2001: Toms takes his place among game’s elite

Williamsburg, Va.

One day, David Toms might realize just how good he is.

Perhaps the memory of a demotion to the Buy.com Tour seven years ago still burns, or perhaps he hasn’t taken a good look at the numbers. Whatever the reason for his humility, if he keeps winning, even Toms some day will realize he is among the game’s best.

Toms added another victory Oct. 7 to a season that has placed him among the elite, successfully defending the Michelob Championship for his third triumph of the season and seventh of his career.

He held off a charging Kirk Triplett, who had no trouble labeling Toms.

“How close?” Triplett scoffed when asked about Toms’ proximity to the elite. “I have considered him an elite player for a long time.”

The victory tied Toms with Phil Mickelson and David Duval for second place with six victories since 1999. Tiger Woods leads with 22.

Toms shot 15-under 269 to beat Triplett by one stroke, and he earned $630,000 to move from fifth to third on the money list with more than $3.3 million in 25 events.

Only Woods and Mickelson have more.

It wasn’t all that long ago that Toms was a struggling pro, going tournament to tournament, hoping to get that payday that justified the pursuit.

“1994 might have been the worst year of my life,” Toms said.

“Everybody took care of you while you were young; all of a sudden you had to take care of yourself, and I wasn’t doing a very good job of it.”

That year, Toms missed the cut in half of the 32 tournaments he played, earned $87,607 and was demoted to the Buy.com Tour.

But those days are now only memories for Toms.

Now known for his analytical lay-up on the final hole of the 2001 PGA Championship, which he won with a 9-foot par-saving putt, Toms further proved his mettle at Kingsmill Golf Course. Starting the final round with the lead, Toms shot 68 and made the shots he needed to hold off Triplett.

Still, he wasn’t ready to blow his own horn.

“I might be one of the five best players in the world, but (Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Duval), and I think you can throw Ernie Els in there and maybe Vijay (Singh). I don’t know, they are physically more talented,” he said, seeming uncomfortable talking about himself that way.

“I just think there are a handful of people that are just better than everyone else. That’s just life. You can look at that in any sport.”

Toms’ victory would have been easier, but Triplett made a late run. Triplett used birdies at Nos. 14, 15 and 17 to claim second by three shots. Esteban Toledo, bogey-free until he missed a 5-foot putt on the final hole, dropped into a tie for third with rookie Charles Howell III.

Howell was bogey-free in a closing 67, his third top-5 finish of the year, and moved to No. 36 on the money list even though he isn’t an official member of the Tour. Howell has earned $1,373,016 this year.

“That will be huge,” the 22-year-old Howell said of possibly getting into the top 30. “My No. 1 goal starting this year, apart from getting my status for next year, was to play the Tour Championship.”

Len Mattiace was fifth after a birdie-birdie finish gave him a 67, and J.J. Henry was sixth after making two bogeys in his last three holes.

– From staff and wire reports

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