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April 11, 2006

David Toms

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Good morning to members of the media joining us on this conference call. This morning we are joined by 12-time PGA TOUR winner, David Toms. David has won this year at the Sony Open in Hawaii and is currently fifth on the PGA TOUR Money List with four Top-10s. David has also served as the player consultant for the new tournament course at Redstone Golf Club at Humble, Texas as site of next week's Shell Houston Open. David would like to open with a few comments about his season, and also a few comments about his role with the Tournament Course at Redstone Golf Club. David, I'd like to turn it over to you at this time for a couple of comments.
DAVID TOMS: First of all, obviously, I got off to a quick start getting a win early there in Hawaii and played extremely well in South Florida before struggling the last two -- the last two out of the three weeks, I've missed the cut. But still happy with the way I've started the year, the season, working towards some goals of mine as far as winning a tournament, getting to the TOUR Championship and then also making the Ryder Cup Team.
So I'm in good position so far and just need to start playing consistent golf again here soon. My next event will be at the Shell Houston Open next week, which has some input as at player consultant with the new course we're going to play. I'm excited about playing there. I think it offers a good variety of golf shots to a lot of different types of players. Even though it is long on the card, I think it will be a good test for everybody to be playing next week and I look forward to getting down there.
Q. We had some first-time contenders, so to speak, in the major last week at the Masters with various degrees of results, I wonder what it was like for you when you popped up at the PGA a few years ago when you won and contended for the first time? Can you talk about that experience, did you have to convince yourself that you belonged there or did you feel extra nerves that you normally had not felt in a regular tournament? What was that like for you?
DAVID TOMS: Well, I'm going to start by what happened early in the week. I prepared extremely well. I played a golf course that was not necessarily suited for me; it was a long golf course playing a little bit soft. But I was making a lot of birdies in the practice round, just kind of playing the golf course.
Then I had a pairing with Fred Funk and Niclas Fasth the first couple of days, and Fred Funk has been very supportive of my game and very complimentary. I just got off to a great start and I felt like, you know, no reason I could not -- I couldn't think of any reason why I couldn't keep it up. And being paired in the last round with Phil Mickelson, even though he was quite an accomplished player, he had not won a major at that time either. So we were both trying to do the same thing, fighting the same inner demons, I guess you would say. In the end, I came out on top, and the way that I won, I think people will remember it for a long time.
So it could not have worked out any better. I think it was just more that I was in a great frame of mind and had played well that year already and just had a lot of confidence. You know, I was still playing golf. Sometimes it's easy to say and hard to do. I think that the Masters, it really brings out the true champions in the end, and guys that seem like they have done it before, just because it's so difficult and it's getting so much more difficult, the golf course is. The short game is so important there and just imagination and everything. It's just tough for a guy to win there for the first time.
. You know, that's what my experience was and the way I see everything that happened last week. I think there are a lot of guys up there with a chance, but in the end, you saw who was able to come out on top.
Q. You didn't have any of the doubts that you see creep up in the first time, guys creeping up the leaderboard in the last round that you don't normally see?
DAVID TOMS: Yeah, you said it; it's that doubt. You know, what causes that, I don't know. Is it not being confident in your own game, not having been able to win one in the past, win the big one in the past or whatever, just a little bit of doubt creeps in and it carries over to your physical golf swing or putting or your short game or whatever. I don't know what separates the men from the boys or whatever. I've just been lucky enough to figure it out once as far as majors go and a few other times in regular tour events. I've won my fair share and I wish -- I wish I knew. I think I'd win more.
Q. If you don't mind, I'd like to look a week beyond to New Orleans. What do you see as needing to be a success for that tournament, because there was an interesting quote a week or two back from Geoff Ogilvy asking, what was the point of bringing everybody together playing for six million so one guy wins a million and leaves town, how does that help the city. I wonder if you have any thoughts on that and what would be the biggest good that will come out of the Zurich tournament.
DAVID TOMS: Well, I think what it will do, first of all, it will showcase the city to a worldwide audience that, hey, they are having a golf tournament there. Everything must be okay if these TOUR players that are used to being extremely well and staying in nice places and being catered to; if they feel comfortable there, and they are there, then, you know, it must be okay. At the same time, Jamfest is going to be going on, and that's the first two major events that have been in the city since the hurricane. So I think it's very important that we showcase not only the golf tournament and the golfers, but the city itself and to show that the tourism part of it is up and running and ready for more visitors.
As far as a guy leaving town with a million bucks, he's still going to pay some taxes to go to the city, so it will be good. It's going to economically bring some dollars in that they would not otherwise have if we would have pulled the plug on the golf tournament. So I think it's a very, very important week.
