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March 21, 2007

David Toms


LAURA NEAL: David, thanks for joining us. I know you've just come in from practice round.
DAVID TOMS: Yes, I did.
LAURA NEAL: How do you find the course and what are you looking forward to this week?
DAVID TOMS: The golf course is a little bit different than years past. They have pinched some of the fairways in a little bit. The rough seems to be deeper than I remember the last time I was here. The greens are new, so therefore, they are a bit firmer than they were the last couple of years. So should be a better test. Looks like the wind is going to continue to blow all week, so it will definitely affect the scores.

Q. Should be easier to win this week?
DAVID TOMS: Easier to win? For me?

Q. Only 78 players in the field.
DAVID TOMS: I guess so, but usually that's how many are here once they make a cut anyway so that's how many you normally have to beat.
You know, it's obviously the best players in the world are here. So if you do happen to win, it's a bonus for you. It has a little bit different feel to it. We're out there playing, I just played a few holes by myself and my caddie said, "This is kind of nice being able to do this." Usually everybody out here with a full field is grinding, and practice rounds take forever and I was able to zip around pretty nice.
All of these World Golf Championships are like that. It has a feel to it, even though it's a very important event and a very big event, it seems like guys seem to approach it a little more low-key. I don't know if it's because there's no cut or they have got that guaranteed check or whatever it might be. You know, it just as a -- even though it's a big, important event, it just has a nice atmosphere to it.

Q. Better preparation for the Masters to have THE PLAYERS Championship this week, or not? How do you think that's going to shake out?
DAVID TOMS: As far as, you know, I guess what you're asking me, do you need a very important, hard test of golf to get you in the mentality for a major championship, or versus, you know, this week, which is a World Golf Championships with a big purse and a great field on an old golf course that's been here for a long time.
You know, I think it's going to be pretty similar as far as preparing for the Masters for me. You know, it's a place here that I always play and I like coming back to. To me, I think it's going to be, for me personally, better because I never have played very well at THE PLAYERS Championship.
So I look forward to playing here at a place where I play well, and then playing Houston next week, which is not far from home, and hopefully getting on a roll to Augusta.
As far as what other players are doing, I'm not sure what everybody is doing, what their schedules are like, who is playing Houston and who is not.
I think as far as guys getting on -- because usually we have TPC and then Atlanta and then Augusta, so it's probably going to be very similar to the way guys prepare, just because, you know, this is a big event and it's going to be on a pretty tough golf course like TPC is. I don't see a whole lot of difference there.

Q. Ten-year anniversary of Tiger winning in '97, I wonder what your memories of that event were and what you thought as you left Augusta after what he did that day?
DAVID TOMS: I was home watching on television. I didn't play until '98; was my first Masters. So I remember I was one of those guys that wasn't sure how well he was going to do as a professional. I knew that his pedigree was there and that he had a great game, but to be able to do that, and be able to lap the field in a major championship, there were a lot of hurdles that were, you know -- that day, that he was able to overcome. It was a big deal for the game of golf for him to be able to do that that particular week.
I remember just being very impressed and, like I said, I wasn't there so I didn't really know how the golf course was playing. But obviously he lapped the field and it was a big thing for golf.

Q. How was it among your peers when you came out?
DAVID TOMS: What's that?

Q. Were people thunderstruck by it?
DAVID TOMS: Yeah, I think a lot of guys probably said, "Wow, that's pretty amazing."
I'm sure guys that were there competing that week thought that for sure. But just fans of golf and other players that saw it all take place, I remember watching a lot of -- I don't watch much golf when I'm home but I remember watching a lot of shots that week and watching -- that's one tournament that I do watch even if I miss a cut and I'm not there and I'm at home, I turn it on and watch it. It was -- like I said, it was an amazing feat in golf, and we've seen what he's done since then.

Q. Why was it a big deal, just what you said a minute ago, how would you -- where we felt was the biggest impact of that week ten years ago?
DAVID TOMS: I think first of all, fan support all the around the world. I think he's brought a lot of people to the game to be fans to the game or maybe even playing the game that weren't before. I think that's a big deal.
I think it just kind of set the tone for where he's gone, you know, with his game since then. And obviously when he plays great, and our ratings are what they are when he's around, it's good for everybody.
So I think, I mean, there's a lot of positive things that have come from that. It's hard to just put a finger on a couple.

