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February 23, 2005

David Toms


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: David, thank you for joining us for a couple of minutes. You've had a lot of success at this event, won 12 matches in your career. Start with some opening comments about coming back to LaCosta to play, we hope.

DAVID TOMS: Yeah, I mean obviously I look forward to playing here this week. I'm coming off of a two‑week break, and I was hoping to come here and play a couple of practice rounds and be ready to go. I've gotten one practice round in, but everything else is just kind of, you know ‑‑ what can you do with your time? We were talking today, and I don't think anyone here this week has played your normal five‑hour practice rounds. It's amazing when you don't have that five hours that you're on the golf course like normal. You've got a lot of time in the day to do a lot of things.

Days have been kind of slow, and we're starting here on, what ‑‑ I guess we're supposed to start on Thursday, which almost makes it a normal tournament week.

I look forward to having a good week, obviously just take it one match at a time and hopefully do well.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: You finished second to Tiger Woods two years ago. Last year you were coming off your second event back after your surgery. Talk about the state of your game right now.

DAVID TOMS: I'm obviously off to a better start than I was last year at this time, and I've been disappointed. I've had a couple of chances to do really well this year, not necessarily win, but, you know, have really top finishes, and I haven't really quite done it on Saturday and Sunday. So I look forward to trying to get a little more in control, I guess you would say, of my game. Even though Phoenix I finished 4th, I made four doubles for the week, which is kind of unusual for me. I doubled the last hole and it cost me second place.

Hopefully I'll get back to being more consistent. I feel good about what I'm doing. My driving stat is a lot better than it was last year, and that's a key for me. If I can drive the ball well, I tend to do pretty good.

Q. Can you compare your expectation level for this year as opposed to a year ago when you were coming off the surgery and sort of feeling your way into the season?

DAVID TOMS: Yeah, I mean I am healthy, so expectations are a little bit higher at this time of the year. I took seven weeks off this winter and really didn't play much golf at all. I had the opportunity to play a few tournaments, didn't play competitive golf. So I was fresh going to Hawaii and so I looked forward to getting off to a good start, and I've done that.

And then I took two more weeks off here recently, so I'll be ready to go this week, and going into the Florida swing, just trying to pace myself a little better. Last year I had to play a lot towards the end of the year to get all the tournaments in that I normally play because of missing the first six or seven, so I was tired at the end of the year. But now I feel good, feel fresh and ready to go.

Q. David, what do you think about the conditions out there now? Have you not been out there today at all?

DAVID TOMS: I played yesterday and it was awfully wet. And then obviously we had another inch and three quarters last night, so it's got to be really wet. Everybody I've talked to that's come off the golf course, they sarcastically said it's perfect out there. So who knows? But it's going to be the same for everybody. We've played this event now many years where it's been ‑‑ it's been wet every time that I've played here. So maybe not quite this bad, but wet is wet.

What's the difference if you're playing ‑‑ if the ball is ‑‑ you're having to worry about your footing, having to worry about the contacts or your shots. Obviously you have to hit it in the fairway this week. The rough is tall and it's wet, and the greens are soft and spongy and you're going to miss some short putts, and you just have to accept that going in. To me it's not going to be any different than years past.

Q. How will you get around as far as changing your strategy or whatever, to keep it in the fairway?

DAVID TOMS: Well, I mean, I have to hit driver. It's a long golf course, so it's for the one where I can just say, okay, we're going to play position off the tee, because then you have such a long shot in, it's almost impossible. I'll have to hit driver, and hit it well and straight and hit it solid. I mean, even hitting driver a lot of the holes are very long. I was talking to Todd Hamilton yesterday, I played ‑‑ by lunchtime I played the back nine, and he played, I guess, the front nine. And he was talking about other than the third shot on the par‑5, the shortest club he had into the hole was a 7‑iron.

It's a long golf course. Not only am I going to have to hit it straight, but I have to hit it solid, so the golf course won't be playing as long.

Q. Being able to lift, clean and place, that allows you to make some shots that you wouldn't otherwise?

DAVID TOMS: I wish so. I wish they'd play lift, clean and tee it up. Even though ‑‑ that's the tough part is trying to find a dry spot. And a lot of times that's going to be in the rough. You'll have some guys that have to hit out of some really wet areas just because their other option will be to drop it in the rough, and you can't play it out. You'll be chipping right back to where you were. There will be some funny shots. You'll see some things on television where it's not a shot that pros would normally hit because of the wetness of the golf course.

Q. I'm curious about in your circumstance if you got to a point where you did have standing water and your ball's in the standing water and you had to go back, I don't know, say 30, 40 yards, would you choose to go back 30 or 40 yards?