Q. Wanted to touch base with you on the Houston stuff. Can you just succinctly summarize what your role was in all this and how you were hoping to apply your knowledge to this layout and if you've achieved that and what we can look for?
DAVID TOMS: Well, the way I became involved in the project, Redstone had worked with Rees Jones in other projects in the Houston area before when they wanted them -- they had visions of having a Tournament Course there all along when they moved to Redstone and they wanted him to do it. They wanted to approach it similar to the TPC network where they wanted a player consultant because they were going to have a tournament there. My name was brought up, and Rees said he would like to work with me. It was something I jumped at the chance to do, to work with an architect like Rees Jones; and I respected his work all over the country and I played a lot of his courses, and so that's something that I enjoyed the whole process of it.
What I had hoped -- or what I hoped to bring and which I think was accomplished was to try to add some variety to a golf course in a day and age where everything is always about length. You know, whether you're adding length or you're building a new golf course at 7,500 yards or whatever it might be, on the card this golf course still came out fairly lengthy, but at the same time, I think there will be plenty of short shots the players hit on the golf course during the course of the week. We've got a short par 3, we have a good number of par 4s that I would consider being short as far as hitting a short club in. And we also have some long par 3s and some long par 4s.
So I think, you know, what I tried to accomplish was getting some variety in there, making sure that prevailing winds were paid attention to and what the shot values would be, and I think guys will enjoy it. I think it's going to be a difficult driving golf course. The fairways are fairly generous but the corridors as far as having to hit to a certain area I think are not as generous as a lot of courses that we play. So I think you'll find if some wayward shots will get into some pretty bad places, but at the same time if you're playing well and driving it well, you'll be able to score just fine.
Q. How much feedback have you gotten from other players that have seen it? Have you said guys struggle, saying, why did you do this?
DAVID TOMS: Well, I think first of all, what I'll say to that is the players that have actually played the golf course, I think it's been very positive feedback, not only -- of course, to me, I guess they would have trouble criticizing it directly to my face. But as far as through other sources and people there at the club and so forth, I think it's been very positive.
We've had some comments from other people that actually haven't seen the golf course with grass on it. We had some tours of the golf course last year when it was just dirt and there were some concerns there over spectator views and fairway width and some other things like that. You know, I think guys will need to go there and play their practice round and play the golf course. I think they will enjoy it. Like I said, there's tons of variety out there, I think it will be in great shape. And of course, I mean, if that's constructive criticism, I'd like to know what it is because I plan on doing more golf courses, and I'll certainly listen to the best players in the world and take what they have to say and try to improve.
Q. Having just come off The Masters, how much science and how much art and how much, I don't know, just luck of the draw is it to be able to have your game at its peak for the majors? I know top players try and build their season around that, and I'm just wondering how you go about trying to accomplish that.
DAVID TOMS: You know, I kind of read and listen and try to figure out what other players say as far as their preparation and everything goes up to the majors. You know, I've had some success in majors and other times I haven't played as well as I would have liked to. I've approached it in tons of different ways as far as playing the week before, not playing, go to a site early and trying to prepare. You know, everybody kind of does their own thing, so I would not say there's a perfect science as far as trying to figure it out.
I think what you're hoping for is that you peak at the right time. Obviously you need to be fresh and ready to go that Thursday when you start. But you know, hopefully you're just playing well and you're confident because that can overcome a lot of things. I went into the Masters this week not having played great the two weeks before. I missed the cut at TPC. Had a decent tournament at BellSouth, but struggled the first day and that knocked me out of trying to win the golf tournament. So wasn't coming in with a whole lot of confidence, which I hoped to be and it carried over to the way I performed.
I don't know, I guess every player does it differently, but I've tried different things, and to me it's all about how you're playing going in, regardless if you've played golf at home with your buddies the week before or you've played against the best players in the world and won the tournament. You're all starting from scratch on Thursday morning and you just hope to play well.
Q. Are you sure you know what works best for you or are you --
DAVID TOMS: No, I think, you know, I'm still trying to find it. Until I win another major championship or play great for all year in the majors and the big events, I'm still trying to find out what that magic formula is. Whether it's best that you'd be better off taking two weeks off before a major and preparing at home or doing to the site three or four days early, or is it playing all the way up to it, being in the heat of competition and having the chance to win the tournament the week before, which takes a lot out of you, I don't know.
I think if you study all the different players, they all do it differently. Mickelson blew the field away at Atlanta, and obviously was playing great going in and it carried over where he won two weeks in a row. You know, Tiger always takes the week off before and he's done well. And other players have done different things. I don't know, it would be interesting to see, you know, have each one of those players write it all down and see what they are thinking all going in, why they do what they do and study that. You know, I don't know the best thing.
