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February 24, 2004

David Toms


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: David Toms, thank you for joining us. Welcome back to the PGA TOUR. You played last week at the Nissan Open, but obviously you have some good memories of the Accenture Match Play Championship having finished second to Tiger last year. Let's get some thoughts about coming back here to play at La Costa.

DAVID TOMS: Same golf course, same conditions, wet and long, a tough golf course for me. Thank goodness for playing match play. I'm sure over 72 holes it would be -- if it was a stroke-play event it would be difficult for me to win here because of the length of the golf course, but when you're just teeing it up and starting fresh every day, you never know what's going to happen in match play, and I like playing match-play formats. I look forward to having a good week.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: You had some bone spurs removed from your hand. If you could, just comment about that.

DAVID TOMS: Yeah, I had them taken out the first week of December. I was in a soft cast for three weeks and then a hard cast another three weeks after that. I started rehabbing the middle of January, and I had rehab all the way up until the Friday before last week, which would have been the Friday of San Diego. I didn't play any golf at all, didn't do much of anything, chipping or putting.

I was pretty sore until right at the end of my rehab, so I played Friday in San Diego was my first round of golf since The Presidents Cup, and I played -- it was 38 degrees and windy and wasn't much of a day to be playing golf at home. So last Tuesday was, I would say, my first real round of golf since the Sunday of Presidents Cup.

I really hadn't planned on playing last week, but the weather was bad at home and I needed to come out and get some work done on my clubs. I was hoping to get some sunshine and get some nice days under my belt, and as you know, the weather last week wasn't the greatest.

I ended up playing in the tournament. I figured I was going to just play in the Pro-Am and play a practice round and see how I felt. I actually felt okay during the Pro-Am and figured I was there and why not go ahead and try it. If it wasn't for bad putting a couple of days, it would have been okay. I was hitting it short but still fairly straight. I'm still hitting it short and fairly straight this week, so hopefully the putter will be better this week and I'll have a chance to do some good.

Q. How does it feel right now?

DAVID TOMS: Right now -- I made the comment to Joel, this is the best day I've had in the last week and a half. I iced it. I spent the last couple of days at the Titleist facility practicing up there and made sure I iced my hand at night. Like I said, today was the best I've felt in a while.

Q. When you talk about hitting it short, that you don't have the strength back, how do you get the strength back?

DAVID TOMS: Anybody that knows anything about physical rehabilitation or the golf swing or anything, it's just about practicing, hitting balls and getting those golf muscles back. I've been told to not do anything and lay off of it for a while and it'll get better, but I was tired of watching golf at home and not being a part of it.

Even if it's a struggle for a while, I'd rather be out here and going through the competition and trying to get better that way. I think that I will build that strength back up just by hitting golf balls and trying to strengthen it in a few other ways.

Q. You've had doctors tell you to back off a little bit and give it more time?

DAVID TOMS: Yes. Well, I've actually -- my doctors that took care of me at home said that I can't damage anything. They said it might hurt just because I haven't -- just like if you didn't hit golf balls for three months your hands are going to hurt when you first go back, and then I lost a lot of the muscles in my hand. I lost all my calluses, my hand shrunk, the size of it, everything, so all those combined adds up to being sore.

Like I said, it is getting better. I still know it's there, I still know I had something done, but it is getting better and I look forward to -- as long as I continue to play golf and work with it, I think I'll be fine here pretty soon.

Q. Do you have any concern with the rough?

DAVID TOMS: Yeah, it's tough. I hit a ball in the rough on the last hole, the par 5, No. 18. I hit a pitching wedge the farthest I could and I barely got into the front bunker. I don't know if it's a combination of a bad lie and the fact that I'm not very strong right now, kind of tentative over the ball and the rough was deep. I need to keep it in the fairway to have any chance.