DAVID TOMS: No, I think you just ‑‑ well, you've got to weigh the situation and what club you might have in. I can't sacrifice 30 yards on this golf course, I'm just going to have to play it out of a wet area. That's like being on a cart path a lot of times, they'll play off it, because their drop is not a very good one, and that's what you'll see here.

Q. You were alluding to FBR, where you played really well the whole week, have four double bogeys in between all the playing well and finished 6 back, which I imagine would drive you nuts when you get to the end of the week. What's the craziest this game has ever made you?

DAVID TOMS: Well, I mean I think it makes you crazy every round, I really do, especially rounds where you feel like, hey, I'm playing great. To me anytime you play a TPC‑type of golf course it will drive you crazy, because you feel like you're playing well, and you just hit a marginal shot and you make a double bogey, so you can go up and down and up and down.

So as far as in my career, probably 1994 I played terrible, and I couldn't do anything that I felt like was working for me. So that would have to be the down time. Nothing just comes to mind like this is driving me nuts. Probably I guess 2002 I didn't win a tournament, and I had, what, 12 top‑10's and finished top 5 on the Money List, I guess it was, and never was able to win. So it was frustrating. I had that feeling every week like I feel like I'm playing well, I'm getting close, but I couldn't quite do it.

And coming off of a 2001 where I won three times, I think that was probably the most ‑‑ even though I was playing great, it was mentally frustrating for me.

Q. How do you vent? What's your way of venting when you get that frustrated?

DAVID TOMS: I get pretty aggravated, but what you have to do is leave it at the golf course. My wife has always helped me with that, as far as not bringing it home, because she's like, I don't want to hear it. Here we are still trying to have a normal family life, just like anybody would bring their work home with them, it's not a good thing. I've always done a pretty good job of that, to get it out, whether it's vent to your caddie or to yourself. Either you sit down in your locker before you leave the golf course and you can write down all the thoughts you had that probably affected the way you finished up or affected you on your bad holes and just try to leave it there.

Q. Do you have some sort of journal or something ‑‑

DAVID TOMS: Mental journal over the years, you just kind of ‑‑ from time to time I'll sit down and write things down but not very often. I'm not one of those types ‑‑ I don't sit down and write my goals down or anything like that. You kind of keep it in the back of your head. So I'm not the one to put it on paper, I guess.

Q. Within the context of a round, is there a specific type of negative thing or negative thought that you fight?

DAVID TOMS: Yeah, I think we all do. I think it's ‑‑ I'm not ‑‑ what do I fight during a round of golf? There might be certain shots that ‑‑ I always fight, I always worry about do I hit it far enough. And especially when you play with some other players that can just blow it by you. So I'm always fighting that, but knowing that if I play my best, then that's really irrelevant as far as the power goes, because I can get it done in other ways. So I'm always fighting that with myself and focusing on where I can't match up to other players in certain areas, instead of thinking about the positive and other areas that I excel at in my game. So I always fight with that.

Q. What do you use to snap back to it?

DAVID TOMS: You just look back to results and the weeks that I've played well and where I hadn't thought that way, where I've just gone and played my own game and in the end had a chance to win. That's what I have to go back on. If I'd never won a golf tournament, then I'd probably be thinking about that every single day. If I can go back and look at results in the past, whether it's a pairing that I've had, the first two, three, even four days, if I haven't played with a guy that ‑‑ maybe we were comparable as far as what our games were, and I didn't even think about walking to the first ball and the next one is up 50 yards ahead of you, if that never entered the picture. Man, I played great at that time, I never thought about it.

But I've had success with playing with guys where I don't have the power like them, but I get it done in other ways. You just have to go back to I can do this if I play my best golf. But it's something that I fight. I'm sure people fight other things. They play golf with Brad Faxon or Loren Roberts and they make putt after putt after putt, and you go around and you can't make anything. You say I can't even play this game.

And here you are ‑‑ I think we all ‑‑ it's a crazy game, and I think it will drive you insane if you don't get a handle on it sometimes.

Q. Having played in the final against Tiger a couple of years ago and knowing what that takes during this week, how impressive is it that he's won back‑to‑back here and has 12 straight wins, and just the record that he has here?

DAVID TOMS: Well, I really think that ‑‑ other than being the best player when he's playing his best, put that aside, I think that he never gives you anything. Not that he doesn't give you, like, a putt, but that he doesn't give in. Mentally he's there on every shot, whether he's up, whether he's down, whether it's the first hole, whether it's the last hole. He just has a way to focus that I think it's above and beyond what other guys are doing, and I think that's why he's done so well at this event.

