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August 14, 2002

David Toms


JULIUS MASON: Defending PGA champion David Toms with us, ladies and gentlemen. David, welcome to Hazeltine National Golf Club. Some opening thoughts on the golf course, maybe your defense, and we'll go to Q&A.

DAVID TOMS: All right. First of all, this golf course has changed a lot since I was here six weeks ago or so. It's firming up every day -- I guess I got here Sunday night and the course has firmed up a considerable amount since then. Actually, I'm hoping to get a little rain to soften these greens because it's going to be very, very difficult to try to stop the ball anywhere around the hole. Other than that, the golf course is in great shape. I still think -- and I said it when I was here before -- I think anybody can win here. The golf course is such that it has a lot of variety, and with it getting firm and bouncy, I think it really opens it up to the entire field. Obviously, you'll see your guys that are always there just because they are great players, but I think you might see a surprise or two, also. But I'm looking forward to getting started tomorrow, trying to defend my title. We've got a great pairing, I'm excited about it. I don't even know if my wife knows who I'm playing with. She's supposed to come and watch golf, but it might be better-served watching it on television. It should be pretty fun. This pairing is what it's all about. That's what winning majors and being one of the top players, that's what you live for, is to have pairings like this on a Thursday morning. But, you know, it's been a great week so far. The crowds have been awesome, and big. My hand is still tired from signing all of the autographs. There's a lot of people out there and they are excited, so, hopefully, we'll give them a great show. They have a great venue here and I think we are setup to a nice event.

Q. David, if you could summarize how winning the PGA Championship last year has changed your life?

DAVID TOMS: Well, I mean, it's really hard to explain unless you were inside my body. Just the way I've been received throughout the country, just all the people, wherever it might be. Usually, it's in the strangest place where somebody will say, "Hey, David, great going" or "Glad you laid up last year on No. 18," just little things that I thought would really never happen to me. You work hard, you prepare the best you can for every tournament, but to actually win a major championship and to come from where I started my career, it's been great. As far as money-wise, it's done some things for me, things off the golf course, that I would never have before. And a lot more demands of my time. Not just this week, but every week; there's just a few more things it seems that I have to do, rather than just showing up and going about my business and preparing for a golf tournament. There's always a few things that you have to schedule in there and pencil in, and you have to learn to budget your time. There are a handful of players that I really don't see how they do it week-in, week-out, to be honest with you. I think that's why their schedules are cut back and why they don't play as much. It's not just about playing golf; it's managing your time and making sure that you've got everything taken care of before you tee off Thursday morning and that you have fulfilled all of your obligations. I think that's why some of the top players, it just takes so much out of them. They just don't have enough time and energy to play as much as other players.

Q. Do you do anything differently to prepare for playing in this threesome that you'll be with the next two days?

DAVID TOMS: Well, just maybe give me a bigger set of blinders, because, you know, there's going to be a lot of things going on, a lot of people out there. Just because of their physical talent, they are going to be able to hit a lot of shots that I just can't hit, so I'm going to have to definitely play my own game. You hear that a lot, but that's what I'm going to have to do. And what that means is, you know -- I'm going to watch them play. I know some guys go as far as not even watching what their playing partner does because they don't want to get wrapped up in it, but I enjoy watching great golf and I think I will see a lot of that, and it will give me something to shoot for. Probably, with those two guys, it will probably give me a target score anyway. You can tell how the golf course is playing. So, other than that, I'm just -- I've played the golf course, I've prepared, I know what to expect. I've played it in every wind condition. I haven't played it in a rain storm, but I've been here when it was really hot for Media Day, very windy day, very humid. I've played this golf course when it's cloudy and cool, like on Monday. I've seen it in just about every kind of conditions that you can have, so I'm prepared to have a good game plan.

Q. This appears to be a driving course, but I'm hearing it may be more of a position course than a driving course. Do you feel that way?

DAVID TOMS: Well, length is always an advantage. Straight and long, you can't beat it, I don't care what golf course you're playing. On this golf course, length is still going to be a factor because as hard as the greens are getting, the closer you can get to them, the better chance you're going to have to get the ball close. It's a definite advantage to be a long hitter, it is every single week. But here, you have some variety, you have some scoring opportunities. You have some holes out there with longer hitters might have to hit an iron off the tee and the shorter hitters could hit a 3-wood or a driver and everybody is in the same spot and can go from there and everybody might hit the same clubs in, but there are a lot of long holes. You have 9, 18, you have 12, you have 3, you have 11, all of those holes where length is an advantage. But I just think with the variety out there, if you can get the ball in the fairway, I think that anybody could play well here, I really believe that, compared to the other major that we've had this year, especially the first two. With Augusta being soft and the U.S. Open being soft, there were some guys that had a distinct advantage.