Q. Are you tentative at times out there?

DAVID TOMS: I know I am. I'm not practicing many flop shots or bunker shots, where you have to hold that speed off through the ball. I'm trying not to practice those at all because I still have a problem there when I'm trying to hold the face open or create speed or anything else. I'm just trying to do the basic things to stay sharp and not hit too many of those shots.

Q. Do you have any concerns that the concessions you're making for your hand can lead to bad habits that will be hard to --

DAVID TOMS: Yeah, if I feel like I'm doing that and I'm giving -- not releasing the club or I'm compensating in my swing, if it continues -- I know I am a little bit now and if that doesn't get any better then I might look at taking some more time off. If it's more of a mental than a physical thing, if my hand is really okay and I just mentally think there's something still wrong, I think I'll play through it. But if it's a physical thing where I'm getting through it because it is hurting me, then I might look at taking --

Q. What have you lost, like a club?

DAVID TOMS: Oh, easily. I was out there playing today with Chris DiMarco and Stewart Cink. And typically, DiMarco -- I might be a little bit longer than him off the tee, and I was having trouble keeping it up with him off the tee. I would say I'm at least a half a club shorter with the irons right now. I think a lot of it has to do with the weather. Normally when you get to Florida, it's warm, and I think if I'm going after it a little bit harder it won't be as much of a factor.

Q. What actually caused the spurs and then the decision to --

DAVID TOMS: You know, I'm not really sure. It just started -- it came on all of a sudden, but I can't think of one shot other than the rough. It started hurting me the week of the Atlanta tournament, the American Express, and that was to the real deep rough we played that week. I wasn't in it very often, but when I was, I was in it pretty thick. It hurt me towards the weekend of that event, so maybe I did something there. I'm not sure.

Then I played with it the rest of the year, and it got worse and worse. I was spending two hours a day getting therapy, an hour in the mornings trying to loosen it up, and I was still having problems, and an hour in the evening, and I got to the point where it was real bad. The Presidents Cup was probably the peak of it, as far as the pain I was feeling there, and I was doing everything you can imagine trying not -- to be able to play, really.

Q. It was obviously a tough decision, this being a Ryder Cup year, but how much do you think -- if it progresses slower than you'd like and you find yourself in the bubble, how much do you think your reputation will help you, what you've developed over the last five years, a previous Ryder Cup --

DAVID TOMS: As far as having a chance to be picked?

Q. Yes.

DAVID TOMS: I've said before, I don't really want to put Hal in that position because we're friends, we're neighbors, from the same area. We have a lot of people that are fans of both of ours. I think if I wasn't close enough to really, really be looked at, I think I would go to him and say don't worry about me. I mean, I think I owe him that because I think it would be a bad position for him to be in.

If I was anywhere close and you guys were talking it up, this guy has a good record and so forth, but I hadn't played that well or wasn't healthy enough to really be a factor -- I'm hoping a month from now I'm back to normal and I'm playing great golf and getting Ryder Cup points. That's what I'm hoping for, and playing like I know how to play.

Q. Did clapping at the Sugar Bowl set you back any?

DAVID TOMS: No, I had a purple cast on there. It didn't set me back. Now, if I would have gotten tackled by one of those guys -- man, that was awesome.

Q. What are you having for dinner this week?

DAVID TOMS: Not chili. That's what I get for using free coupons.

Q. It wasn't a hard decision to have the surgery, was it?

DAVID TOMS: It was for a while. My wife and I talked about it at length, and I think I had four or five different opinions on what I should do. Basically, everybody said that I should have it done, except for a guy that was a doctor for one of the big sports teams, and he told me to shoot it up and suck it up, but that didn't happen, so I went ahead and had it done.

Q. Did you get any criticism at home for giving up the spot in Mercedes?

DAVID TOMS: Well, everybody -- people ask about that, but --

Q. I meant from Sonya.

DAVID TOMS: No, it was tough. We were going to spend three weeks in Hawaii, and it was a tough decision, but we felt like it was the right thing for my career. She could tell I was in a lot of pain. I mean, I was complaining about it all the time. It was the right thing to do.