Q. As you were watching that day in the final round, did you have any forethought about what might be, to come for him in the game? Was there any thought like, wow --
DAVID TOMS: Like I said, the background was there. Everybody thought that he would be a superstar at some point.
But maybe that, that he was able to do that and win a tournament like that, it probably got it jump-started and he hasn't looked back. I think he just set the tone for the future of golf for the next ten years, at least.

Q. It's a little unfair question for you since you haven't really been out on TOUR for the before and after, but what would the TOUR be if that guy had never come along? It's a subjective question.
DAVID TOMS: I don't know, but I'm glad I'm right in the middle of it. (Laughter) I guess I came along at a good time.
Because you know, really, when he started playing his best golf was when I was able to start playing my best. Even though I was on the TOUR a good many years before he came along, I wasn't -- I didn't play at that high of a level until right when he was doing his thing. So I've been right -- I've played my best golf right in the middle of his run. It's been nice.

Q. As well as Tiger plays anywhere, he really seems to have a stranglehold on these World Golf Championships events, and I'm kind of curious, can you put your finger on why he seems to step it up even more in these things?
DAVID TOMS: I just think that he's able to prepare for the big events. He's got that -- whatever he does to prepare, he's got it figured out because he plays well in all of the big tournaments.
You know, I don't know, maybe it's the golf courses. A lot of times we play very difficult, long golf courses in these tournaments. If you look at every single one of them, most of the time it's not a 20-type-under-par that's winning these tournaments. I think all of that factors into why he's had success. He just tends to play well in the big tournaments. He gets up for them mentally, physically. He paces himself. You know, he doesn't play as much maybe as some of the other players; maybe he's fresh coming in. I'm not sure, but he obviously has it figured out.

Q. Where are you at do you think right now game-wise?
DAVID TOMS: Game-wise it's been a good start to the year for me, solid. Nothing fantastic like having real good chances to win or anything, but I feel like I made an equipment change which was, you know, not a big deal at all. I feel very comfortable with that.
I think it's time for me to start contending a little bit. I'm going to be playing a lot in the next two to three months. So I feel good about it.
For me, I've always been kind of streaky. This time last year, I had already won a tournament and was playing very well. I was putting the ball extremely well. Right now I'm putting good, but not making everything like I was this time last year. So, you know, who knows. It only takes really one round to turn that around.

Q. At what point in the season or what kind of results do you get for you to hit the panic button, do you look back to previous years?
DAVID TOMS: You know, I don't know. If I get in the situation where obviously I'm here to try to win tournaments, but if you get in a situation where you're missing cuts or not even around for the weekend and you feel like everything is sliding away, I guess that would be the panic button or the panic mode at that time. Right now I feel good about everything. Stats-wise my driving has not been quite good this year as years past. So that's probably not setting me up to contend as much as I'd like to, but I'm working on that and I feel better about that part of it.

Q. Do you ever ask what-if in terms of your best play coinciding with Tiger Woods's best play; maybe if I had played better at a different time I might have more victories?
DAVID TOMS: I think you could ask yourself questions like that all the time. What if I practiced longer hours? What if I worked out four days a week? What if this; what if I wouldn't have 3-putted the hole here last year and I would have gotten in a playoff with Tiger and had a chance maybe to win and beat him and people would ask me how I was able to do that because nobody can do that.
I mean, there are what-ifs every day in this game. I think that's the nature of this game and so I try not to look back too much.

Q. The way the TOUR is going right now, would you like to see more courses use the U.S. Open setup from last year, where the further you are from the fairway, the deeper the rough is?
DAVID TOMS: In theory, that's how it should be all the time. The problem with that is, you know, we want people out there watching golf. The beauty of our TOUR is they are able to get close to us. I had people actually walking out on the fairways and taking pictures with me. I'm not a big enough name to have my own security. (Laughter)
It's tough to set up a golf course that way because ropes 15 to 20 yards away from the fairways and sometimes they are right on the fairways, it's just difficult to do that, to set a golf course up that way.
I think every player would agree with that, the further off you miss the ball, the worse off you should be, unless you're in a parallel fairway or whatever and happens from time to time. From a field staff standpoint, I've talked to them and that's a tough way to set up a golf course. But I like that idea, I do. If they could maybe incorporate it a little bit more into our tournaments, I think guys would like it.

