Q&A: After breakthrough U.S. Senior Open win, David Toms opens up

July 12, 2018

On Sunday evening, David Toms rallied late at the Broadmoor with a birdie at 16 and a long par putt at 17. He made a two-putt par at 18 to secure the 2018 U.S. Senior Open title by a single shot. The victory was his first since joining the Champions tour last season and his first professional win of any kind since 2011. Toms caught up with GOLF on Monday. The interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

Dylan Dethier: Tell me about those putts on 16 and 17. You’re a pretty cool customer, but it looks like your heart was racing a little bit as that putt went in for par on 17.

David Toms: Y’know, I saw on the board at 16 that Jimenez made birdie at the last, so I knew there were a lot of guys tied and I had a chance with the birdie putt there to take the lead. It was a straight-in putt, up the hill toward the mountain. It probably rolled better than any putt I hit all week, not bouncing off-line, and then it just rolled right in the middle.

I tried to calm down as I got to 17, but my heart was racing. Seventeen is a really tough hole and I pulled my drive slightly and ended up in the lip of a bunker, which was kind of deflating, to be quite honest. But I hit a good shot out of there and hit a third shot that wasn’t great but left a putt for par. I was just trying to get the speed right, downhill right-to-left, and it just came off perfect and broke right in the hole.

Then I had to go to 18 tee, which is a tough tee shot, and luckily just got it into the first cut of rough. I hit a great shot and had a two-putt there at the last and man – it all happened so fast, really. I was laying in bed last night thinking about it and it’s just amazing how fast it goes by.

On 18, you flagged your approach shot but it stayed on the back slope. What were you thinking heading to that final two-putt?

I’ve always said when you have to two-putt that a downhill putt is not a bad thing because all you have to do is get it started. I’d much rather that than a 30-footer up the hill that you have hammer and hopefully get it right. I just had to touch it and it didn’t go in but it stopped just a couple feet past the hole – and I was able to wiggle that one in.

I’m not sure that final putt was dead-center cup, exactly…

(Laughing) Someone asked me about that yesterday and I said it’s a good thing the putt wasn’t three feet instead of two because I don’t think it would have gone in. Luckily it was short enough to stay in the hole.

It sounds like it was a family affair out there – everyone was in town and your son Carter filled in as a last-minute replacement caddie (Toms’s caddie Scott Gneiser missed the first two rounds with chest pains). Has he been on the bag for you before?

No – this was the first time ever. He was pretty nervous about it the first few holes, he was walking out in front of me, all jacked up. But it was fun, it was really neat. Even if I hadn’t won the tournament it would have been a fun story just to be able to have him caddying for me and it ended up being part of a great script. In all, it made for a nice start to the week just to have him walking around with me learning the golf course and getting settled into the tournament.

He’s obviously a good player in his own right, too.

Yeah, he just finished his sophomore year at LSU and he really is a good player. I don’t hit the ball near as far as he does so he probably didn’t club me all that well, but he helped me get the yardages and read the greens, which were very tough, so he helped with a bunch of things.

This is your first win since 2011. Did that make it harder to get it done this time?

It was very difficult. It had been so long since I’d won and I’ve been putting a lot of pressure on myself to win on the Champions tour because I see all my buddies doing it and I’ve had plenty of chances. But you just never know and when it’s your time, you just stay close. I knew if I stayed close to Jerry [Kelly] because he’s been playing so well, winning golf tournaments, that I’d be in good shape. I was able to do that and still be there late in the round and then I think it was just my time, the way everything finished out.

How has your relationship with golf changed at this stage of your career, making the switch to the Champions tour and being involved from a different angle with your teaching academy?

To be quite honest I’m probably more involved with the game now than ever. I’m out there with my academy all the time and I’m more excited again to work on my game and travel to tournaments now that I’m playing now on the Champions tour. The last few years on the PGA Tour, as great as it was to be an exempt player, it just got so difficult competing against those young guys that it was hard to get excited to go out and play. Now that part of it is back, so I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.

