Toms pulls away from crowded leaderboard at St. Jude

Updated: July 1, 2003, 1:04 PM ET
Associated Press

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- David Toms is so confident right now that nothing can shake him up.

David Toms
AP Photo/Mark HumphreyDavid Toms' ninth career win comes in a town where his swing teacher lives and he visits for duck hunting.

After hitting a tree with his first tee shot and bogeying the first hole, Toms responded with birdies on the next four as he shot a 7-under 64 Sunday to win the St. Jude Classic.

Toms finished three strokes ahead of Nick Price for his second victory in eight weeks.

''I knew if I played my game, I was going to be there in the end,'' Toms said. ''I felt good about my game even after I bogeyed the first hole. That's what I'm doing a lot better now than I did early in my career. I wouldn't say I'm the guy to beat, but I definitely like my chances.''

Toms, who won the Wachovia Championship in May, picked up his ninth PGA Tour victory in a town where his swing teacher lives and he visits for duck hunting. The $810,000 winner's check moved him to 10th on the all-time money list with more than $16 million in his career.

Toms runs away ...
The FedEx St. Jude Classic was shaping up to be a nail-biter Sunday afternoon, with six players -- including three major champions and a rookie looking for his first win -- within two strokes of the lead on the back nine.

David Toms made sure it never got interesting.

Toms made three birdies and an eagle in a seven-hole stretch from 10-16 to pull away from a crowded leaderboard and win his second tournament of the year going away. He started the run tied for the lead with Lee Janzen, but after birdieing the toughest hole on the course (the par-3 14th) with a 50-foot putt and making an eagle two holes later, he found himself with a four-stroke lead.

Game over.

Toms had some help along the way. Janzen stumbled to the finish, bogeying three of his last five holes. Rookie Richard S. Johnson didn't have a run in him, playing the last nine holes at even-par. And Nick Price -- who teed off 80 minutes before the leaders -- birdied 10 of his first 17 holes, but a bogey at the last put a damper on his 62.

Prior to his win at the Wachovia two months ago, Toms was starting to get a rep as a guy who was always in contention but couldn't make a run on Sunday. After all, he was fifth on the money list last year despite not winning an event, posting 12 top-10s in 27 tournaments.

Now, you won't find anyone who doesn't have him on the short list of contenders in every event he plays. Besides his two victories, Toms has a pair of top-10s in the majors and a gutsy runner-up finish in the Match Play. Not a bad four months.

For more stats and analysis, check out our Weekend Wrapup.

''This place is pretty dear to me. It means a lot. It's more than just a regular tournament. It really does mean a great deal,'' Toms said.

Toms couldn't have looked much more comfortable in a final round that had five players tied atop the leaderboard early.

He started a stroke behind Sweden's Richard Johnson, a tour rookie, but Johnson couldn't keep pace as everyone attacked the TPC at Southwind course by going low in nearly perfect conditions.

Toms separated himself from the pack with an eagle, eight birdies and three bogeys for a 264 total.

Price tied his career-low round with a 62 to finish second at 267. Bob Estes, who won here in 2001, shot a 65 and was tied with Fredrik Jacobson (67) and Johnson (69) at 268. Lee Janzen, who was tied atop the leaderboard with five holes left, finished with a 68 and tied for sixth with Bob Crane (67) at 269.

Price bogeyed No. 18 when he put his second shot into the water short of the green shooting at the pin, hoping for birdie in case of a playoff. But he was happy with his finish.

''I can't play much better than the way I played this weekend,'' Price said. ''If I don't shoot 73 on Thursday, I'd probably have a realistic chance at winning.''

Toms stumbled with a bogey on the par-4 first when he hit a tree with his tee shot and the ball bounced into the left rough. But he had his putter going as he birdied his next four for a share of the lead at 16 under.

He birdied the par-3 8th with a 15-footer to take the lead to himself at 17 under. But Janzen and Price, a two-time winner here, wouldn't go away.

Janzen birdied Nos. 10 and 11 to drop to 18 under along with Toms atop the leaderboard, while Price, who teed off 80 minutes earlier, birdied three of his final holes to go to 18 under. Toms birdied No. 12, then bogeyed the par-4, 430-yard No. 13 when he pushed a par putt just right after catching a glimpse at the leaderboard.

The toughest hole on the course helped Toms take control.

Janzen, who has not won since the 1998 U.S. Open, three-putted for bogey after putting his tee shot on the left edge of the wide green and dropped to 17 under. Toms put his tee shot in almost the same area and then rolled in a 50-footer across a ridge in the green for birdie and a two-stroke lead at 19 under. It was only the fifth birdie on that hole Sunday.

''It was one of those putts I'll remember for a long time because obviously winning the golf tournament, that was a big part of it. It's a putt I could've three-putted very easily. To make it, that helped tremendously,'' Toms said.

Toms sealed the victory with his only eagle on the par-5, 528-yard 16th. He hit a 5-iron looking for the front of the green but rolled it to 12 feet from the hole on his second shot. He made the putt for eagle and a four-stroke cushion over Price, who then left the course.

Notes
Toms became the 11th player in 25 events to come from behind and win on the final day. ... Willie Wood had a hole in one on the par-3 fourth as he used a 5-iron from 186 yards. He shot a 69 and finished at 276. ... The PGA Tour had 18 first-time winners account for 20 victories in 2002. ... In 46 events in Memphis, only five have been won by first-time PGA Tour winners: Bob Lunn (1968), Larry Mize (1983), Mike Hulbert (1986), Jodie Mudd (1988) and Dickey Pride (1994).


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press

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