April 3, 2002
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: I'd like to welcome Dave Toms to the media center of the BellSouth Classic. David, winner of seven PGA TOUR events including the PGA Championship last year at the Athletic Club. Over in Atlanta, David, I understand you were welcomed and honored last night at the Athletic Club for your win last year.
DAVID TOMS: Yes, they had a nice little banquet there last night. They inducted a couple of players into their Hall of Fame and then gave me a sports appreciation award. It was a nice event. It was nice to be back at the Athletic Club; see everyone that was a part of last summer, my victory there. They were really nice people and it was a wonderful banquet, and got to sign autographs for about an hour, and just had a great time.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Real quick maybe talk about the state of your game right now - played well at THE PLAYERS Championship, you know, was in one of the final groups and played well there. Just maybe comment a little bit about that and entering this week.
DAVID TOMS: Well, I have been pretty consistent this year so far. Hadn't been able to put four rounds together the last six weeks or so, but I have had a lot of good rounds during that stretch. Had a couple of good rounds each tournament and just haven't been able to quite do it on Sunday the last couple of weeks. I am hoping to turn that around soon and play well here and give me some confidence going into Augusta.
Q. The perception from the outside looking in is that you were a solid player for a long time and suddenly you gone up a couple of levels. Do you perceive that yourself and if so, what came together for you in the last 12 to 18 months?
DAVID TOMS: That's definitely the way it has been. I was able to keep my card there for many years and wasn't able to really break through quite like I wanted to and just become very consistent. I think my expectations are a lot higher. I have a lot more confidence in my ability to get the job done when I have that opportunity. Nothing that I have done a whole lot different. I think my golf swing has evolved over the years, the last four, five years, I have done a lot of work on that. Just if you look at my stats my ball-striking has been much more consistent, just -- I seem like I have been able to score. When I have had the opportunity to have good tournaments I have been able to capitalize on those.
Q. Is it a gradual thing or suddenly --
DAVID TOMS: Yeah, it was a learning process. I came out, I was still pretty young when I first got on Tour, and had those lean years where things didn't go so well and I had to build up my confidence. I think the Nike Tour in 1995 was a big stepping stone for me. I was able to win a couple of times there. And just last few years have just gotten better and better. It will be tough to top what I did last year, but I just want to maintain a high level of play and hopefully win more tournaments and get into contention and just play well.
Q. Is there ever a moment of eureka saying: That's what I have been looking for?
DAVID TOMS: No, I don't think so. I have heard Tiger saying that back in - I don't know what year it was - saying at the Byron Nelson one year he just happened to find - - his golf swing clicked. I don't think -- for me I think it was just a process of getting my golf swing to where I knew where it was repetitive that it would hold up under pressure and have an understanding what I am doing wrong when things are going wrong and after that just taking care of it and work on the mental side of it, work on your confidence; have some good positive self-talk on the golf course and just use that everyday and try to get better.
Q. You have had a pretty good track record at almost every one of the tournaments played in Georgia, any particular reason for that? You have more confidence when you come back here at different courses in the States?
DAVID TOMS: I just feel comfortable here for some reason. I don't know if it's a combination of -- that it's pretty much in the south or it's the grasses that we play on. I know at the Buick Challenge I played well there. It is all Bermuda wall-to-wall and I grew up on that at home. These greens and then Athletic Club, you know, they were fairly soft bent grass, with not a whole lot of speed to them, so I have been -- but I played well at Augusta on firm, fast bent grass greens. I think -- I have just never done real well on the poa annua grasses and so that's what you see up north and on the West Coast in the northeast and for some reason I have never got a real good feel for those. Maybe that's why I have played well in the southern part of the country.
Q. Do you think guys go to Augusta next week feeling like the gap has been cut quite a bit with Tiger, that everybody is a little closer to the guys than they were maybe a year or two ago?
