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August 18, 2001

David Toms


JULIUS MASON: 7:00 PM. Saturday night, Atlanta. David Toms' final hole birdie gave him a 14-under par 196 total in the PGA Championship, 54-hole aggregate record. Ernie Els still owns the record in relation to par in 1995. Els had rounds of 66, 65, and 66 for a 16-under 197 on the Riviera Country Club layout. Just some general comments and we'll go through your card then to go Q&A.

DAVID TOMS: I think what happened was early on, I struggled, but was able to hang in there, get the most out of the way I was playing at the time and I think that's what I'm most proud of today. You know, Saturday in the last group of a major and I really didn't have my rhythm early on and I was able to hang in there. Got up-and-down a couple times, made a couple nice birdie putts, and then all of a sudden, you know, making a hole-in-one that kind of turned the day around. And then played good, solid golf after that. And I was able to birdie 18. Had to make a long putt, but, still, I hit two perfect shots and I think I really -- I deserved to birdie them. I hit the 3-iron as good as I could and luckily, snuck that putt in.

JULIUS MASON: Could you please go through your card, David.

DAVID TOMS: Yes. I birdied No. 5. Actually, I drove it in the rough. I had to lay up and hit a pitching wedge to about 12 feet. So even after driving it in the rough I was able to make birdie. No. 6, I also drove it in the left rough. Hit a pitching wedge out to about 35, 40 feet and ran it in. But then I bogeyed 7. I missed the green. I hit a so-so chip and missed the putt. I birdied 13. Hit a pitching wedge to about 12 feet and made it. The hole-in-one at 15, I hit a 5-wood. I think I had 243 yards. Actually, I had a perfect yardage. I could have hit a 3-iron, but I would not have been able to go for the flag, but I was able to with a 5-wood. Hit a high, soft shot and was able to carry it over the lake. Really, it never left the flag. It just went right at the hole. I didn't see how hard it was going when it went in, I just knew that it went in. So that was a little bit lucky, but still it was a pretty timely shot. 18, I hit a 3-iron to the back fringe and made it. Was trying to get down in two and finish off the day nicely and it felt in.

Q. Every time you've led at this time on Saturday nights, you have ended up winning. Is that confidence that you think you can pull this off tomorrow? This isn't the Buick Classic, this is a little bit bigger golf tournament. Can you envision yourself as a major championship winner, and are you going to approach it that way?

DAVID TOMS: Obviously, I'm in this position so I have the game that put me here. It's just a matter of going out tomorrow and executing, hopefully getting off -- even though I was under par today early, it was kind of a stressful day early on. I just didn't have any rhythm. Hopefully, tomorrow I will have it early and be able to get off to a good start. I think I can win. I've played well. I've played this golf course well every day that I've been here this week. I know tomorrow is going to be a different situation. I mean, I'm playing with one of the best players in the world, while he's trying to win his first major championship and get all of you guys off of his back. But there's no reason why I couldn't win my first one, too.

Q. I know you had great success at the British Open a couple years ago, but how have the last three days been different for you at night when you go to sleep, when you wake up, in your head, and your right now?

DAVID TOMS: This is one of the few times where my wife is here and our 4-year-old isn't here, so we've actually been having a good time and going to dinner and watching movies and not worrying about having to go to bed at 7:00 when he goes to bed. So it's been fun. I think it's helped me this week, you know, playing this golf tournament, that she's here. We don't have to worry about, you know, when we are going for dinner and what does he want to eat and everything and when do we pick him up from day care. Not saying, you know that we don't enjoy having him around, but it hasn't been a normal week, as far as golf goes. I've played good, but, you know, we've been doing some things that have been fun.

Q. Two-stroke lead aside, do you think Phil has a bit of an edge tomorrow having been in this position six or seven times before or do you think it is a push because neither of you have won a major?

DAVID TOMS: I think it's a push. You know, I think we're both going to be trying really hard. I think the expectations, there will be more people expecting him to win this golf tournament than me, so maybe this takes a little bit of it off of me. But inside, I'll be expecting to play well, and I just -- I know I have the game for it. It's just a matter of performing. I guess this time tomorrow evening, we'll find out.

Q. When you are standing over the ball, to when you are watching the ball to those few frenzied moments after it lands in the cup --

DAVID TOMS: Like I said before, I mean, I did have the perfect yardage. I knew I had the perfect club, because I could go ahead and hit a solid shot. As long as I hit it solid it was going to clear the water and I could hit it high and soft enough to stop on the green. But you want to hit it solid. I mean if I don't hit it solid it is going to come up short and I was aiming right at the flag, just because I knew that I had as much room over there, as long as I could hit the shot solid, and it never left the flag. I could not see it go in. There was kind of some shadows on it, plus it is a long way and I don't see that far. It went in. The people behind the green went crazy and kind of a delayed reaction and the people around the tee went crazy and the caddy and I were high-fiving and hurt my hand a little bit. But still, the way it happened, I mean it was just a perfect time, like I said it was kind of a struggle the whole day until that point and that one shot turned my -- just kind of turned the momentum for me.

