Monday, May 16, 2011
David Toms' Decision on 16; No Guts, No Glory
On Sunday at the Players Championship, Davis Toms found himself in an interesting, but exciting, position. After a great drive on the short par-5 16th, and with a one-shot lead, Toms was facing a "go for it, or lay-up" situation. He was on the right side of the fairway, 245 yards to the pin, but only about 225 yards to the front of the green. Water on the right, thick rough on the left, Toms found himself in a position that Roy McAvoy on "Tin Cup" once said, "This is everything, ain't it? This is the choice it comes down to - this is our immortality."
At the time, when Toms pulled out his hybrid I thought he was crazy. The rest is history; Toms caught the shot a little thin, it came up about two yards short of dry land, and he made bogey, dropping into a tie with K.J. Choi and eventually losing in a playoff. A birdie or par there and everything changes.
When it happened, I made as many jokes about it as everyone else. This was the guy that had made laying up a popular choice back in 2001 when he did so on the 72nd hole at the PGA Championship only to sink a par putt for the one-shot victory over Phil Mickelson. When he pulled hybrid I was confused.
But a day later I get it. That was a defining moment, and as McAvoy said, "when a defining moment comes along, you define the moment... or the moment defines you." Toms had fate in his hands. It didn't belong to Choi. It didn't belong to Goydos. It didn't belong to the weather or a pin position or anything. If he pulls that shot off, like he probably has a thousand times in his life, he makes birdie and wins the golf tournament. If he doesn't, at least he did it on his own dime.
I think too many times golfers play it safe in these positions. The new age player is programmed to avoid any risk at all. That's why you see shot hit to the middle of the green on the 17th, and the smart shot usually hit when the right shot would win them the event. Toms is 44, and needed a win on the PGA Tour badly. If he pulls that off, like he thought he would, it was basically game over.
On Sunday, I thought it was crazy. A day later, I realize what he did. He took a shot. He made a decision. Toms, a guy that most wouldn't describe as intimidating or gritty, looked at his situation and said, "screw it, I'm winning this right here or losing it, but at least I'm trying it." We'd all love to have that mentality on the golf course. For Toms, it didn't work on Sunday, but maybe the next time he decides on it, he'll pull the shot off.