Our list of Players to Watch for 2012 continues Sunday with five proven PGA TOUR champions – in fact, all five won last year.
Jhonattan Vegas was the talk of the TOUR early in the 2011 season, winning as a rookie in what is now the Humana Challenge. He was the TOUR’s first Venezuelan-born winner.
Veterans Brandt Snedeker, Justin Rose and Steve Stricker all added to their win totals in 2011 in impressive fashion. Snedeker won in a playoff over Luke Donald at the RBC Heritage, Rose won in the PGA TOUR Playoffs at the BMW Championship en route to a fifth-place FedExCup finish, and Stricker had one of the year’s top shots in winning a third consecutive John Deere Classic.
Below is a link to each of the 5 players who were revealed on Sunday. PGATOUR.COM will countdown the players for the rest of December, with No. 1 unveiled on Dec. 30.
Be sure to check out this year’s new addition of the Three Wise Men – Chris DiMarco, Arron Oberholser and Craig Perks, who offer their takes on each of the players on the list.
Let’s us know how you think these players will perform in 2012 and whether we ranked ‘em too high, too low or just right.
MELBOURNE, Australia -- David Toms won the first hole and never looked back as he handed Robert Allenby a 7 and 5 defeat.
Toms posted a 3-1 record, winning twice with Hunter Mahan as a partner, as well as picking up his third Singles win in four Presidents Cups. Allenby only won one hole Sunday as he went winless in four matches this week.
The point put the Americans within two of a win at the Presidents Cup. The U.S. leads 16-12.
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM staff
MELBOURNE, Australia -- In the four-ball format, Hunter Mahan and David Toms didn't fare so well on Friday -- which likely made it easier for U.S. Captain Fred Couples to sit Toms in Saturday afternoon's four-ball session at Royal Melbourne.
In foursomes, however, the Mahan-Toms team proved to be most formidable this week. The duo beat the Korean pair of K.T. Kim and Y.E. Yang 6 and 5 on Thursday, then followed that with a 5 and 4 thrashing of South Africans Retief Goosen and Charl Schwartzel on Saturday morning.
Those are the two most lopsided wins for the U.S. team through the first three sessions.
On Saturday morning, after falling behind on the fourth hole to Goosen-Schwartzel, the Americans won the next three holes -- thanks in part to an eagle-2 hole-out from Mahan -- and never looked back
In 27 holes of foursomes competition, the Toms-Mahan duo won 13 holes and lost just two this week. They won five of their nine holes played on the back nine.
"Foursomes is a good format for Hunter and I," said Toms, returning to The Presidents Cup after not making the 2009 U.S. team.
Toms and Mahan have similar games -- they each rank inside the top 25 on the PGA TOUR in greens in regulation and Strokes Gained-Putting -- and in the alternate shot format, they're not having to adjust to an approach that's unfamiliar.
"David and I are very similar in our styles and our games, and you know, in this format, it's all about mistakes and on this golf course, it's all about mistakes," said Mahan, making his second consecutive Presidents Cup appearance. "We just didn't make many mistakes. Kept the pressure on them, hit a lot of fairways and greens and made it easy on ourselves."
Echoed Toms: "We try to hit it on the greens, make a few putts, limit the number of mistakes and you put the pressure on the other team. That's what we were able to do."
Each player seems more comfortable in foursomes than the four-ball (better-ball) format. Toms is 5-3-0 in foursomes at The Presidents Cup and just 1-4-1 in four-ball. Mahan is 4-1-1 in foursomes and 1-3-0 in four-ball in this event.
Toms joined Phil Mickelson on the sidelines for the U.S. during Saturday's four-ball session. That left Mahan with a new partner, FedExCup champion Bill Haas. It might be difficult for those two to re-create the magic Mahan shared with Toms this week.
MELBOURNE, Australia – Hunter Mahan and David Toms put another point on the board for the Americans when they beat Retief Goosen and Charl Schwartzel 5 and 4.
The Americans trailed early after a bogey at the fourth hole, but got that back at No. 5 when the Internationals did the same thing. Mahan and Toms seized the upper hand quickly after squaring the match, winning three of their next four holes with an eagle, birdie and par.
The South Africans, who had beaten the Americans in Four-Balls on Friday afternoon, never found their rhythm in the alternate shot competition. The duo made just two birdies and five bogeys, including on the last two holes to give the U.S. the win.
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
Ben Crane is never going to be included in a discussion about long bombers on the PGA TOUR.
For the season, Crane is 145th in driving distance at 284.9 yards a pop. But he’s found a little more lately
thanks to a new shaft from Titleist, with winning results.
Crane won last week at The McGladrey Classic with his always-solid putter leading the way (his Strokes-Gained Putting figure was 2.023, second-best in the field), but he also was 21st in driving (288.0-yard average), a ranking not often associated with the Oregonian.