Q. Two questions. The lay up, how many times, if you had to guess, has somebody asked you about the lay up or mentioned the lay up? How many times have you heard about that?

DAVID TOMS: I can't count that high, to be honest with you. It's been well-received, whether people agree with me -- obviously, they agree now, just because of the way it turned out, but whether they were second-guessing me at the time or not, it's just been something that so many people have commented on. I think that's why that I've been recognized a lot more for winning that golf tournament is because of the way it all happened, the hole-in-one on Saturday, the way I played the 18th hole, I think it really hit home with a lot of people and people will remember that for a long time.

Q. You're a golfer who has obviously seen all parts of the World Ranking, you've been kind of a steady progression up. As a professional golfer, how does your life become different from when you're at No. 100 versus No. 6, or whatever it is you're at right now?

DAVID TOMS: Well, I think it opens up a lot of doors for you. Golf tournaments that -- just the bonus tournaments, I would call them, the free-money tournaments. It's amazing when you have limited fields, the tournaments are hard to get into, you can tell that it's easier to run those events. They don't have to accommodate so many players. Everything seems to run smoother, and you can just tell they are elite events when you only have select players. The higher you move up the World Ranking, the more of those opportunities you have. Now, with the World Golf Championships and now all of the major championships, I get to play in those for a number of years now. Moving forward, I'm going to have a lot of opportunities to play in some great tournaments, that other players, the ones that are further down the ranking, just don't have the opportunity to do that, and that's what we work hard for is to be able to play the best tournaments against the best players.

Q. Is there something about the PGA that lends itself to first-time major winners, maybe does it have anything to do with the way the course is set up a little bit different than the other three?

DAVID TOMS: You know, somebody asked me that question earlier today and I really didn't know how to comment on it. I don't know why that is. Maybe at Augusta, we're playing the same golf course every year -- I know that back when I used to follow it before I was on the Tour, they always said that you can't do the hook, you can't play that golf course. I don't know that that's necessarily true, but it was something that you had to be able to draw the ball from time to time. If you had guys that struggled with it, they were kind of tossed away, that they didn't have a chance. The U.S. Open, with the way that it's usually setup with very tight fairways and firm greens, I think that only a handful of guys or limited guys can win that event. I just think that the golf courses that the PGA of America chooses and the way they set them up, I just think that it kind of opens the field to a lot of players. Still, they are playing great courses, they might not set them up like a U.S. Open and just have a wide open field. I spoke to Jim Awtrey about this when I played here for Media Day. Their organization is not concerned necessarily about, "A score." Like the USGA, they are into this par thing. They just want to provide a great golf course, a great venue, and have, hopefully, the player that's playing the best that week come out on top and I think that's a great way to approach it. Now, why you've had a lot of first-time winners, I just think it's a numbers game. When you open it up to a lot of different players and set it up a certain way, from time to time, there's going to be somebody that will sneak it in there and win one.

Q. You mentioned the reaction to your victory in Atlanta last year has come in the strangest places. Can you tell us about some of the more unusual encounters you've had?

DAVID TOMS: Well, it's not something that I'm keeping a diary on or anything. It's just that people -- I was in the Dallas airport the other day, on my way to the Fred Meyer Challenge, and I was coming up the escalator and he was going down and he wasn't dressed like a golfer, looked like he just came from a fishing cap or something and I could tell he was staring at me. When somebody is doing that, I just kind of like look the other way or reach down and grab my phone like I'm talking on the phone or something because it kind of makes me uncomfortable. I got up to the top of the escalator and I probably walked about eight gates and finally, I stopped to look at a newspaper or something and he was just right on top of me and he was scared to even say something to me. Finally, I said, "Is there something you want to say?" And he said, "You know, you're my favorite player. I can't believe I'm actually meeting you." Just stuff like that freaks me out because I'm just a normal person. I don't see myself that way, at all. I'd rather him -- it was nice that he recognized me and said something, but I was just uncomfortable with that. But it looked like -- I signed his hat and actually pulled a picture out of my briefcase and signed that. You could tell it made his day, so it made me feel good, also. So, just little things like that, that, you know, there's no way that I thought that would ever happen to me, and it has. It's been fun. The neatest thing about winning is the fact that now you have the power to touch a lot of people, so along with that comes the fact that you'd better act right or you'd better always -- I'm the type that always thinks about the other person first and what they think about me or how my decision is going to affect them, so I've had to kind of be careful from time to time and make sure that I'm doing the right thing.

