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David Toms
David Toms hit 11 fairways en route to his first-round 69. (Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

Toms handling Hazeltine better the second time around

After missing the cut at the 2002 PGA Championship here at Hazeltine, David Toms returned determined determined to play up to his standards. His attitude is better this week week, and his score reflects that.

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM Chief of Correspondents

CHASKA, Minn. -- David Toms had a bit of a score to settle.

Seven years ago, he came to PGA Championship as the defending champion only to miss the cut at Hazeltine National. He sealed his fate when he shot 77 in the rain-plagued first round -- which happens to be his highest aggregate score ever in the season's final major.

On a sunny Thursday, though, Toms exacted some revenge as he shot a 69 that left him in a six-way tie for third at the 91st PGA Championship, just two strokes behind Tiger Woods. He is living proof that you don't have to be the biggest hitter to prosper over the 7,674 yards that make up this venerable course.

"My attitude is a little better coming in, just coming into the week," Toms acknowledged. "Not just today, but I knew that I didn't play very well the last time I was here.  And I want to make up for that and at least give myself mentally the best chance to score."

Toms said he knew it would be breezy on Thursday -- although nothing like the 30 mph gusts that are expected on Friday and Saturday -- so patience was key. Several par saves to start the round gave the Louisiana native a comfort zone and he "got it going after that,” Toms said.

But Toms, who hit 11 fairways and 13 greens on Thursday, did not come to Hazeltine for a practice round prior to the week of the PGA. Why should he? Toms knew from experience what he was going to face  -- "another major that was playing long," said the man who ranks 125th in driving distance.

The rain that blanketed the course late last week made it even longer, too. Hazeltine has been getting firmer with each passing day, though, so Toms is feeling better about his chances to contend for his second Wanamaker Trophy.

"The golf course was starting to dry out so it's not playing as long as it did early in the week," Toms said. "So I felt better about it. Putter was nice to me today.  Wished I could have hit my irons a little better because I had opportunities from the middle of the fairway.

"The back of the pins, it's tough to be aggressive.  Every time I was aggressive I hit it over the green.  Luckily I got up and down each time. But it was tough.  I thought the pins with the greens firming up and some of the downwind holes very difficult to get it closest to so your lag putting had to be good and mine was that today."
 
Toms, who is one of the TOUR's steadiest players, has rebounded well after a sub-par 2008 that saw him finish 131st on the money list. He 12th now in both the FedExCup standings and on the money list after a season with seven top-10s, including three ties for second.

"It's been a solid year for me," Toms said. "My confidence is definitely higher than last year."

Toms didn't earn an invitation to the Masters, though, and he hasn't played well in the last two majors. The dreaded rain at Bethpage turned that U.S. Open venue into a beast and Toms missed the cut. He thought Turnberry was suited to his game but he didn't play well and made an early exit there, too.

"So I'm hoping to make up for the other performances so far this year at the last major of the year and just gotta keep it up," Toms said. "I played well today.  Good score, but that's all it is, is a good start.  Gotta keep up the good work on the golf course." 
 

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