Q. Do you think this is a very, very difficult event to win back‑to‑back, as difficult as ‑‑

DAVID TOMS: Yes, because you can play great and lose and you can play bad and win. I've always said that in match play. And there's so much unknown in match play that for anybody to have the record that he has in this event, I think it's very impressive. Why has he not played the guy that's shot 64 on him? Even if he played great he would still lose. Why hasn't that happened? And I think Darren Clarke's probably the closest thing to that when he beat him here. He played really good golf and never gave into Tiger, and never gave him a chance to really get up.

Q. And you were circling with your match for him, for all of it, it's not like you were backing down?

DAVID TOMS: Yeah, early on he got up on me a pretty big number because I didn't play well. So I had to fight back and fight back. And I think he knew. He knew that I wasn't ‑‑ just because I was down, I wasn't going away. I just kind of chipped my way back and got close in the end. But still, even when it got back to where it looked like the tide was turning, where I was going to get up in the match, he always did something to stay ahead and stay ahead and stay ahead. He never did let me get back on my side. He's a pretty impressive player.

Q. What do you do when you go home and you realize that you let some chances go by and like you spent two weeks after Phoenix? Now, you come here, what do you do at home to try to rectify that, if anything?

DAVID TOMS: The first week you answer all of the questions that everybody that watched you on television ‑‑ that's what you do, but it's fine. At least they're paying attention to what I'm doing. So you've got to think of it that way. I ran into hundreds of people the first few days, but it was good for me, because I went skiing, I got out of town, went up to the mountains, but then I ran into a dozen people up on the mountain that would stop and talk to me about double‑bogeying the last hole, and losing $333,000, and I was saying that I can still afford to come up here and go skiing (laughter).

But it's fine, you know, I think that people realize ‑‑ they realize that I was trying to win the golf tournament and I probably hit an aggressive shot on the last hole that I shouldn't have tried to even pull off or could have played away from the pin and made a 2‑putt and got out of there and finished 2nd or whatever. But at the time I was thinking I had a chance to win a golf tournament. I made four doubles during the week; why couldn't Phil screw up along the way on the last two holes? You've got water, you have a tough pin, that's the way I was thinking. And that's the way I play, I mean, later on Sunday afternoon. I don't play for a position. I just ‑‑ I think that's why I've been able to win events, because I'm not playing for a top 5 or ‑‑ to me those are just results of just playing well.

Q. At what point does ‑‑ just to follow up, philosophically, have you always had that attitude when you came out here, or was there a point when you were young and you say, 5th place isn't bad?

DAVID TOMS: It's definitely ‑‑ I mean, my goals have changed from the first four or five years I was on the Tour. Sure, I mean, I would have ‑‑ when I first got on Tour and I've got a 1‑shot lead on 3rd place going to the last hole and I'm two shots back or whatever, three shots or whatever from the lead, and I might have hit a 5‑wood off the tee on the last hole or something to try to scrape it in to make the money or to get that finish because that could have meant either keeping your card or whatever, a top 70 or whatever it might have been on the Money List, that's a big deal. I would have definitely approached it differently than I do now, for sure.

Q. I guess that was almost what I was going to ask. At what point in your career does money not enter into this equation?

DAVID TOMS: I think it's always a factor. Like we did a little dinner early in the week in Phoenix and I was doing a Q‑and‑A with Paul Azinger and David Feherty, and I said guys still choke over money, no matter if they have a lot or a little. It's always in the back of your mind. Like on the last hole in Phoenix, I was chipping back and forth and making my double bogey, it was like money gone every time (laughter).

So you've got to know that. And you know the people in the booth are talking about it. You know the people standing around the green, all the people watching. But you still have to find a way to execute the shot.

Q. Could you have handled that say five or six years ago in your career?

DAVID TOMS: No, it would have been a bigger deal, sure. I would have been probably semi‑depressed over it. But there's nothing I can do about it.

Q. I guess the question is at what point, though, is when are you financially well off enough so that you could go out and not worry about money?

DAVID TOMS: I don't know that you ever get to that point. You're still going to worry about it ‑‑ not worry about it, but it's a missed opportunity. Who knows, will it come down at the Presidents Cup this year to where it would have cost me to be on that team? Will it cost me in Ryder Cup points when it comes down to making that team? What is it? Will it cost me top 30 on the Money List when I have the chance to make THE TOUR Championship? I don't know. I just know if I play well the rest of the year then that's totally irrelevant of what happened there on that last hole.

So that's the way I have to approach it. You look at Greg Norman, all the near misses he had over the years and all the people that chipped in or made a bunker shot. If he dwelled on what happened to him every single time, he would never have been the player that he was. But somehow he was ‑‑ just knew he was the best player, and if he played well, he would be there again. He put himself there many times.

End of FastScripts.

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