Q. At any point this week was the Ryder Cup like a motivation to springboard you into this position to go for a different goal or was the PGA Championship just the motivation from the outset?

DAVID TOMS: Playing good golf again after -- you know I got off to such a good start this year, and then, you know, I won in New Orleans and played well after that. And I haven't played well for a while. No. 1, I felt like I was coming around last week, even though I didn't finish that well and I just wanted to start playing good again and have some more fun out there. And I did. I started playing good golf again. The Ryder Cup, I really didn't think I had a chance to be picked. I keep hearing people say, "Well, you know, he's a good pick" and this, that and the other. And I read a quote from Chris DiMarco and he says, "You've got to earn your first Ryder Cup, and you need to be in the Top-10," and that's the way he feels about it and I feel the same way. Hopefully I can go out there tomorrow and earn my way on.

Q. Can you describe what you saw on Shingo's shot on 18? Have you ever seen anything like that before?

DAVID TOMS: You know, the reason it did that, he was coming out of the rough and he caught a little flyer and that's why the ball didn't say in the air. It kind of fell out of the sky, but it had enough, you know, heat on it that it skipped out. I know that it was pretty amazing that it did that, but if it was coming out of the fairway, the ball would have never done that. It was just so hot that it didn't stay in the air, but it had enough heat on it when it hit the water, it could still hop out. I know that he was surprised and everyone around the green was surprised.

Q. A lot of guys have been talking about playing real well and not being able to make any putts this week, and you've been putting really, really well. What has been the key to that this week?

DAVID TOMS: I think so far my speed has been real good. I've worked hard on it. I actually have a new putter in the bag this week, just something new to look at it. I mean, it's pretty much the same thing I've been using since 1991, just a little bit different. A little newer, a little shinier look, but my speed has been good. I think that's why I've been able to sink some putts. Even when I don't have a perfect line, they are falling in the edges when I need to.

Q. On the golf course are there any telltale signs that let you know the pressure is starting to affect your game and on or off the course, what do you do to relieve pressure?

DAVID TOMS: Well, this older gentlemen that used to be the greenskeeper at LSU Golf Course in school, Al Michaels (ph), I said to him one time, "What do you think about my game?" He said, "Son, all you've got to do is keep on breathing." That's what I try to, do keep on breathing. When you feel it getting a little tight out there, just take a couple deep breaths and try to focus on your target. So many times that you step up on the tee box, you don't really pick a target. You see the fairway and you definitely see the rough and the bunkers and the tree. If you can pick out a target and just really, really focus -- I mean, the mind is so powerful. My mind has put me in this position right here. Physically, you know, I don't know that I'm a whole lot different than I was last week, but just a little more confident, feeling get better about my game and that's why I'm sitting right here.

Q. Can you talk about the last four holes? You played them very well, the ace and the birdie, but the other guys among the leaders were up and down. What is it about those last four holes about them being obviously very difficult?

DAVID TOMS: Well, you know, No. 15, it's a very difficult par 3. Not only the length, but you know you have water and everything. It's a tough shot. 16, you've got to get the ball in the fairway and I've been able to do that the first three days. Not only do you have to get it in the fairway, but if you are in the right side of the fairway, you are somewhat blocked out. 17, I think it is a matter of playing a good, smart shot. Today, I pulled it left of the flag. I was not aiming over there and I happened to get away with it. 18, I've been able to hit two solid shots all three round. And I think, first of all, the tee shot sets you up. If you can hit a good drive, you can at least hit an iron into the green instead of a wood. If I don't hit a good tee shot, I've got to hit a wood there, or lay up. It's a tough stretch of holes. I've played them okay so far. I mean, today it helped me out a lot with the hole-in-one, but I think it will be -- you know, those holes will be pretty pivotal tomorrow.

Q. Phil was reminded a short while ago that in New Orleans, he was leading and you were a group or two ahead, and you threw a 64 at him and won the tournament. Is that going to figure into your mental equation in any way?

DAVID TOMS: I think it's totally different. I just think it's -- you know, only thing similar is that we are both close to the lead. Down in New Orleans, I had so many people there pulling for me. I mean, they were pulling for David Toms and nobody else. They were pretty vocal about that and I didn't want to let them down. I wanted to play great golf and they got behind me and I rode that momentum to victory. I think tomorrow, I mean, I know that everybody is going to be pulling for Phil. There's still some LSU people; I don't know where they all came from, but they are here. They will be behind me. It's not like nobody wants me to win, but I think they want Phil to get the monkey off his back and they will be pulling for him. He's a great player to watch. I'll enjoy watching him tomorrow. But I'll also enjoy playing with him and hopefully performing my best.

Q. You were playing stress-free the first 36. You started pulling the ball, it seemed like, off the tee, especially. What got you out of it?

