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July 6, 2005

David Toms


PHIL STAMBAUGH: Okay, David, thanks for joining us this afternoon. It's your first time back at the John Deere Classic since 2000. You were the winner here in 1997, and you're on a nice little run with three Top 10s in your last four starts. A couple thoughts about coming back this year.

DAVID TOMS: I committed at the last minute, just I was kind of iffy whether or not I was going to play. But I'm glad I did. I was out there the last couple days on the golf course, and I really enjoyed myself on the golf course. It's in good shape, and I feel like I can play it well.

I had a great group today in the Pro Am, a bunch of good guys to play with, and I look forward to getting started tomorrow. No particular reason why I haven't been here the last five years, I guess. I've always enjoyed playing here, but I just hadn't quite worked out the schedule. Without getting really too much into that, I really do look forward to playing this week.

I've been playing well the last month or so, and although I'm coming off two weeks where I was home and didn't touch a golf club until yesterday when I got here, so I'm still trying to get the rust off a little bit, but I feel pretty good and I'm certainly fresh, so I'll have that going for me tomorrow.

Q. David, this is a relatively new course that opened up in 2000. I think you played here then. Because you had that gap of five years, what strikes you, if anything, as different? Has this course grown or matured?

DAVID TOMS: It's definitely matured a lot since that first year. In fact, I think when we played it that first year, I think it was probably a little bit early to play it. I know some of the fairways weren't totally developed and the golf course didn't quite have the shape that it does now with the rough being full and everything and the fairways being lush. It's really good, and it's framed well.

It's a good golf course, and like I said, I'm looking forward to it.

Q. Have you changed many diapers the last couple of weeks?

DAVID TOMS: Yeah, I've changed my fair share. We've had a lot of help around the house the last couple weeks. My wife has been really good about being up during the night so I haven't had to be up very much; I've been able to sleep a little bit. It's been a whirlwind around the house for sure.

Q. You said that you haven't touched a club in two weeks. Are you getting back into it okay mentally?

DAVID TOMS: Yesterday I didn't feel real good. I mean, the club didn't feel real good in my hands. I played okay, it just didn't feel comfortable. A lot of it had to do with the fact that I went waterskiing last weekend before I came, so I had a lot of muscles that were pretty sore. I got that worked out yesterday and felt a lot better today for sure.

Q. A lot of players who expect to contend at the British go over a week early to reacclimate themselves to the links courses, and this is obviously a totally different course. Why did you elect to play this rather than go over early?

DAVID TOMS: You know, I always go over for the last five years I've gone over on Sunday. I get there Monday morning, and so I haven't played the last few years the week before the British Open. So this is I'm playing this week. It is just the way it worked out with my schedule. Being home two weeks I needed to play golf, and I felt like I needed to play competitive golf before I went to play a major championship, and so I'll be fine. It'll take me a couple days once I get over there to gets adjusted to the time and everything, but I get excited even when I'm over there to play, such a different style of golf from what we normally do. I get excited being over there and preparing for the tournament. As far as mentally getting into it, I'll be fine. It'll just take a couple days to get adjusted time wise.

Q. David Duval has a new baby at home, too. What's the process as far as getting out of the house and coming to play golf? Is it difficult?

DAVID TOMS: It's very difficult. I could have easily just stayed home and not even gone over to the British Open or here for that matter. So there's a part of me that wants to be there. The family side of my life, I want to be home, not only be there for the baby but be there for my son so he's everything is kind of focused on the baby right now, and I guess he can get lost in the shuffle, to be there for him. The competitive side of me wants to be prepared to play in a major championship and feel like I've got a chance to play well when I do play.

You know, it's tough. I mean, it's tough like that all the time. I don't care if you have a newborn or if you have three or four ten year olds at home. That's the difficult part about our job.

Q. For a guy who's struggling like David, can that be a refreshing kind of thing, a life change like that?

DAVID TOMS: I think so, sure.