What would you say the biggest difference is on the PGA Tour now compared to, say, 15 years ago?

Well, 15 years ago it was a lot like what we have on the Champions tour now. Everyone was just palling around together, traveling together, pulling for each other and excited for each other. Now the PGA Tour is very businesslike. Everyone seems to have their support groups and that’s who they hang out with – and they’re so young and not many of them have kids or have really young kids, so it’s just different. But it’s still great, it’s very competitive, and the golf courses are very difficult, and I think there’s some really good young talent on the PGA Tour now that’s carrying the brand and playing great golf. They’re just too good for me to play against.

[image:14171955]Well, you’ll get to test that next year at Pebble Beach! What do you think of that opportunity now that you’re exempt into the 2019 U.S. Open?

I am excited for that. We talked about it last night, my wife and I, just being able to plan that week. We can go ahead and rent a house because you know where you’re gonna stay, play, everything. I have a lot of history there: I probably played that golf course first when I was 13 years old with my father and always used to play the AT&T, plus I’ve played U.S. Opens there. It’ll be quite the challenge, but if there’s a golf course where I could compete that might be it.

You’ve won 13 times on the PGA Tour. That’s a lot of wins! You’re 15th on the Tour’s career money list. Do you ever feel like you get overlooked in terms of being one of the top players of your era?

Oh – I really don’t consider that. That’s maybe for you guys to write about, but I’ve been happy with my career because I’ve been respected amongst my peers and felt that I’ve conducted myself in the right way. The friends that I’ve made and the relationships that I’ve created are what’s important to me. And I’ve obviously had plenty of success, probably more than I expected I would when I turned pro, so I’m happy with that and I just look forward to playing golf for a living. It’s been great to me and I try to give back as much as I can.

So who knows. I mean, I think that’s for you guys to write about and talk about. Obviously I’m not in the Hall of Fame. I’ve been on the ballot a few times but didn’t quite have the career to do that, but I’m still very happy with the way things have gone.

I was wondering if you have any favorite playing partners, particularly now being back on the Champions tour playing with some of the same guys you’ve known for so many years.

Well I mean, I do but if I name some I have to leave someone out so it wouldn’t really be fair – but it’s been fun being back out here. I wouldn’t say everyone’s cheerleading for everybody, because you’re still in a competitive environment, but I had so many guys who were happy for me yesterday, whether they were there when I finished, or texted or called or whatever and that really means a lot.

Well, I didn’t think you were going to tell me your least favorite playing partners, although I was tempted to ask…

That’s the pro-am question you get every week – I never do answer that one.

So what do you do to celebrate a U.S. Senior Open win?

Last night we just had dinner with my family and with my childhood friend Mike Genovese (who qualified for the Senior Open and finished T49) and his son. We all got together and talked about old times and he was excited about me winning and was talking about how it was like back in our junior days when I won everything. He was just always a great friend.

Now we’ll take off on a family vacation for a few days that we had already planned, win or not, and then my nephew is getting married this weekend in Louisiana, so we’re going to get back for that.

Looking at some guys who could be joining the Champions tour these next couple years, do you have any advice for guys who might be thinking of making the jump?

I just hope those guys do it because it is a lot of fun. The advice to them would be shoot low scores because guys do it every week. I mean, last week I was in the final group, shot one-under par and finished 14th. So I mean that should tell you all you need to know. It’s very difficult to win out here. I hope guys like that will come and play because the tour needs them; I think DiMarco will come join us in August and that’ll be big for the tour and I’m looking forward to that.

When you look back on this week is there a particular moment that you’ll take away?

I think really the key to the tournament was when I was 3-over during my second round and my son said,’Look, you’re going to make bogeys in a U.S. Open, you’re doing fine, let’s keep going,’ And I made a few birdies coming in and finished the round at one over for the day and got myself right in the middle of the golf tournament. So that was really big for me; just the biggest part of the week and what I’ll take away is just hanging in there with him on Friday.