SUNDAY’S DUEL AT THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP was going to turn out well. And it wasn’t. Let me explain.
I like David Toms. I’m a sucker for the quasi old guy who has been down and now has the chance to win a big one like The Players Championship. NBC had me all set up with the father-son story. Sappy, yes. I loved it. You got me, Dan Hicks. I would nod my head in approval if Toms won.
But I’m also a huge K.J. Choi fan. I like everything about him. I like the way he carries himself. I like how he turns up and grinds it out on tough golf courses. And I like the way he respects the game, the fans and his fellow players.
So, the Toms-Choi duel was going to turn out well for me. I was going to cheer either guy as he hoisted the enormous crystal trophy. But there was also the downside of watching one of them lose. I knew it would be worse if Toms lost—and that’s what happened.
The 17th at TPC Sawgrass is such a contrived golf hole. A short iron over water to an island green. Is it a wedge? Is it a little 9 iron? What’s the wind doing? Why did I wear white pants? Say what you will about Pete Dye’s signature hole, it’s always dramatic.
As we saw in the sudden-death playoff, it’s not over once your golf ball safely reaches the Isle of Terror. The green is as slippery as bacon grease. Choi eased his long birdie putt to within about two feet of the hole. Going for the win, Toms slid his putt three feet by. Knock it in, David. You’ve got this. Oh, man! NBC shows family. Son buries face in mom’s shoulder. K.J. taps in for the win. Sigh.
Turning back to regulation play, I’m not in the layup at 16 camp, like Johnny Miller and so many others. Toms had that shot in his bag. This wasn’t crazy Phil trying to thread the ball through a keyhole or carry it 350. Toms had about 240 yards to the green and could bail out left like so many others had. He just made a bad swing. Chalk it up to the pressure of the moment. A bad shot, not bad shot selection.
Toms went on to play the 18th like a champ. That birdie out of a sand divot was as clutch as you’ll ever see. Then that yanked three-footer. All you can do is shake your head and go get a hug from the family.
−The Armchair Golfer
(Photo credit: James Marvin Phelps, Flickr, Creative Commons license)