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Toms gives lesson in winning PGA crown

DULUTH, Ga.

Monday, August 20, 2001

DULUTH, Ga. – David Toms showed Phil Mickelson how to get it done Sunday.

In his first time contending for a major, Toms played it conservatively on the decisive 18th hole and made it pay off with a 12-foot par putt to win the PGA Championship in dramatic style and deny Mickelson the major he so badly craves.

With only a one-stroke lead and one hole to play, Toms decided to lay up short of the water on the 490-yard closing hole, the longest par 4 in PGA Championship history, and take his chances with his putter.

It didn’t let him down.

After Mickelson’s 30-foot birdie putt stopped 2 inches short of going in, Toms confidently rapped in his putt for par.

He had told caddie Scott Gneiser, ”We’re supposed to have to make this to win.”

”That’s what I used to do on the putting green,” he said. ”You have a 12-footer to win a major, and that’s what I did today.”

Toms snatched the lead with a hole-in-one from 243 yards on Saturday and never gave it back. He will be remembered for the 12-footer that gave him his first major and a final-round 69 that broke the 72-hole record for major championships.

He finished at 265, breaking by two strokes the record first set at Royal St. George by Greg Norman in the 1993 British Open and later matched by Steve Elkington, who beat Colin Montgomerie in a playoff in the 1995 PGA Championship at Riviera.

Mickelson still doesn’t have a major, but no one can question his heart.

”I certainly – certainly tried hard,” he said.

He played with courage and skill and made only one mistake on the back nine, but it cost him the major he covets. A three-putt from 50 feet on the 16th hole gave Toms a one-stroke lead, and the 34-year-old from Louisiana never gave it back.

The thrilling finish had a familiar look to Mickelson.

Two years ago in the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, Payne Stewart had a one-stroke lead going into the 18th when he decided to lay up with a wedge instead of risking a full shot out of the rough that could have gone anywhere.

Stewart made a 15-foot putt for par to win.

Toms’ ball was sitting up in the first cut of rough, but it was about a foot above his feet. That usually means the ball will fly from right to left – to a green surrounded by water in front and to the left.

”I actually was hoping he would go for it,” Mickelson said.

From 210 yards away, Toms put his fairway metal back in the bag and played it safe with a wedge, laying up 90 yards short of the green.

”I just felt it was my best way to make 4,” Toms said. ”That’s what I had to do, and it worked out just fine.”

Mickelson said he expected Toms to make par. He dropped his head when the winning putt fell. He’ll have to carry that burdensome label of the ”best player never to have won a major” for eight more months. His next chance is the Masters.

Along with winning $936,000 and the prized Wanamaker Trophy, the sixth victory of Toms’ career earned him a spot on his first Ryder Cup team.

Mickelson is now 0-for-34 in the majors since he turned professional 10 years ago. It only seems longer because of his success – a PGA Tour victory as an amateur, 19 in all, second among active players to only Tiger Woods.

The only thing missing is a major.

It was the seventh time Mickelson had gone into the final round of a major within two strokes of the lead. This, along with Pinehurst, were his best chances.

Both left a massive gallery breathless over a final round filled with clutch putts and wild swings in momentum.

Three times, Mickelson made up a two-stroke deficit. Time and again, he kept in range of Toms by making one critical putt after another, the kind that have cost him in so many other major championships.

Trailing by two with four holes to play, Mickelson’s final push came on the par-3 15th, the hardest hole at Atlanta Athletic Club.

At the scene of his dramatic ace the day before, Toms deposited this tee shot in a bunker and blasted out weakly to 20 feet. From the first cut of rough, Mickelson used a 60-degree sand wedge to chip his ball toward the hole, and it dropped in the heart.

Mickelson took two steps, pumped his fist toward the ground and for once, didn’t flash that gee-whiz smile that usually accompanies his great shots. He was all business, locked in on winning his first major.

And just like that, it slipped away.

Mickelson caught a break when his tee shot went right for the third straight time, only to bounce out of the trees into the fairway – albeit 198 yards away. He hit the green, but knocked his 50-foot birdie putt about 6 feet by the hole.

”Stop! Stop!” he cried.

Then, Phil finally flinched.

He missed the putt on the left side to make bogey, and never got another chance.

Steve Lowery had a 68 and finished three strokes behind at 268 – and just two strokes short of making the Ryder Cup team.

Toms’ victory knocked Tom Lehman out of the top 10 in the standings. Curtis Strange will announce his two captain’s picks Monday morning.

Mark Calcavecchia had a 65, the best score Sunday on a course that finally was firm and fast. He tied for fourth with Shingo Katayama, who had more adventures with the water and closed with a 70.

Woods, who completed an unprecedented sweep of the majors by winning the Masters, was himself swept away for the third straight major. He closed with an even-par 70 and finished at 279, in a tie for 29th.

It was fifth straight tournament that Woods has finished out of the top 10, the first time that has happened in his career.

”You can’t play well all the time … especially in this sport,” Woods said. ”I really haven’t gotten things to go my way. And on top of that, I really haven’t played well.”

Woods was out of the picture, but the enthusiasm didn’t go with him. The gallery threw its support behind Mickelson from the time he stepped up to the first tee.

”Today’s the day!” they shouted, as if their support alone could carry Mickelson to a major championship he thought he should have won by now.

After both players made par saves on the opening holes, Mickelson picked up two birdies to tie for the lead. All it took was one hole for his work to come undone.

Mickelson pulled his drive into the thick rough down the right side, came out short of the green and chipped 15 feet past the hole. He two-putted for bogey. Toms hit the fairway, then stuffed his approach shot into about 18 inches for birdie.

Just like that, his lead was back to two shots heading into the back nine, where they picked up an extra partner – pressure.

Toms missed two short putts that allowed Mickelson to stay in range. In the end, he made the only putt that mattered.