DAVID TOMS: Well, you know, on 2 and 3 -- No. 2, I actually only missed my target by about five yards. It's a tough tee shot and the wind was a little right-to-left, and it caught a bad hop and went in the bunker. 3, left-to-right wind. Very difficult tee shot knowing you've got to get it in the fairway or you're going to probably make bogey, and it leaked a little right. I stepped up to 5, the reachable par 5, if I get it in the fairway, it is a good birdie hole. The wind was left-to-right again and I pulled it, probably trying to keep from hitting it in the right bunkers. I was playing this game of, which way is it going to go: Is it going to go a little right; is it going to go a little left, and I didn't know I didn't have anything to key on. I thought I was swinging good, and every time I would go in the rough, I looked at my caddy and asked him: "Do you see anything?" And he said, "Man, it looks like you're swinging good." He said, "Man, let's just pick out a good target." I started picking out good targets in the back side. Even though I drove it in the rough 10, I think I got a bad hop because I picked up my tee and started walking; I thought it was perfect. I was hitting some shots left, but I think I was overcompensating from my early shots to the right. I think I just didn't have my rhythm and I wasn't quite into it.

Q. When do you think you found your rhythm?

DAVID TOMS: Where did I find my rhythm? I think No. 13 is a birdie hole, if you can find the fairway. My one thought there was just watch the ball take off. If I can watch the ball take off, it's kind of strange, but I just feel like I swing within myself when I'm watching the ball take off the tee. I did that, and it seemed to click because I started hitting everything perfect coming in. Maybe I'll use that tomorrow.

Q. Did you celebrate your other aces the way you did the one today? Was there a concern at all that you might lose your focus in a situation like that?

DAVID TOMS: Well, a couple funny stories about the other hole-in-ones. Actually, like I said, the first one was in a four-man scramble at Palmetto Country Club when I was 16. I made one on the Nike Tour in Monterrey, Mexico, and I had this guy caddying for me and he was not all that great a caddy. We were kind of back and forth, back and forth, and we get to like the 15th hole and he wants me to hit a 6-iron. I thought it was a 5-iron, and I finally pulled a 5-iron. He was mumbling to one of the other caddies and said, "If you listened to me, you would be winning this golf tournament." I hit the 5-iron instead of 6- and I made it. I turned around and I looked at him and I fired him three holes later. I made the other one at St. Andrews last year in a practice round on No. 11. There were a lot of people standing around the green. It was kind of neat. It was not competition, but a lot of people there that saw it. It was fun. My first time at the British Open, and it was a neat experience and then I went on to play good. Then today, obviously, this is the coolest shot I've ever hit. It was just the way it happened, the time of it, the Saturday on a major in the last group with everybody watching. And I hit a perfect shot. It's not like it bounced off a tree or rolled short of the green or anything like that. I just hit a good, solid shot and it went in.

Q. Following up on that, David, such an unexpected shot, were you fearful at all that it would throw off your rhythm? Did you tell yourself anything to calm yourself down?

DAVID TOMS: Yes, I still had three very difficult holes to play and I wanted to finish up good and I just had to take a couple deep breaths. Even though the people were going crazy and I was acknowledging the crowd, I still had work to do and I just had to go about my business.

Q. Phil has a reputation for being very aggressive in majors and trying to shoot low scores. Do you feel like you have to combat that by being aggressive yourself tomorrow, or do you have to be careful not to get drawn into that?

DAVID TOMS: I have to be very careful to -- I don't know how low we are going to have to shoot tomorrow; how low I'm going to have to shoot to win. You just don't know until you get out there and you get playing the golf course and see how it is playing. I think early on, it was more difficult today, you know with the cross-winds and everything. The greens were firming up. But late in the day, it calmed down, and so did I. I don't know, you just have to see what's going on tomorrow. See how the course is playing. See what he's doing early. If he's making a lot of birdies early, I might have to shoot at some pins I might not otherwise shoot at. So we'll just have to see once we get on the course.

Q. In the past you've had back problems. How is your back? Are you doing anything different? Is it better or worse than it was a couple off years ago?

DAVID TOMS: I have times when I hurt a little bit. You know, you get out of bed in the mornings. This time of year when it's nice and hot, I seem to be okay -- knock on wood. I haven't had too many problems this year. I've been pretty healthy. So I'm not doing really anything different. I have a good doctor at home that keeps an eye on me every time I come home. He can tell by weaknesses in certain areas of my body whether or not I am okay, as far as my neck and back go, and it's been good.

Q. Other than New Orleans has there ever been any situations where you've gone up against Phil in the final round to win?

DAVID TOMS: I don't know, you'd have to look at the record books. Nothing that I remember. You know, in Colonial, I guess it was last year, I played with Phil in the next to last group, I guess, when he won the tournament. He played great. He shot like 65 the last day. I was in contention. I ended up finishing fourth, I believe, or I was right there. I had a chance to win. He played great. I mean, absolutely great golf that day. But still, I played good, also. He just played better. So that's the one thing I can remember, other than New Orleans.

JULIUS MASON: Thank you, David, and good night.

End of FastScripts....

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