2003: Until trouble at last hole adds final thrill to Wachovia

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Charlotte, N.C.

It was a smashing start for the PGA Tour’s newest event: Huge, enthusiastic crowds, tons of compliments for the Quail Hollow Club course, big names on the leaderboard all four rounds.

David Toms even managed to give the Wachovia Championship the one thing it was lacking – an exciting finish.

Despite heading to the final hole with a six-shot lead May 11, Toms made things interesting with a quadruple-bogey 8 on Quail Hollow Club’s par-4 finishing hole, giving him a two-shot victory over Vijay Singh, Brent Geiberger and Robert Gamez. But Toms had played so spectacularly the previous 71 holes that his late lapse didn’t matter a bit.

“My game plan to was make a birdie and finish off in style,” Toms said Sunday. “I went from being in total control and picking my targets to trying to hang on and finish.”

Toms’ troubles on 18 may have come from one of the world’s top players finally feeling the pressure of ending a 11⁄2-year, 41-event winless streak on the PGA Tour. Toms captured three titles in 2001, including the PGA Championship, but went without a victory last year, although he did have three runner-up finishes and 12 top 10s to finish No. 4 on the money list with more than $3.45 million.

“It’s been a long time for me,” Toms said. “For guys who don’t quite have the ability of Tiger Woods, Ernie Els or Phil Mickelson, it isn’t easy. I can’t be off and win golf tournaments.”

On No. 18, he pushed his drive 50 yards right and into the trees, then punched his second shot back through the fairway, his ball ending up just short of a creek. He left his next shot short of the green, hit a poor fourth shot just onto the putting surface, then needed four putts to get down from 45 feet and finally earn the $1.008 million top prize. After starting the hole at 3 under par for the day and 14 under for the tournament, he ended it at 1-over 73 and 10-under 278.

Toms did manage to have a sense of humor about his flop of a finish, raising his arms in mock triumph after finally finishing out. And he said he fully expects some razzing from his fellow players in the coming weeks.

“They’re going to realize that I played a great round of golf until that last hole,” he said. “And they’re going to stick it to me a little bit for the way I finished. But that’s fine. I can take it. I’ve got the trophy and that big check.”

As badly as Toms may have been on the final hole, he was that good the rest of the week, especially in a third-round 66 that gave him a five-shot lead heading into the final round.

His lead on Sunday was never in question, as his margin never went below three shots until the finishing hole. Still, Toms’ finish left Gamez shaking his head.

“It’s tough seeing that,” Gamez said. “If I could have done anything on the back . . .”

But Gamez, who won his first PGA Tour event after a double bogey on the final hole at the 1990 Tucson Open, understood how it could happen.

“You just let your guard down,” Gamez said. “And 18 is not a hole where you can let your guard down. But he obviously putted well all week.”

Toms plans to take away plenty of good thoughts from his victory.

“I finally got that monkey off my back,” he said. “It will be a week that I’ll remember for a long time, just because of the way I played golf.

“It wasn’t a fluke that I won, because I felt like I played great golf all week.”

Well, at least until that final hole.

– Staff and wire reports

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