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Toms looking to return to winning ways

David Toms already has eaten three meals at Doral without having to go to the hospital, so he can at least claim some success this week.

Now if he can just find a way to win.

Toms hasn't won since his breakthrough season in 2001 that included his first major at the PGA Championship, and it's starting to get under his skin.

He gets his next chance in the Ford Championship at Doral, which starts Thursday on the famed Blue Monster course.

"I know what it feels like to win," Toms said. "It's the ultimate feeling, and I haven't felt that for a while."

At least he's feeling better.

Toms was hospitalized overnight with food poisoning after the second round of the Match Play Championship. He still managed to reach the final, then gave Tiger Woods all he could handle for 35 holes.

During his return flight to Louisiana, Toms got sick again from something he ate.

He stayed in bed all of Monday, missing his first PGA Tour policy board meeting, then flew to Miami and played the pro-am round Wednesday in what felt like an oven, with temperatures in the high 80s.

"I probably needed to sweat a little bit to get whatever was in me out," Toms said. "I'll be ready to play because I'm looking forward to playing. I felt like I had a good week, did some good things and I'm to get back in competition."

Not many players can find good things out of finishing second, although Toms has reason to be optimistic. He was five holes behind Woods with 17 holes remaining when he staged a gritty comeback, eventually running out of holes.

"My health wasn't that great, but I played some good golf and felt like I battled the No. 1 player in the world down the stretch to at least make it interesting," Toms said. "I take a lot out of last week."

Still, that's not enough.

Toms did some good things last year, too, but that only affected the bottom line. He earned nearly $3.5 million, a record on the PGA Tour without winning.

He found himself pressing toward the end of the year, and got a little worried last month when he missed the cut in consecutive weeks before the Match Play Championship.

One week might have turned it around.

Every day at La Costa felt like a victory because he advanced to the next round. With every match he won, his confidence swelled.

"I felt like my golf game was getting better," he said.

The field at Doral, meanwhile, suffered a few setbacks.

Ernie Els, the defending champion at Doral and No. 2 in the world ranking, decided to defend his title in the Dubai Desert Classic. Phil Mickelson (No. 3) had to withdraw because his wife is close to delivering their third child. Vijay Singh (No. 4) withdrew because his rib injury is not completely healed.

That leaves Toms (No. 6) as the highest-ranked player in the field, the first time that's happened since ...

"I have no idea," he said. "Maybe in high school, college. Not even in college. I had to play against Mickelson and all those guys. Does it make any difference that those guys aren't here? No. You're going to have great golf no matter who you play."

The best player in the field is Mike Weir, who already has won twice in California (Bob Hope Classic, Nissan Open) and captured the West Coast Swing.

It was the first time since 1955 that the PGA Tour had three multiple winners (Els and Woods also won twice) before the tour reached Florida.

"I don't think I'm the best player in the world yet," Weir said. "I'm working toward that. I've won five times on the tour. Tiger has won a bunch of majors, and Ernie has won three. I'm not there, but working toward it."

Woods is taking the next two weeks off.

Doral still has a player who has won more majors than both of them combined: Jack Nicklaus.

The Golden Bear is playing a regular PGA Tour event for only the second time in 22 months, mostly because he feels good, looks good and wants to play.

Also, the Masters is on his mind.

"If I'm thinking about Augusta, or the Memorial Tournament, or if I'm thinking about anything, why wait until I can see if I can play golf again?" Nicklaus said.

Nicklaus said he has not made up his mind about Augusta, although signs point to him playing in his 44th Masters.

He is realistic about his game -- this week at Doral, next month at the Masters.

"What difference does it make? I'm not going to compete, anyway," he said. "Whether I'm going to wave to people as I run by? That's fine. I'm not too worried about that. Would I like to play? Sure. I think I can shoot some good rounds.

"I don't know if I want to clutter up the field. Let me find out how much I clutter up this one."

 

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