.S. Senior Open. Yes, it’s a nice feather to have, but let’s be honest:

Most everyone figured Toms would have enough feathers for plumage at this point.

“I think first of all you don’t really know what it’s gonna be like (on PGA TOUR Champions),” Toms said on Wednesday. “Certainly I had expectations of winning more. It’s pretty difficult, really. Getting used to three-round events is different. I was used to — on the TOUR — pacing yourself and trying to get off to a good, solid start rather than not that big a deal if you had a hot start but just not get off to a bad start. Not saying I haven’t played aggressive enough. I just haven’t played well enough out of the gate to really get on a roll.

“Parts of my game are not as good as when I played on TOUR. I’ve never really gotten hot with the putter for a whole tournament. A day here and there, but not for three rounds. And my mid to short irons … I haven’t been as consistent with those as when I played the TOUR for whatever reason.”

The depth and skill of his competitors also has been a bit of a surprise. Toms knew plenty of these guys remained very good players. But there legitimately are players from age 50 to 63 who can win in any given week.

“The guys play really well,” Toms said. “You put it all together and it’s tough to win. You have to have those hot streaks. I’ve played a lot of consistent golf, but I just haven’t played well enough. And when I’ve been in contention I haven’t been able to close. I’ve been in final group multiple times. I look forward to that. Once you start doing it consistently it gives you confidence. That’s what I need – a little shot of confidence more than anything else.”

Make no mistake: Toms wants to win. He still enjoys being among the guys with whom he has competed for the past 30 years. Golf is how he makes his living.

But Toms hit his prime on TOUR at a time when purses were exploding and Tiger Woods was at his zenith. Thanks to not only his 13 wins but his remarkable consistency whenever he teed it up, Toms still ranks in the top 20 on the all-time money list with nearly $42 million in earnings.

He enjoys spending time with his family. He’s a huge LSU fan; he has heard some fans will be allowed to attend Tigers baseball games in the spring and he plans to take in at least a handful. He said he didn’t play much before his T11 at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai because he was busy with waterfowl hunting season.

So while winning still is important to him, it’s neither everything nor the only thing.

“As long as I stay healthy and continue to play a fulltime schedule I don’t see why I couldn’t win anytime between now and five years from now, I guess,” Toms said. “I don’t put as much pressure on myself to do that. I just enjoy the game and continue to play. I think it keeps you young being out there competing. It gives you something to work for and continue to enjoy. Certainly winning is fun and everything. But I won plenty of times on the TOUR and I’m in a good place with that. If I enjoy it and want to work at it, want to practice and compete … as long as I do that I’ll be fine.”

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