Crane’s history of back injuries hasn’t helped his distance, but work with the Titleist Performance Institute has helped him to regain some ball speed. And during a recent fitting session with Larry Bobka, Titleist’s VP of Club Promotion, Ben put a new, lighter Bassara W 50 for Titleist shaft in his 910D2 driver.
Validation came instantly – his first top 10 since April, a T10 at the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. In the firm-and-fast Las Vegas desert he averaged 313.1 off the tee, tied for 21st in the field. Then last week, with the eye-catching red shaft, he won at Sea Island.
Titleist said the Bassara W, developed by Mitsubishi Rayon and weighing in at 53 grams, is one of the lightest shafts to ever win on TOUR.
"We built this particular driver configuration based on a conversation with (TPI co-founder) Greg Rose and Ben's desire for more distance," Bobka said in the Titleist blog. "Being a straight hitter with a delicate back, Ben needed a driver that created what I call 'easy distance.' "
Crane took loft off his previous driver configuration, going to 7.5 degrees, which combined with the longer (46 inch) and lighter shaft created better launch conditions and more distance.
NEW OLD PUTTER: Trevor Immelman finished fifth at The McGladrey, leading the field in putts per round (27.5 average) and putts per GIR (1.667) with a belly version of the Odyssey White Hot 2-Ball. It was his third different Odyssey model in as many weeks, though he also won with the same model at the Deutsche Bank-SAP Open in Germany in 2004.
RUNNING AWAY: Fred Couples won the Champions Tour’s AT&T Championship by seven shots, the largest margin on Tour this year. He wore his familiar Ecco Golf Street Premier hybrid shoes – without socks.
RUNNING AWAY II: Last week’s Nationwide Tour event also featured a seven-shot rout, by Jason Kokrak at the Miccosukee Championship. He plays the Srixon Z-Star XV ball, and in moving up to fourth on the money list gives Srixon two top representatives of the Z-Star. Nationwide money leader J.J. Killeen also plays it.
NEW CLASSIC: Cleveland Golf has released an updated version of its popular 588 wedges, and David Toms was spotted with them in the bag at The McGladrey. Read more here.
WINNER’S BAG: Crane at The McGladrey
Driver: Titleist 910D2 (7.5°) with a Mitsubishi Rayon Bassara W 50 shaft
Fairway woods: TaylorMade V Steel (15°) Titleist 910F (17°) with Mitsubishi Diamana Blue Board 93 shafts
Hybrid: Titleist 910H (21°) with a UST Mamiya ProForce AXIVCore 100 shaft
Irons: Titleist AP2 (5-PW) with True Temper Dynamic Gold S400 shafts
Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design (51°), Spin Milled C-C (55°, 59°) with True Temper Dynamic Gold S400 shafts
Putter: Odyssey White Hot #5
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x
David Toms was a junior at LSU when Cleveland Golf released what became one of the most popular golf clubs of all time, the 588 wedge.
More than 23 years later, the 44-year-old Toms – winner earlier this year at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial -- has decided to return to the 588, albeit an updated model.
Toms was spotted at The McGladrey Classic using Cleveland's new Forged 588 wedges, as well as the company’s new 588 CB Forged Irons. ( For photos and discussion on GolfWRX.com, click here .)
The wedges and irons are constructed using Cleveland's precision forging process that the company says creates a higher level of manufacturing consistency. The clubs also feature Cleveland's Zip Grooves, which produce a larger groove volume,as well as laser milled faces that increase surface roughness.
Cleveland's new wedges maintain the aesthetics of the original 588, and also add snazzy black-and-gold painted stampings. Those colors must not have been to Toms' liking, however. For his new wedges he opted for purple-and gold paint, the same colors he was wearing on the golf course 23 years ago at LSU.
Cleveland is expected to release the Forged 588 wedges and irons in November. In addition the 588 CB Forged Irons, Cleveland will release a set of muscle-back irons that are currently being played by Jeff Overton. – Zak Kozuchowski, GolfWRX.com
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
ATLANTA -- David Toms is finally feeling relaxed -- and that might make him dangerous this weekend at the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola.
Toms made a big move up the leaderboard in Friday's second round, shooting a bogey-free 5-under 65 that leaves him 2 under for the tournament.
Because Toms already wrapped up a spot on the U.S. Presidents Cup team last Sunday at the BMW Championship, he didn't need to stress about that this week. And after shooting a first-round 73, Toms figured his chances of winning the FedExCup -- already slim as he came into the tournament ranked 16th in points -- were basically gone.
So he's playing carefree now.
"I'm not close enough really to the FedExCup to have a chance to win, especially after yesterday, and so I just wanted to go out and enjoy the rest of the week and not put so much pressure on myself," Toms said. "I did that today, played better. I'll try to keep that up the rest of the weekend."
Toms said his mindset would be significantly different had he not clinched one of the 10 automatic spots on Fred Couples' team that will play at Royal Melbourne in November. He would have gone into this week hoping to convince Couples to use his remaining Captain's pick on him.