Right now, looking back, maybe I should have waited a little bit longer, but I felt like if I did that, it was going to mess up The Players Championship, The Masters. If I would have gone ahead and gone to Hawaii and had it done later, I would have played Tiger's event, I would have played the Sun City tournament, I would have made a lot of guaranteed money over a six or eight-week span, but in the end, would that have -- if something really bad would have happened to me and I was done for a couple of years, then it wasn't the right thing to do.

Q. Do you know guys that have had this same injury?

DAVID TOMS: You know, I don't think it happens very often. I think that a lot of hand or wrist injuries, but what I had doesn't happen very often. In fact, one of the doctors that I spoke to said that she had only done this surgery six times, so that's not --

Q. Did they tell you that as you were going under?

DAVID TOMS: No, that's not the one I used and that's one of the reasons. There was no experience there, so it doesn't happen that often. I think for normal people that didn't play golf, they would have gone the rest of their life with this particular thing. They would have said my hand is sore but I'm a plumber so it doesn't matter. It was my left hand, so if it's somebody's left hand that doesn't play golf, no big deal, but for me to have an impact there, it was not good at all.

Q. Did you have anybody that could give you an idea of what to expect?

DAVID TOMS: No, but I have had a lot of guys that have had injuries in the past question me on the range, should you be here or is this too soon, other guys that have had injuries that have had to come back from them. You know, I got cleared by my doctor and my therapist at home, so away I went.

Q. It's one thing when we're asking you whether you think -- when players are asking you that, does that start putting the word out?

DAVID TOMS: I think the guys that said something, they're friends of mine and I think they genuinely care.

Q. I don't mean to be negative, but does that put more doubt in your mind that maybe they can --

DAVID TOMS: Right, but at the same time it's like I was going crazy. I mean, I was at home for -- I haven't been off from golf for that long since I started playing the game. I mean, I was going nuts. I had to do something.

Q. Imagine what your wife was going through.

DAVID TOMS: She was probably ready to get me out of the house.

Q. In a perverse way, but is this the most enthusiastic you've been at the start of the season, when you've got something to work on?

DAVID TOMS: Yeah, because I did have an off season. I had an off time, and a lot of times it just all runs together. Somebody says this is early in the season, but it was like it never ended for some guys that played all the way through, but for me, I might not be physically ready to play, but mentally I'm glad to be here rather than this is just another tournament. I'm here to take advantage of playing well, and I'm hoping that being mentally fresh and ready to play and being into it will make up for where I'm lacking in the physical part of the game.

Q. Having said all that, what are your goals, I guess, for this year? How do you pace yourself? Do you have milestones set throughout the year that you hope to be able to achieve?

DAVID TOMS: My goals every year are just try to get better, try to be prepared for every round of golf I play, mentally and physically, and I think if I do that, then I'm going to win tournaments or I'm going to have high finishes and make plenty of money and I'm going to be fine.

I don't necessarily sit down and say I want to win four tournaments this year, I want to win one or make the Ryder Cup team. The Ryder Cup team is a big deal because I want to be a part of that because I was part of a losing team -- it was the best week of my life for golf except for the fact that we lost, and if I can have the same experience again and win, I'd love to be a part of that. At the same time I feel like if I can play the game like I know how to play, then I'll be satisfied.

Q. How disappointed would you be to have a guy from Shreveport as Ryder Cup captain and not make the team?

DAVID TOMS: I would be disappointed just because I know what a neat experience it is. For guys that have never been part of it, they have no idea. I know he's going to be a great captain and I know a lot of things he's doing that he's excited about, and it's going to be a special week for a lot of guys. I'll be very disappointed if I don't make it because, number one, I haven't played good golf, and I know what I'm going to be missing out on. Hopefully I can start playing well and there won't be any questions there.

Q. Are you playing next week at Doral?


Q. Do you think in a strange kind of way, people have always said you are the injured golfer. This is different than, say, food poisoning, that you do a better job playing within yourself?