Q. With Tiger, it seems like he's chasing some sort of history every week, it not the Grand Slam now, but it's the first player to win three in a year, twice. Every week it seems to be something new. I know you don't think about it on the course, obviously, but is there any sense, at least with you, that this is a special time to be playing just because of what he's been able to do?

DAVID TOMS: Oh, it's definitely a special time to be playing. In fact, I was -- I played nine holes with David Gossett today and Jose Coceres, and I was talking to David's father. We were talking about how lucky that he was to be coming into the game right now. I've been on the Tour for ten years now, and obviously, you know, I've been successful and at this time, I'm playing my best golf in my career, and to have it in a time when there's so much focus on our game because of Tiger Woods and what he's been able to accomplish, I just think it's a great time to be playing golf. Obviously, I made the comment last night when I introduced him at the Champions Dinner, he's the guy that sets the bar for us all, and makes everybody work harder, and to try to keep up. I think the players are getting better. I just think that -- and our game is getting better. There's a lot more focus. You guys pay a lot more attention to us than ever before and so does the public. It's a great time to be playing, absolutely.

Q. As big as things have become for you since winning last year, do you still feel sometimes, like tomorrow morning, that you are a little bit under the radar with Tiger out there and you can go about your own business and not so much worry about that spotlight that seems to fall on him?

DAVID TOMS: Yeah, and that's a good thing. I still have a life, I can go and come as an I please. There's certain things that he can't do. I really don't see how he can get in a car at home and go down to Tinsel Town and go see a movie. I just don't see that happening without it being just a huge spectacle. For me, I like it that way, and I'm not sure that I could deal with it any other way. Certainly, there are times where you'll be sitting in a restaurant, somebody will come up to you, and say, "I don't want to bother you, but will you sign this," and you do that, and so then ten more people come over. But it's really not a problem. It's not to the point where you're skipping out of here. It's not like that. I like it that way. Like you said, I can just sneak right on in. With that pairing I have tomorrow, I'm sure that all eyes will be on those two guys and maybe I can sneak up on them in the end.

Q. The playoff, I'd like to know how you felt, the gravity of the situation, in your mind, was the blood rushing, the breath coming short; you know, what was at stake or were you just one cool customer?

DAVID TOMS: To be honest with you, I was surprised the whole day that my nerves were holding up as well as they did. You know, early in the round, I was nervous, that first tee shot, I was just trying to somehow get it within 10 or 15 yards of where I was looking. I got a bad bounce on the first hole, the first tee shot. It bounced into the rough. I think what settled me down was I made about a 15- to 18-footer for par on the first hole and that just kind of set the stage for the way my -- what my attitude was going to be like the rest of the day. It had been like that all week. It seemed like every time I was able to get in trouble, I was able to recover or I was able to capitalize. I made the comment to my caddie on No. 13, I guess it was -- in fact, I just 3-putted 12 for par, hit a great shot and 3-putted. We were walking down 13 and I said, "Man, I don't believe this day is going by so fast. We're already on 13 and still in the middle of the golf tournament." He just said, "Yeah, let's win this thing, no reason we can't." I guess I made birdie right there on 13, Phil chipped in on 15 and you could tell the game was on, he was pumped up and the crowd was excited, but then he let me right back in there on 16, when he 3-putted. But 17, very demanding hole over water, I hit a 4-iron, hit it exactly where I was looking, 2-putted, got out of there with a one-stroke lead. Then when I -- I didn't know on the tee shot -- I knew I had hit a good shot on 18, down the right side, right where I was aiming and kind of bounced into the short rough. I thought I was fine. It wasn't like I was walking up the whole way, 300 yards later and decided to lay up. I thought I was in good shape and wasn't even thinking lay up at the time. Once I topped the hill, I could tell I was rough and my mind started turning, what's the best play here, still didn't know what my yardage was going to be. Then when I got my yardage, my caddie and I are just sitting there discussing it, what are our options, what's the best way to make the best score I can on this hole. We took a lot of time, more time than I usually do, weighed all of the options. Still, the final decision was the fact if I laid up, I didn't think I was going to lose that golf tournament on that hole. Maybe there would be a playoff if I wasn't able to get up-and-down, but I knew I had come a long way and played smart golf the whole week and I just didn't want to lose it on that one hole. But it all worked out fine. And he still had to hit a great shot, too. He still had to hit a 5-iron or 6-iron, whatever he hit and he had 200 yards over water to a tough pin. He could easily have hit a bad shot himself. So I just thought it was a smart thing to do.