Q. What does he need to get his game back?

DAVID TOMS: I'm not really sure. I haven't played I mean, I think it's a physical thing with his golf right now. I mean, he seems like he's happy and got his life in order, so I don't think that has anything to do with it. I think that he probably needs to work on getting back to hitting good golf shots, and then once you do that, then you've got to be able to score. It's not always about hitting pretty shots on the range. You've got to get back to where you're mentally ready to score when you're not playing great.

You know, I think when I'm struggling what I do is I go find an easy golf course, and I just play a lot and start to where you start making birdies and you feel like because out here when we play Tour courses, if you're not playing well, you're going to shoot over par. It's not like you can just scrape it around and shoot a good score. So that's what I've always done is just go and play a lot on an easy course where you feel like you can shoot a 66 or 65. Sure, it's not the same as playing Tour golf, but it still gets you mentally into that, hey, you're making birdies kind of thing.

Q. Do stories like his and Ian Baker Finch's scare you guys a little bit?

DAVID TOMS: Sure. I mean, very much so. It's probably tougher on those guys that have been at the top. For guys that have never made it, it's probably not that difficult. I'm sure they still think can I do this or not or should I be doing this, but guys that have been to the top and then are struggling, it's got to be really hard. I mean, I've gone through a lot of peaks and valleys in my career and it's hard when you know you can do much better. If you've never had success you're not sure you can do it, but for guys that have, it's a tough thing.

Q. Talking about the British Open, this is going to be Jack Nicklaus's last one. I was just wondering what he meant to you or what you thought about him when you were growing up and what are your thoughts about this giant leaving the game?

DAVID TOMS: Well, first of all, I didn't watch a whole lot of golf when I was a kid learning to play the game. I was too busy playing it myself. But he was definitely one that I would watch if I was watching golf or paid attention to it at all. Guys like Jack and Arnie and all the guys that came before us, I mean, they paved the way for me to be able to do this. He'll be missed for sure.

I played with him at the Memorial the first two days, and they talked that week about that was going to be his last Memorial tournament. For the fans' sake and for the players there at the tournament, I hope that's not true. But if it is, he's certainly meant a lot to our game, for sure.

Q. David, could you talk about what kind of approach you take to St. Andrews? The last winner was Tiger, I think Daly before that. They say if the wind doesn't blow at 40 miles an hour it's just going to favor the guys that can hit it the farthest.

DAVID TOMS: I played with Tiger there in the last group on Saturday the year he he won. You know, I don't remember him really overpowering the golf course. He hit a lot of 4 and 5 irons off the tees and tried to play he stayed out of the bunkers. That's why he won the tournament. He played so well. He never gave in and always hit the shot that it called for. As far as the power thing goes, I know every course is great for the long hitter if they can keep it in play, but I just specifically remember that tournament, and he played position golf.

The only time that I can remember that he really took advantage of his power is there on 14, the par 5, but anyway, he hit a 3 wood from about 280 or something like that into the wind, hit an unbelievable shot that I had no chance to hit a shot like that. I remember that, but for the most part, he just played the golf course, just like I did.

Q. What kind of approach do you take? I understand that they have moved some tees back and a couple bunkers have been moved around a little bit?

DAVID TOMS: Well, it's like that every week. I mean, every major championship you go to that you play, the tees are back and everybody talks about how difficult it's going to play and everything. You've just got to go play it. That's all I can say.

I'd prefer them to shorten four or five holes to suit my game better, but that's not going to happen, so I just have to go out there and play the course I'm presented with.

Q. Can you talk about when you broke into the winner's circle here and how your game has evolved from that point to where you are now?

DAVID TOMS: You know, it was '97 and I hadn't really had much success before then, although I had kept my card a few years. It was somewhat of a struggle, and to finally win a tournament, that helped me. The first win was very it was an emotional time. My son was born two weeks after that, so it was a great time in my life. I think it set the stage for everything I've done after that. I really do.

For guys that have never won, you always have that doubt. And every chance that I've had since then, I know, hey, I can do this. Not that it's ever easy, but it just you know, any time that you've been able to do it, it's easier to do the next time, that's for sure.

