Toms leads by one over WatneyPONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – David Toms leads after two rounds of The Players after scores of 66-68—134 at the TPC Sawgrass. Toms is up by one over first-round leader, Nick Watney, he is two clear of Graeme McDowell, Steve Stricker, Luke Donald and Lucas Glover, and stands three better than Hunter Mahan, Aaron Baddeley, J.B. Holmes and Davis Love III.
Toms had a goal to try to keep the momentum going from his first-round when he had six birdies and no bogeys on his card. He wasn’t quite able to duplicate that effort as he included a couple of bogeys with another six birdies on Friday.
He ended the round where he wanted be, at the top of the leaderboard.
“I got off to just making par start kind of thing, and then I got over there to 5 and hit a great shot with a 7-iron in there pretty close and made that putt,” Toms said. “And then birdied 7, so I was off to a pretty good start.
“For the most part everything was very, very solid except for the two bogeys I made were shots where I wasn't committed to the club I was hitting, and I paid the price for it. That's the type of golf course it is where you really have to be focused on your shots and never give in to the golf course and just play as hard as you can. That's what I've done for two days, and just played really solid.
“I haven't done anything great, haven't made a lot of long putts or chip-in or anything like that. I've just played very, very solid,” Toms added.
Solid is key. While The Players is not a major championship, it is played under similar conditions. The field is one of the strongest of the year and the title “players’ champion” is coveted almost as much as a major title. Toms already has one of those, the 2001 PGA Championship, and he wouldn’t care if this was the Timbuktu Open, he wants another win. His last came in 2006 at the Sony Open in Hawaii. The biggest challenge he’ll probably face over the final 36 holes will be nerves.
It is much different for those just behind him on the board. Watney, already has a World Golf Championship title this year, the Cadillac Championship, and four other top-10s to go along with nearly $2.4 million in earnings. McDowell is the reigning U.S. Open champion and seems to have found a swing key to help him out of a recent funk.
Stricker has three top-10s and six top-25s in his eight starts this year prior to this week, and six wins since Toms got his last. Glover won last week and seems to be in a nice groove heading to the weekend.
When all that is considered, good luck trying to handicap which player will emerge with the win. It might not be as difficult to determine what it will take to win. The TPC Sawgrass seems to be a layout that favors a mature course-management approach. Both Toms and Stricker spoke about the value of experience.
“You know, off the tee and into the greens, you've got all these different angles,” said Toms. “And it seemed like early in my career around here I was always trying to play the perfect shot. I mean, and I think the last few years I've just learned to try to play my game, my shot, whether that week if I'm hitting a fade off the tee, I just have to play a little different line.
“Just like today, on 18, I actually took it down the left side and hit a cut into the fairway,” he continued. “The two guys I played with, they were hitting it down the right side and drawing it into the fairway which is probably the better shot. That's the way the hole sets up. But for me I just knew I could take the water out of play by making sure I hit a cut shot, and it didn't go very far but I got it right in the middle of the fairway.
Toms has learned to play his game, rather than try to hit the perfect shot. If there's a pin he can’t go for, he plays it 30 feet to the right or left of the pin or short and tries to two-putt and find a hole where he can get to it. That is the biggest difference to his play here over the years.
Stricker, talks about the visual challenges presented and how he needs to get over what he sees and play his shots.
“You've got to get past that, and you've got to allow yourself to swing aggressively, swing confidently, and I've done that the first couple days here,” he said. “I've played away from trouble at times, tried to play smart, especially today. Years prior I hadn't done that. It's kind of an intimidating course at times. A lot of water. You know, you've got the island green, the history of guys hitting it in the water all over the place, making big numbers, and you kind of try to put that in the back of your mind, and I've done a better job of that this year, and I think that's why I've played better the first couple rounds here. And I think the course is a little bit softer than other years, as well.”
It probably won’t be soft this weekend, nor should any decision-making be for someone wanting to hold the trophy on Sunday night.
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