Q. Speaking of that, I'll follow up on Steve's question. One thing that the winner did at the Masters that nobody else did was put two drivers in his bag and use them. And my question is, have you ever considered that, or would you ever consider that, particularly now that it seems to be a successful thing at least for one guy?
DAVID TOMS: To be honest with you, I think not the two driver thing that, obviously doesn't happen or happen very often, but a lot of guys carry a strong 3-wood that they can use off the tee that if they are a fader of the driver, that is easier for them to turn it over right-to-left. I know I have done that in the past on certain golf courses, so it's not the same but they are trying to accomplish the same thing really without having to take a club out of their bag.
I talked to my instructor yesterday, Rob Akins about that, and he made the comment to some people that, you know, the story wasn't that he was using two drivers. The story was that he was so good with his L-wedge that he didn't need a sand wedge. I mean, if you can -- if you have clubs, other wedges in your bag that you can create shots with around the greens at Augusta where you don't necessarily need your sand wedge or whatever you take out, I mean, that says you have a lot of confidence in your ability to hit the other clubs. Obviously he had that and he thought it was an advantage for him to be able to shape his driver so that he didn't have to do anything different when he stepped up on the tee. That's always been his thing that's kept him from winning a lot of majors and other big events is not driving the ball as well. When he's able to do that, he's very difficult to beat, with the power and short game combination.
Q. At the Presidents Cup you talked about rebuilding New Orleans and making it a better city in the wake of Katrina, is that still the way you envision it?
DAVID TOMS: Yeah, I think they are going about it the right way. In fact, I've been on the phone this morning with some people that are doing some fun things down there that have to do with golf that will come out at a later date. I think they are going about it the right way. You know, I think it's going to obviously take a while, but I think you'll see an even better city and a fun place to visit like always. They have always had great sporting events and once they get back on their feet, I think you'll see that once again. I'll go back to the saying that it is very important that we have a successful PGA TOUR event down there to showcase the city, and show the world that New Orleans is up and running again.
Q. Two questions, one, did you watch Sunday?
DAVID TOMS: I watched the whole thing.
Q. What was your take? What did you see from in front of the telly, one guy just blowing everybody away or other guys just not getting it done?
DAVID TOMS: Well, I mean, I saw a couple things. I played with Jose Maria the first two days, and he struggled mightily off the tee. But, you know, he hung in there and made the cut. I looked around a couple of times, I was like, man, I couldn't break 80 from where he is, and here he is in the end at the golf tournament having almost a chance to win.
So I was very impressed with that. I think that just goes to show that he knows his way around that place, knows how to get it done, and the short game is so very important there. He was able to save a lot and get a lot out of what his ball-striking was that particular week, and obviously he found something on Sunday and played great.
As far as everything else, I watched Tiger miss a lot more putts under pressure than I've ever seen him miss before. I mean, to me, he's always been the guy that I would have putting for me. You know, he just has always been very impressive with that, and I think tee-to-green he played well enough to win.
But what I saw in Phil Mickelson a guy who is very confident in what he was doing. I saw him, you know, to me, approaching it mentally like I've always seen Tiger approach it. Whereas he was ready to hit every shot, knew what he wanted to do on every shot, had a plan or everything, much like what Stephen Ames did at TPC at Sawgrass, and kind of showed in the end. You know, everybody else just fell back and Phil just was still pressing the accelerator and kind of separated himself. It was kind of fun to watch. Really, watching a guy that's obviously on top of his game right now, the way he played at the BellSouth and to back it up at The Masters, you know, it was good. I was happy for him. It was good stuff.
Q. And secondly, if you were to have an audience with Hootie this afternoon and he says that you can change one thing about Augusta National, your answer would be --
DAVID TOMS: -- so many rules.
Q. What do you mean by that?
DAVID TOMS: Well, to me it's still a place where the players walk around on eggshells, and you know, not knowing if they are in the right place; they are worried about their cell phone being on; having to stop by the little place, the hut on the way in, to scan your ticket; to making sure you only have one parking pass and somebody else doesn't get in there; to making sure that the wrong person doesn't get your pass and get thrown in jail and try to sell it to somebody else; to not signing autographs in a certain spots or not asking for an autograph in a certain spot; or sitting down at the table too long. It's just one thing after another. It's like, you know, the only place all year where the players don't feel like they are the most important thing there. That's the way I see it and I don't think that I'm the single opinion on that. So that would be the only thing.