Q. Michelle Wie is out here this week. What do you think about that, and do you have any objections to it?

DAVID TOMS: I think it's obviously good for the tournament. I mean, there's a reason that she's here. I've been watching her lately. She's played extremely well. You know, I don't know I think that when Annika played at the Colonial, obviously it raised the level of her game, and she's played great since. I think if Michelle could make the cut here and play good golf for four days, I think it would give her a lot of confidence.

You know, I'm for it if every tournament wants to do what's best for that tournament, and the strongest field they can possibly have, the notoriety that they can have, you know, I don't have any problem with it whatsoever, and I wish her well. She's obviously a great talent, and she'll add a buzz to this tournament that otherwise wouldn't be here. I hope she plays good.

Q. How do you assess her chances of making the cut or contending?

DAVID TOMS: I mean, I've never played with her, practice or competition. I've seen her swing the club. I know for a fact I've hit balls next to her or close to her at the Hawaiian Open. I know that she has plenty of power, so I don't think that's going to be a problem. This is not an overly long golf course. I don't think that's going to be a factor. But having to do it she's probably one that just like me, though, when I play a long golf course for me, I have to hit the ball solid all the time because if you don't hit the ball solid, you don't get the full effect of how far it's going and everything.

You know, that's one thing, to me, not just the sheer power but the contact that the male players make and the golf courses we play compared to what maybe the female players do, the ones that I've played with. That will be a factor. She's just got to hit the ball well. It's tough to play our courses when you're just scraping it around, so she's going to have to be in control. I've seen her play enough on television and I know that she can hit the shots. Just you need to do it from the first hole to the last hole for four rounds.

Q. Some guys win that first event and struggle to ever get in another one. In '97 you won your first one. Did you have a feeling at that time that, hey, I'm taking off after this?

DAVID TOMS: No, I just felt like I needed to improve on some things, and I did that. In '98 I had another solid year, even though I didn't win, then I won twice in '99 against a couple of very good fields, against some good players, and so continued to improve. My overall stats, different stats when I kept up with the Tour it got better and better in certain areas I needed to improve. My total driving has been the key the last four or five years to I'm not a power hitter but I'm not one of the straightest, either, but I need a nice combination there and I've been able to improve on that, and that's why I've had success the past couple of years.

Q. You talked about wishing they'd shorten it instead of lengthening it. Augusta is also lengthening it again. Do you think there's too much emphasis on the big hitters, and it's almost like these major tournaments, they're the only people that really have a chance to win, and it's too much power?

DAVID TOMS: My only problem is where are they getting the information to say that we need to do this. Are they asking the players, the people that actually play the golf courses and play the tournaments? If the decision makers would go and they could whoever decides, hey, we have to do this at Augusta, and they can sit down in a room with 50 players and justify what they're doing and tell you why they're doing it and what they're feeling about it, then I would feel better about it if they convinced me.

But when they just do it and then you have to play it, that's when I have a problem with it. You know, who's making the decision? Is it a 20 handicapper that can't play the course anyway? Is he the one making the decision? Or are there some guys that they're asking that are actually playing the tournament? Do past champions have any input? Until they say, hey, this is why and this is who said it was okay, then I can't say I don't have a problem with it.

Q. Are you a Battlewings fan?

DAVID TOMS: I haven't been to one of their games. I've kind of followed them in the paper. Are they playing here?

Q. No, but they're going to have some pros to the game on Saturday. I was wondering if that was something you were partaking in.

DAVID TOMS: That's something I might do. I've watched them a little bit on television, but I've never been to one of their games in Bossier.

Q. You weren't at the Capital One Bowl, were you?

DAVID TOMS: No, we were already in Hawaii. In fact, I didn't even see the I didn't see the second half. We were going pheasant hunting that day and I was on an airplane and one of my friends called me and told me what happened.

Q. After seeing Todd win the British after playing here last year, does that ease your concern about the time factor or is it just individual things?

DAVID TOMS: To me it's always been about, sure, the first couple of days I get over there it's going to be a little awkward. But when you're excited to play, and when I'm playing well and excited about a tournament, I don't want to sleep a whole lot anyway. As long as you can semi get adjusted to me in a major tournament, whatever tournament it is, you run on adrenaline and then you crash afterwards. If you can play well, it's not going to even be a factor really.