DAVID TOMS: Maybe so. You have a lot of guys -- we have had a lot of first-time winners, a lot of people, their confidence is riding high right now and they feel like they can play well. I think that people are starting to maybe play their own game a little bit more rather than watching what Tiger is doing, knowing that they have to play well to not only beat him, but beat the other guys in the field. I think that's why things seem to be moving a little bit closer to his level of play.
Q. I think you proved that last year too because there was a lot of that same talk and you came through on a course that was supposed to be a very long golf course --
DAVID TOMS: Yes, well, I just think that guys out here, you know, are really good players and if you can play to your strengths no matter what the golf courses are I think you can find a way to score and manage your game on them. You might have to just have different ways of doing it. I can't overpower our golf course so I have got to pick my spots, when to be aggressive and know to play to my strengths. I think the other players are starting to do that more and more.
Q. From what you have seen how does this course match up with your game when you are playing well in your opinion?
DAVID TOMS: This course here at Sugarloaf?
DAVID TOMS: I have had some good tournaments here. I have had, I don't know, what the record is, I know I have had a couple of Top-10s since we've been coming here. Last year if it wasn't for, I don't know, I guess the 15th hole I had a disaster there, the first or second round, that year on Sunday kind of ran together, so -- but I had a disaster there. If it wouldn't have been for that I would have been right there. So the golf course, it sets up well for me. You have a lot of different type of shots to play out there. I think it's a second-shot golf course with all the creeks around the greens and you have to place your second shots and so I feel good about it. I played well today. I think I made six birdies and an eagle today, so I feel good about tomorrow.
Q. Saying the same thing about the Masters this year as they said about the Athletic Club last year, it's going to be a long hitters' course. Do you think that's overstated that players like yourself that are not big hitters can win no matter how long the course is just by the quality of your game?
DAVID TOMS: Well, I haven't been there to witness the changes. I am not sure, I think if you make -- it comes to a point where if the long hitters cannot overpower that golf course -- I think before it was a big advantage. Guys taking 3-wood over the corner on 13 and hitting wedge, short irons in there, guys hitting short to mid-irons in on 15, and holes that you know, you can actually overpower the course. If they make it so long that you can't do that, maybe it brings everybody closer together. I mean, if you start playing Augusta National where par is a good score, I think everybody has a chance. Just like the U.S. Open, you know, you are not sure what is going to happen in that golf tournament because length is not always the key. It always helps, I mean it's always an advantage, but how much of an advantage. So it will be interesting to see how it all plays out this year.
Q. Do you agree with the players who say I rather play a long-hitter, like my 8-iron against his wedge or 6-iron against his 8-iron as opposed to him --
DAVID TOMS: I think that's more of a media-thing. I don't -- I would hope that other players don't even think that way because I am trying to make the best score I can on each hole. If I am worried about how close a guy is going to hit a 8-iron compared to how I am going to hit a 6-iron, that's the wrong way to approach it. I can't -- there are people out here on the Tour that are obviously more talented, hit the ball further and that are stronger than I am, but some way I have got to find a way to get it done. If I go out there with the attitude that I am already at a disadvantage then I am not doing myself justice.
Q. People still ask you about your shot -- your decision to lay-up at the --
DAVID TOMS: Yeah, I was asked about that last night in an interview like this. The more I see it on television, you know, the more that I think about the shot. I definitely -- obviously the outcome was great, but I still think that was the way to play the shot, for sure.
Q. Do you think there will be more emphasis on the practice round at Augusta this year and will you, after the first day, say I need a lot more work or I have it under control? Will you go play it by ear?