Q. Chip Beck lays up at Augusta National and they make a goat out of him. You chip up and become the hero. Just an observation of how things change.

DAVID TOMS: Well, I think that the reason why is because mine worked out for the good and his didn't. And that's unfortunate because he probably knew his game -- that's a tough shot. That shot right there, where he laid up -- and who knows what the lie was like. People don't even talk about it. If he was in the fairway at Augusta National, it must have been perfect. But that place, you know what it is, it's overseeded bermudagrass, and a lot of times, that bermuda is not too good, where they have all that shade from the big pine trees and who knows what the lie was like.

Q. Is there anything about this course that reminds you or brings you back to Atlanta Athletic Club?

DAVID TOMS: Well, I think that it's just a big golf course. What I mean by that, there's some long holes out there, some big greens, fairly wide fairways, so just a big, long, hard golf course. And the reason that the Athletic Club, the greens got soft, they had to keep them soft because they were going to die with that heat, and the ball was going a long way. When it's that hot, the ball just travels. Here, with the low humidity and not being that hot, I think the ball is not going to go as far and I think this golf course will play a little bit longer than that one. With the greens being firm, I don't think you'll see the type of scores that you saw at the Athletic Club last year.

Q. From your experience in the practice rounds here, what have you learned about the golf course and if you've learned anything, have you tweaked your game in any way?

DAVID TOMS: Well, I think that what I've learned is I've seen all of the wind conditions. I've seen the calm conditions, I've seen a north wind, a south wind. I've learned that you're just going to have to pick your spots out there because there are some holes where it does give you the opportunity to run the ball on the green on most holes. Not necessarily to get it close to the hole because they will tuck the pin behind the bunker, but at least you'll get on the green if you have to land it short or bounce it up, whether you're in the rough or whether you have a 3- or 4-iron that you can't stop, you're not going to necessarily be able to get it close, but you'll get it on so if your lag putting is good, you'll get out of there with pars. For me, to play this golf course, you're going to have to play it smart, very smart. As soon as you have that pin that you think you'll get to, sure enough, you'll bounce it right over the green or into the thick rough, or even the short rough around the green, it's growing all over the place. It's not like bermudagrass where all of the grain is going the same way. This stuff, it's pretty wiry and you don't know what kind of lie you're going to get. You could be a foot off the green and not have a good shot at all. I was experimenting with the 3-wood, a 5-wood, a 60-degree flop shot, a belly wedge, putter; just depending on the lie, you can get some really tough shots around the greens, just off the edge.

Q. You mentioned what a good time this is to be playing golf, but a tournament you've won the last two years, the Michelob Championship, lost its sponsor, leading to the demise of the event. Is that an overall concern for you and other players as well?

DAVID TOMS: Well, that just shows you how our economy is right now. Sure, we're concerned about the golf tournaments, but we're just like everybody else. We're concerned about the whole economy and what's going on. I think that golf has always had a turnover as far as sponsors, golf, they always have to decide where they want to spend their dollars, and do you want -- if an event -- if a weak event, do you want them to continue to struggle or do you want to bring somebody in and move to a different venue and have a strong tournament? It's just all about the big corporations making their decision and having the Tour with them and deciding what's best. In the case of that event, I don't know the insides what has happened there, but obviously they are going in a different direction. It's just a logical thing for us to move that event when they weren't involved. And I think some of the others, it will happen the same way for some of the other events. It's unfortunate because I know that tournament has meant a lot to that community and generated a lot of charity dollars, and it's a place that, obviously, for me, that, I'm pretty fond of and I would like to see it stay. But as a tour, we move on and we'll go to some other players and do a lot, go in their community that maybe doesn't have PGA TOUR golf. So it's not necessarily a negative. It could be a positive for the place that we go to.

JULIUS MASON? David Toms, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much.

End of FastScripts...

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