Q. We noticed that Curtis winning the British two years ago and last year Hamilton, two guys that came out of nowhere. Is there something about the British that sort of lends itself to guys being able to

DAVID TOMS: There are just a lot of things that can happen. I mean, you have the weather issue, you have the bunkers that you can get into and just have a disaster over there. You don't have to hit the ball straight up in the air and drop it on a dime. You don't have to carry it 300 yards. There are all kinds of ways to play golf over there and all kinds of factors, and I think it just brings everybody into it.

And I think a lot of it has to do with attitude. Do you like that kind of golf? Do you like standing up on the tee and just everything you look at is brown out there and kind of flat (laughter)? I mean, if you don't like that, if you're used to tree lined all green grass and so much definition, then you're not going to fare too well over there.

If you kind of get into it, which I like it, it's such a change of pace from what we normally play that you have to be creative, I think it's fun. For guys that don't think it's fun, I mean, some of them don't even go, and then there are others that go that don't really want to be there, they're not going to do too well.

Q. They're talking about because of the drought they're not going to be able to get these greens much past 11, 11 and a half. How much of a difference is that going to make?

DAVID TOMS: I think it depends on where you are. The last hole I hit it about 15 feet to the right of the pin, where the pin was, and I barely touched it and it ran six feet by. Even though the green speeds on a flat putt aren't going to be out of control, you can still get to a spot where you can have some tough putts. If you keep it under the hole all day and you can kind of be aggressive on the greens, you'll see some good scores.

Q. Did you play The Colonial when Annika was there?

DAVID TOMS: Yes, I did. Actually I played one hole and hurt my back. My back went out on my tee shot on the first hole. All my friends at home said I WD'd because I didn't want her to beat me. I hurt my back and I was out for a few weeks.

Q. Did you have a similar opinion on her playing then?

DAVID TOMS: Yeah, I don't see what sure, it's a story, but I don't see I guess the guy that doesn't get in, the first male that doesn't get in the tournament for whatever reason, whatever his number is, that person probably has a problem with it or maybe has a gripe. But for me, it's just another player in the field. Like I said, I mean, I'm all for whatever is best for the tournament because there's so many that I wouldn't say struggle, but they struggle to get the field that they want. Even the tournament with the best field wants an even better field. I think whatever is in the tournament's best interest.

We're so lucky to be able to do this and to have the tournaments that we do that I think we should just feel fortunate that we are playing and that it's a good opportunity for her. I mean, she's going to learn a lot from this week every time that she plays against us. It'll probably help her career.

Q. You were talking earlier about driving being the key to your game. What are the big keys for getting around this course effectively and what's it going to take to win this week?

DAVID TOMS: Oh, let's see. I mean, to me there's some holes where you have to hit good tee balls. There are other holes where the second shots are demanding, and then you can get in bad spots on the greens. I think it's just going to take a combination. I saw on the computer last night the key to Mark Hensby winning last year, he hit 88 percent of the fairways. So maybe if you really put a pencil to it, maybe that's the key, to be in play.

I know the rough is pretty thick out there, so you're not going to be able to make birdies out of the rough. But very seldom are we able to do that. I think it will be key to get the ball in the fairway. That will set you up well, that's for sure.

Q. In a general way can you understand where someone like Annika or even Michelle is coming from when they want to test themselves against the best, meaning you guys?

DAVID TOMS: Sure, it's the same thing as a guy playing the Hooters Tour. Sure, he'd like the chance to play the Tour every once in a while to see how he stacks up, and if he's still got to play the Hooters Tour until he gets his exempt status and all that, but if he can play every once in a while just to see where he stacks up, that's probably the same kind of deal.

I think that to me I think when Annika did it, she was dominating over there already. She was already playing great, and she wanted to test herself against the men to see where her game was, and then she went on to play better afterwards. I think for Michelle it's probably more about gaining the experience. Until she's able to dominate on the ladies' circuit, I think it's just a chance for her to learn more and to play a hard golf course under tournament conditions. Not many people are able to get that opportunity, and so I think that's probably more a learning experience for her than anything else.

PHIL STAMBAUGH: David, thank you very much. Good luck this week.

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