David Toms looking for more as he defends at Ascension Charity Classic
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Written by Bob McClellan @ChampionsTour
David Toms isn’t unhappy with the state of his game. He’s just a bit underwhelmed by the results.
Toms, 55, had so much success on the PGA TOUR (13 victories; No. 22 in career earnings with more than $41 million) that it wasn’t a stretch to think he’d be a regular visitor to the winner’s circle on PGA TOUR Champions. But after 112 starts, he has won only twice – at the 2018 U.S. Senior Open and at the 2021 Ascension Charity Classic.
He returns to Norwood Hills Country Club in St. Louis this week to defend his Ascension title, and he’s hoping that it’s the start of a strong stretch run to end 2022.
“I think first of all, you’ve got to move the ball around a little bit off the tee at Norwood,” Toms said. “You know, there are very few real straight holes. And so I enjoy that. I’m just trying to find it, hit it in the right spot on the greens. You just need to control your mid-irons, and you’ll hit a lot of mid-irons, which usually when I'm playing well is a strength of mine. So, overall just to feel the golf course. The historic part of the golf course and clubhouse … I just love a nice core golf course where we don't have houses all around and things like that. It’s the type of golf I enjoy playing.”
It would be to no one’s surprise if Toms did, in fact, win here again. It’s not like his game has abandoned him. He’s 14th in the Schwab Cup standings, fifth among players who haven’t won this season. Toms has eight top 10s in 15 starts, and he ranks near the top in most meaningful statistical categories.
He’s 15th in driving accuracy, ninth in greens in regulation, 11th in putting average, seventh in birdie average, fifth in sand saves and sixth in scoring. Of the five players with better scoring averages, four have won multiple times this season.
“What will it take to win again? It will take having to beat a lot of really good players, guys that are playing real well right now,” Toms said. “And for me, it's just going to be about scoring a little bit better than I have lately. I feel like I'm playing OK. I just can't quite put it all together. So hopefully this will be the week we get through that.”
Toms need look no further than a fellow Louisiana native to find a shining example of a breakthrough player. Budding PGA TOUR star Sam Burns, 26, who practically grew up in the Toms household as the best friend of Toms’ son, Carter, has four victories since May 2021, including a defense of his first-ever win, at the Valspar Championship.
The two speak frequently; in fact, Toms received a call from Burns the other day on his way to St. Louis for the Ascension.
“He's just a good family friend,” Toms said. “I mean, he's been best friends with my son since they were real small, and I've spent a lot of time with him. He's had a lot of highs in golf but he's had a few lows along the way and taken his bumps, and I helped him through a few things, talked him through a few things maybe with his game or his thought process.
“He's excited for the Presidents Cup (which begins on Sept. 22 at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina) and obviously excited the way he's played this year, and I'm very happy for him. And certainly, you know, I mean he has a lot of fans around our area of Louisiana that pull really hard for him and that also follow me, so it makes me want to do better for them as well.”
Toms played on four U.S. Presidents Cup teams and had a 3-1 record in his singles matches. This is Burns' first crack at playing for his country as a pro, and Toms believes it will bring out the best in his protégé.
“First of all, he's one of the most competitive people I've ever been around, so he'll want to represent his country,” Toms said. “He'll want to represent the uniform that he has on and play great for his teammates and his captain, so he'll be into it.
“He'll be hungry. He'll enjoy the atmosphere and the competitiveness of the whole thing and I think his match-play career for the for his future will be really bright. Just because, you know, he's a guy that never gives in. And like I said, very competitive, so it'll suit him really well.”