I think the golf course itself to me, the way it played this year, the first couple of days, being nice and dry, that obviously didn't play on Saturday to see how long it played. But I was fine with the golf course changes, the way it played. I think I can play it well, especially, you know, not really having any game at all on Friday. I know I can play the golf course well as long as it stays firm like it was for most of the week. I'm not concerned about that at all. I think that they are on the right track.
Q. You mentioned stopping by the hut to scan the ticket; did you guys have to do that?
DAVID TOMS: Yeah, when you pull in the parking lot you go by this little hut on the way in to scan your ticket. I don't even know what it's all about. It's like CIA stuff, you know what I mean. I don't know, to me it's just uncalled for. It's not, you know, you can't have your instructor here, you've got a major championship and you can't have your instructor walk down the fairway with you to prepare for the golf tournament. You know, it's just one after another. It's like the book of rules and I just think it's a little over the top, that's all I'll say.
Q. Do you think Tiger has ever had to stop and get his ticket scanned?
DAVID TOMS: You know, that's the thing. That's the thing, if he doesn't, why is he any different than me or the Pub Links Champion? But, you know, I just feel it's that way.
In a way, it makes it different and it makes it special and it makes it just kind of unique, but then again, it's still a golf tournament in the end. It's the players that make that tournament. It's Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods battling down the stretch that headaches that event successful on television around the world. It's not how green the grass is on No. 1 fairway. So, you know, we'll see, but I don't see that changing, either. I don't think I'm going to get my time in front of him until I win the tournament.
Q. Another Masters question, on the back nine on Sunday, we didn't get that jolt that just makes it feel like The Masters, and I wonder how much of that was the design or just guys not taking advantage of the opportunity, any opinion there?
DAVID TOMS: It is the design. You know, it's just different, and I don't think you're going to see that anymore. You know, you saw it the year that Ernie and Phil were battling down the stretch because you're talking about two of the longest hitters in the game and two of the best players, so they were able to have some dramatics and have the power to do it.
You know, when I'm on 15, I hit a good drive and I still was almost 250 yards out from the middle of the fairway, not only is the chances of eagle not very good, but the chance of birdie is not very good, either. So it's just the golf course is different nowadays and you're not ever going to see a whole lot of heroics from at least half the field. You have a handful of players that can create it, but at the same time, it's even more difficult for them.
I don't think you're going to see that a whole lot more, the back nine. You might see somebody collapse on the back nine because the holes are more difficult but I don't see a big charge. I don't see myself shooting 29 on the back nine ever again like I did in '98, and I don't see anybody else doing it, either. So you know, we'll see, and could be wrong, but I don't think so.
Q. So were guys right in saying it feels more like a U.S. Open, the guys that said that?
DAVID TOMS: Oh, sure, if you brought in the fairways another five yards on both sides and grew that rough up to where it was four inches, that's exactly what you would have. You'd have a Masters/Open because the corridors are getting awfully tight with all of the trees they are putting in. Who knows 20 years from now what it's going to look like with all of the new trees. And the greens are obviously, they can firm them up because of the sub-air system and they can make it play as difficult as they want.
Q. Just to change the subject, I'm doing a piece on hole-in-ones, and just kind of asking guys what their first hole in one is and their most memorable hole-in-one. I'm pretty sure I can guess your most memorable?
DAVID TOMS: My first one was on the fourth hole at Palmetto Country Club where I grew up playing golf. It was late one afternoon and I was playing with some people, and we might even have been playing a scramble that day, I'm not quite sure. But we were playing group against group or something and playing with some of my dad's friends and so forth. Hit an 8-iron about ten feet past the hole and sucked it in back in. I think I was, I don't know, 14 or 15 at the time.
And then obviously the one that --
Q. Can you take me through that, just the way you played that hole at the PGA?
DAVID TOMS: I forgot exactly the yardage. I think it was 240-something, or right at 240. It was downhill and it was later on in the day but it was nice and warm. Just felt like if I hit a 5-wood up in the air, it would clear the lake, and that's really all I was trying to do. I knew a 3-wood was going to go over the green. I hit it really solid, never left the stick, and if you see the replay, obviously I hit it a little too solid because it hit the pin pretty hard. When it went in, it was that type of hole where you could make a big number on it if you didn't hit a solid shot, and I was in a position where, you know, I hit a great shot, made a hole-in-one and vaulted me into the lead. And ultimately, that was probably one of the biggest shots of my life, probably the biggest, seeing the stage it was on.
Q. How stunned were you when that ball landed?
DAVID TOMS: I was stunned. There were a lot of shadows, so I didn't really see it go in, but I could tell from the crowd reaction that it went in. I was shocked, elated, and very excited.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Okay, we appreciate everybody being on the call, and especially thank you to David Toms for your help this morning and good luck next week at the Shell Houston Open.

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