David Toms is in a good spot the week after coming oh-so-close to his first PGA Tour victory in five years.
After losing in a playoff at the Players Championship, Toms isn’t far from home and playing one of his favorite tournaments at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.
2011 CROWNE PLAZA INVITATIONAL AT COLONIAL
Ben Hogan won the first two PGA Tour events at Colonial and went on to win three more times at the course known as "Hogan's Alley."
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“I’m just glad this tournament is next because this is one I don’t have a problem getting up for just because I like it,” Toms said Wednesday. “For me, this is great, great timing with this event here with my game in good shape. I feel like I can play well here.”
Toms, the Louisiana native who last won on the PGA Tour in 2006 in Hawaii, forced a playoff with K.J. Choi at the Players Championship with an impressive and rare birdie on the closing hole. Then at the famed No. 17 island hole for the playoff, Toms missed a 3 1/2 -foot par putt to extend play after his 18-foot birdie chance slid just past the hole.
“It is behind me,” Toms said. “I guess the only thing that keeps coming up are when people come up to me and say I wish it would have worked out better for you. But for myself, it’s just all about moving forward.”
Toms tees off Thursday in a group with Matt Kuchar, who at No. 10 in the World Golf Ranking is the only top-10 player in the field.
For the first time since 1968, when Byron Nelson’s name became part of the title of the other PGA Tour event in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the Colonial will be played first. The Nelson tournament is next week at TPC Four Seasons, about 30 miles east of the course Ben Hogan called home that is hosting this week.
Defending Colonial champion Zach Johnson is also coming off a strong finish at the Players Championship, a closing 66 that put him in 12th place.
But last month after missing the cut at the Masters and Hilton Head, Johnson was doing some evaluation and typing notes into his phone in preparation for a meeting with his sports psychologist.
“The way I’m thinking, the way I’m relating to my caddy, the way I’m practicing,” Johnson said. “All sorts of things. From one end of the spectrum to the other. We just hashed it all on paper and tried to condense it.”
Whatever they did obviously helped since Johnson finished sixth at the Wells Fargo Championship in his only other tournament since that session.
“It would be more mental than physical, for sure,” he said. “Physically, I’m better now than I was last year. … Everything is going in the right direction.”
Johnson won at Hogan’s Alley with a tournament-record 21-under 259 last year, when unusually calm winds throughout the week made for ideal scoring conditions. For Thursday’s opening round, there is a forecast for winds around 20 mph.
Along with the plaid jacket Johnson got for winning Colonial, his name is now engraved on the Wall of Champions by the first tee.
The only player who has won consecutive Colonial titles is Hogan, a five-time champion who won back-to-back twice (1946-47 and 1952-53). The other players who have won twice are Julius Boros, Billy Casper, Ben Crenshaw, Al Geiberger, Corey Pavin, Kenny Perry, Nick Price and Lee Trevino.
“It’s a humbling honor. You are talking about one of the more elite fraternities in sports, let alone in golf,” Johnson said. “The tournament is always high on my list of wanting to win. It always has been. It still is. Just because I won it once doesn’t mean I don’t want to win it again. I’ve become partial to that plaid.”
A nice match to the green jacket he got as the 2007 Masters champion.
Pavin and Perry join Johnson among 11 former Colonial champions playing this week.
Toms has three top-five finishes his past seven tournaments since missing consecutive cuts in February. Colonial, where he has finished in the top 10 four times and was 13th last year, marks his fourth consecutive week playing.
After the Players Championship last weekend, Toms was inundated with text messages, e-mails and phone calls.
“A lot of positive response, especially from people that I’m close to. The ones that mean the most are the guys that I compete against out here … they know how difficult it is,” Toms said. “I had a lot of heartwarming messages, and I wouldn’t say I feel like I won, but certainly it was good exposure for me as a player and as a person.”
Some of the messages referred only to his clutch birdie at No. 18 that got him in the playoff.
With 12 PGA Tour victories and more than $35 million in career earnings to his credit, the 44-year-old Toms doesn’t have to win tournaments to prove anything. Except maybe to himself.
“I made the statement last year that it wouldn’t change my life in any way to win,” he said. “But it would just help me mentally to know that, No. 1, I could still do it. But also that it’s worth it.”
Worth the time and effort put into golf and the time spent away from home and his family.
“It’s not about, hey, it’s my job or that’s the way I make money. I’ve kind of passed all of that,” Toms said. “It’s all about the competition and proving to myself that I could do it again.”