"Absolutely, it would have made a difference," Toms said. "I probably would have put a little bit more pressure on myself to perform here in hopes of a pick, but I've got that behind me. So like I said, it's a pretty relaxing week."
Toms' most nervous moments this week came on Tuesday when he accepted the Payne Stewart Award. That meant making a speech in front of a large, albeit adoring, crowd at the presentation ceremony.
"Once that was over with, it was kind of a relief," Toms said, "and I was just here to play golf the rest of the week."
Of course, he may yet have more nervous moments this weekend -- his beloved LSU Tigers face upset-minded West Virginia on the road in Saturday night's marquee college football game.
Asked whether Tuesday’s speech or Saturday's game makes him more nervous, Toms just laughed.
"They're both on pretty equal terms there," he said.
ATLANTA -- David Toms has won 13 tournaments in his PGA TOUR career. He's also played on winning Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup teams. But winning the Payne Stewart Award, which recognizes the spirit of the late champion, comes with a greater meaning.
"It's different than winning golf tournaments," Toms said after he was announced as this year's recipient. "It goes beyond that."
The Payne Stewart Award was awarded for the 12th time this week. The winner represents sportsmanship, integrity, the spirit of giving back and understanding what it means to be a role model, said PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem. It goes to an individual "who through their actions on and off the golf course has distinguished himself with his demeanor, his preparation, his words and his actions," Finchem added.
Toms was voted as this year's winner by a committee that includes some of the previous recipients. His foundation has raised millions of dollars for abandoned, underprivileged and abused children in Louisiana, and was also involved in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
"In Louisiana generally and Shreveport specifically, his foundation activity is well-recognized," Finchem said.
Asked about Stewart, Toms said one of his regrets is that he did not play in a team competition with his fellow American. Toms has played on three Presidents Cup (and will be playing in another this November in Australia) and also three Ryder Cups, but none before Stewart's death in 1999.
"Knowing what those team competitions are all about, I know it would have been a lot of fun," Toms said. "He was always the guy in the locker room that made people laugh, that was pulling practical jokes on people. ...
"To not be able to play on one of those teams and really get to know him better this way, I regret."
LEMONT, Ill. -- David Toms and Brandt Snedeker, paired in Sunday's final round, were playing for automatic spots on the U.S. Presidents Cup team.
Toms made it; Snedeker did not.
Toms, entering this week 10th in Presidents Cup points, shot a gritty even-par 71 to finish at 3 under for the tournament. That will put him on his first Presidents Cup team since 2007.
Snedeker, right behind in 11th place, needed to play better than Toms on Sunday to get on the team. Instead, he shot a 3-over 74 and was never able to get anything going after a couple of early birdies.
The top 10 in points following Sunday's final round automatically make Fred Couples' team.
"There were a lot of scenarios out there today," Toms said. "I knew there were some guys I needed to beat in the golf tournament to secure my position, and I was out there grinding."
Said Snedeker: "Obviously, it didn't happen, but I wish those guys all the best, the 10 that made it today. ... David played great today."
Snedeker now must hope that Couples makes him a captain’s pick. The announcement will happen a week from Tuesday.
“If I don’t get picked, I’ve had two years to qualify,” Snedeker said. “I can’t blame Freddie for anything that happens.”
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
LEMONT, Ill. -- David Toms will never be confused with J.B. Holmes or Dustin Johnson or Gary Woodland.
After all, the 44-year-old from Louisiana ranks 177th in driving distance, averaging 279 yards. That's 39.4 yards behind Holmes, who leads the TOUR, and well behind the other 23 players who top the 300-mark like Johnson and Woodland.
Toms, who is in his 19th year on the PGA TOUR, has had plenty of time to come to grips with this disparity. But he admits he would still love to find the magic potion -- or the consummate driver -- that would give him added distance off the tee.
"I chase it every week," he said candidly. "It seems like I ask for another driver every week and always go back to the same one. It's just such an advantage on the courses that we play."
Toms' wife Sonya is the voice of reason, though. She's quick to point out that Toms has had an enviable career with 13 wins, including the 2001 PGA and Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial earlier this year. He enters this week's BMW Championship ranked 20th in the FedExCup and 10th in the Presidents Cup, too.
"You try not to take golf home from the golf course, and a lot of times my wife has set me straight," Toms acknowledged. "Well, you've done plenty good with the way you've played for so long, so you're not doing yourself any justice to try to go out there and either change your golf swing or go to a longer driver or whatever. You've just got to really do the things that you do well and do them extremely well."
Just when his wife thinks she's got Toms convinced, though, he goes out and plays with Bubba Watson, who ranks second in driving distance, at the Deutsche Bank Championship. And then his son Carter starts asking what Watson does to hit the ball so far.
"I said, 'Don't worry about your swing, you need to go to the weight room,' and that's when she went off on me again," Toms said. "She's like, will you get off of that? I'm like, okay, whatever. What are you going to do?"