DAVID TOMS: Yeah, you do. In fact, my short game wasn't sharp or I would have been right there. I could have easily been 5 or 6-under after two days, no problem. It wasn't bad, and like I said, I think I'm mentally there. I'm ready to play, and it's just the physical thing as far as being injured.

I've won a couple tournaments being injured where I had back problems and I did swing within myself, but this particular thing I've got going on here, it affects the speed of my club through the ball no matter if I'm trying to swung 50 percent or 150 percent, it's there, and sometimes -- it's going to have to get better for me to be extremely competitive or at least get to the level that I want to play golf. I don't want to be out here struggling. I mean, last week the golf course was long for me. I hit a lot of long shots into the holes, and I need to get that distance back pretty quickly or it's going to be a struggle.

Q. Why was the Ryder Cup, the year you lost it, the best week of your golf life? You've had a pretty good golf life.

DAVID TOMS: To be able to represent your country was fantastic. I thought that part of it was great, the intensity of it all. We don't experience that. Even when you're trying to win tournaments, whether it's the FedEx or the Wachovia or whatever it might be, maybe a major championship is similar to that, but it starts from the first tee shot the first day, you can barely breathe. To go through that every single day, every single match, that intensity, it was fun. I mean, that's why I play golf, is to get that feeling and see how am I going to hold up. If golf was easy and playing those events like that were easy and came easy to anybody, I don't think it would be nearly as much fun. It's how you overcome that and those situations. I thought that was the best part of it.

Then the fact that you get to see the players and their spouses in a totally different light where you're all pulling together instead of trying to beat each other up, the whole team concept. We haven't played on teams. We've played in individual sports since we were little kids. Even in college we never did get to play basketball, football or baseball, any of those things. I quit all those sports when I was 12 years old, other than high school basketball, so just to have that whole team concept, to be able to pull for somebody else but yourself, I mean, really, really pull for somebody else, not because you're a friend and you want to see them do well, you really, really are pulling for them. I think that's the neatest part about it.

Q. Did you get that same feeling in the Presidents Cup?

DAVID TOMS: I did. We had a great week over there. I certainly did. I mean, I don't know -- maybe it's not presented the same way, maybe it's not -- the media doesn't see it the same stature of the Ryder Cup, but I think as far as what went on behind closed doors, I felt it was the same thing.

Q. Were you okay with the way it ended?

DAVID TOMS: Yeah, I think it was fine. The reason I was okay with the way it ended is because I didn't think it was fair to put those two guys through that again. Having the fact that they had to go play golf, I liked the way it ended. I mean, I would have liked to have seen an outcome, but some other way other than the way those two guys had to go play. I didn't care for that too much.

Q. Is there something that makes a guy a good match play player versus stroke play, or is it just such a day-to-day thing that a guy can be a good match player one day and --

DAVID TOMS: Right. I don't know really what makes somebody better at one or the other. I just like it just because you never know. And like I was saying here, on a golf course like this you don't know what's going to happen. You feel like you're up at a point and then all of a sudden a guy does something and then you're down.

Just like what happened to Chris Riley last year when I was playing him. We were on the 18th hole and he was one down going into 18, and I'm on the front fringe forever away from the hole and he's up there, got a nice little birdie putt. He's thinking he can get even by making this putt or by me not getting up-and-down, and I knock it in with a 3-wood. So he's going, I've got all kinds of ways to go back even and go for another hole, and by me hitting one shot it was over. That's totally different than how we normally see things and how we play and how we approach each other.

Q. What did he say when that one was over?

DAVID TOMS: He just kind of looked at me and laughed. He's kind of a fun guy anyway, so what could he say?

Q. Have you ever had any horror stories of 6-under through 13 and going home or vice versa?

DAVID TOMS: Nothing that I can come back and say -- I felt like this year at the Presidents Cup when I played Vijay on a golf course I was under par, played solid and just getting whacked. That's the way it goes. No real horror stories.


End of FastScripts.

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