DAVID TOMS: Well, I think that I just have to wait and see what the golf course is going to be. I have had basically the same routine there every year as far as when I play. To be honest with you they change the golf course every year. There's something that they do to it even before this drastic change that supposedly they have done here, but you know, every year there's a little bit of something. They have redone a green or moved a tee box or they have lengthened a hole here or there. So there's always a little something different that you need to see. I think if you put too much into it, if you don't approach it just like another golf tournament, you know, you start getting caught up in the hype that it's Augusta National, it's The Masters and all the people that are there for the first time to see it, all the people that call you that want a ticket, and I mean, just hundreds of people that want to come in for a day, or -- if you can just approach it like another tournament, prepare like I always do, then I think that's my best chance of playing well. So I am not sure what I am going to do when I get there. Hopefully I will play nine holes Monday; play 18 Tuesday; play 9 Wednesday and then play the par 3. That's usually my routine there. After an event like that, on that golf course where you have to constantly think about the wind and the swirling winds and what club to hit balls you don't have much room there on a lot of the greens, you are totally exhausted after that golf tournament is over. You can do that to yourself before it ever begins if you really -- if you are grinding so hard early in the week. So try to just approach it low-key and just hopefully play well.
Q. Maybe a few holes that are going to play different than they have in the past with the changes, how -- are you going to take one quick look see what it is and you can pretty much assess from there?
DAVID TOMS: It depends on what the wind is doing. If it's -- if the wind is coming from the same direction all three days, I mean why do you need to see it more than once because you kind of know what the ball is doing. Although they don't like for you to hit more than one ball off the tee. I was scolded one year on No. 10 because I hit two balls on No. 10. He came up and said: Mr. Toms, can you refrain from doing that again. I said, all right, whatever. You kind of are walking on pins and needles all the time anyway. But it's just -- that's another golf course and you know there's a lot of attention on that golf tournament and it is a great place, going to be an awesome place to win because it would be a dream come true. For me, I just got to go play. After you have been out here for ten years now, like when I come to a normal Tour event, my routine now, I usually play nine on Tuesday and play the pro-am. I can't wait to get started because you have seen the golf course many, many times. You kind have gone through the same routine. I am just ready to get started when I show up to a golf tournament, let's get the competition going. It like the race car guy that goes to that same track every year, same thing goes round and round, just can't wait for the race to start; that's the way I feel about it.
Q. Now that you have a major under your belt, how is that going to change confidence-wise how you approach all the majors this year?
DAVID TOMS: Well, I think that being successful that week last summer, I know what it takes now. I know I have to be a little bit more patient in those events like that, and literally play one shot at a time. You hear that a lot. But it's so hard to do. It is so hard to put that bogey that you just made out of your mind and it's so hard not to look ahead - I have got a par 5 and two holes I have got a birdie chance there, if you can just stay in the present tense. It is very hard to do but I think the great players are able to do that week-in and week-out, especially in the major championships.
Q. Back to the idea of you raising the level of play in the last two years or so, is it -- do you have to become a more stable person in general in order to do that? Are you happier, freer mentally? Somehow does it affect the way you play or is it the reverse the way your play reflects the --
DAVID TOMS: I try not to, you know, for me this is my job and I try to do it the best I can, prepare the best I can, and play as well as I can, but I try not to -- I am pretty content, my whole life, I have a wonderful wife and have a little boy and a great family, great support group at home, but it's not all -- to me, I like to do my job and then get away from it. I try not to, you know, as far as my life in general I try not to bring that to the golf course at all. I try to be the same on and off the golf course and I just think that as far as my -- you know, I think you keep asking me is there just something that -- some light switch that went on all of a sudden that I am playing better golf and I just think it's a process of just being more mature, more confident in my ability, and just getting to be a better golfer. Just you know, I wish this would have happened to me when I was 25 years old, but it didn't, and I am just -- I just have to do the best I can while I can do it.
Q. Is it rewarding since you have worked for something and now it's starting to show results?
DAVID TOMS: Sure, you appreciate it more. There are a lot of younger players out here that never, you know, fortunately for them they never really had to go through the process. They were good enough to come right out of college and get on the Tour and be successful. I wasn't able to do that. I went through all the channels. I went through the mini-tours, through the Qualifying School, you know, drove the whole -- drove the country. I wasn't flown around in a private airplane my second year on Tour or anything like that. It makes it very rewarding to get to this point where I have I am at the level of play where I am at right now.
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