Q. Let me ask you a question about Jim Furyk. I was wondering, since you've been on all of these Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams with him, perhaps what you admire most about his game. He seems to get a lot out of what he's got.
DAVID TOMS: Yeah, you say that, but I would say -- I've played with all the best players, and I think Jim hits the ball, it might not look as pretty as some of the other swings, but as far as contacting the golf ball, he hits the ball solid most of the time. So, you know, he's a very solid ball-striker. I think his strengths are he's very tenacious, I guess. He never gives up at any point in any round of golf or any tournament. Not that you see that a lot out here, but that's one person I would never see that from.
He's tough. He's a competitor. I think that he believes in himself a great deal, which is a big thing out here. And I think he's comfortable with, you know, with his game and what he's trying to do. He's just a great player. I don't think there's any part of his game that just sticks out. Everything is solid. He hits the fairways. He has adequate length to play. He has a great short game. And like I said, as far as striking the ball, his irons, he's always hitting the ball solid. So he never -- he never really makes a big number or hits one way out of play. I just think he's always solid.

Q. Have you ever seen him get mad, ever, that you can think of?
DAVID TOMS: You know, he doesn't show too much emotion. So I don't know that I've ever seen him very, very upset at all. Maybe he is inside. But, you know, who knows. He doesn't let -- that's what I mean about his game. He doesn't let a bad shot affect him. He just goes and goes about his business and he's not going to overpower a course, so he just has to play his game all the time.

Q. Two-parter here, I'm going to bug you about this forever, but has the famous 5-wood been laid to rest?
DAVID TOMS: No, it's still in the bag.

Q. Wow. Do you think about it?
DAVID TOMS: You know, I was asking him today about another rescue club maybe to try. You know, it's just a -- it's like my little blankie, I guess, I don't know what it is. (Laughter)
We'll see. We'll see. But if I find a new club that I hit better and hit good shots with, maybe I'll get it out of there, but for now it's still in the bag.

Q. Secondly, what would you say might be the perception of Phil Mickelson right now; is he at a level where we're coming up on the Masters, he's won it twice and he's the guy you expect to be there every year, or do you still have thoughts -- not you, but thoughts after Winged Foot or some of the other calamities that have come his way?
DAVID TOMS: I think most guys would show up this week and at the Masters thinking that he's going to be a guy that you're going to have to beat to win the tournament.
You know, I think that he's over the hurdle of, can't win one of those, and it's amazing that -- it's hard to fail if you're never there in the situation.
So obviously at Winged Foot he put himself in that situation, he screwed up, and he's the first one to tell you that he did. You look at him as one of the guys you have to beat in major championships now. It was that way before, but he's won three of them now. Now he knows he can do it so it makes him endure.

Q. Would you think that three majors and 30 victories is enough to throw back at anyone that would ever criticize him?
DAVID TOMS: Absolutely. What he's done in the game and for the game, I think it's -- I don't think you should ever criticize him. I mean, has he not lived up to the talent that he has? Maybe at certain times. But I mean, look at his record; it's pretty impressive.

Q. How would you assess his chances overall in his career at Augusta National? Is he a guy that some people have said could win there more than Tiger?
DAVID TOMS: Well, you know, it seems like now that he has a driver shot that he can hit a fade with, because everybody said you always have to be able to draw the ball for a right-hander to play there. He feels more comfortable with the cut he's hitting off the tee so it should set up perfectly for him for a lefty and he has imagination around the greens, second to none out here on the Tour, so you look for him to always be a factor.

Q. If what had happened to him at Winged Foot had happened to yourself, would you feel that's something you would have to get over?
DAVID TOMS: I would. I would just because from pure ability standpoint, he's going to have more shots at it than, say, I would. So if one got away from me like that, it will probably stick with me a lot longer than it will him.
LAURA NEAL: David, thanks for coming in and good luck.

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