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David Toms pinpoints where form left him

David Toms can pinpoint the day his golf game went south and his scores went north.

One day.

The final day of The Players Championship.

That's all it took to transform Toms from a money-making machine to a PGA Tour pro with a lot of free time on weekends. Without rhyme or reason or warning, his swing scattered with the wind that whipped about TPC at Sawgrass on March 27. Toms shot 82 that Sunday, abruptly ending the tidal wave of momentum he had built early in the season.

"I played horrible in tough conditions, and I lost a little golf swing and my confidence," Toms said. "And I have been searching to get it back."

Toms had arrived at The Players fresh off four consecutive top-five finishes, including a victory at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. The 82 began an 11-round stretch in which Toms missed three of four cuts and posted a 74.91 scoring average.

Except it isn't quite that simple.

The Players also coincides with when trouble began brewing between Toms and his agent, David K. Parker of the Plano-based Links Sports Management Group. Earlier this month, Toms filed a 13-page lawsuit in a Louisiana district court in an attempt to terminate his contract with Links Sports and collect money he alleges was never paid for sponsorships.

Links Sports released a statement saying, "We find it most unfortunate that David has taken a position so clearly unfounded and unjust."

"It's been a tough time," said Toms, who lives in Shreveport, La. "I have never been much into the controversial side of anything, whether it's sports or life or anything. And it's unfortunate, but I will be fine. And the situation will be fine. And it will all work out in the end. If I were playing great golf, I don't think it would enter my mind. When you're not playing well, everybody looks for an excuse.

"I don't have any teammates to pick me up when I'm having a bad day. I guess my caddie can help. He can't hit a shot. He can tell me where to go, but he had a big 79 in the caddie tournament. You're out there on an island. But at the same time, that is what makes golf so beautiful: When you do have success, you get all of the glory from that."

A third-place finish Sunday at the Bank of America Colonial indicates that glory days haven't passed Toms by just yet. If four consecutive sup-par rounds at Colonial aren't positive reinforcement enough, Toms arrives at TPC at Southwind this week as the two-time defending champion of the FedEx St. Jude Classic.

"A good solid round in competition can turn everything around quickly," Toms said.

Toms at his best is a player to behold — a precise, gritty ball-striker with a penchant for making the putts he needs. He has finished no worse than 22nd on the money list the past six seasons. For a player with a No. 11 world ranking, though, Toms sure can be susceptible to self-doubt. He constantly finds himself fretting about his lot in life as a medium-length hitter, his inability to keep up with the power players off the tee.

"That just shows you how powerful the mind is," Toms said. "It's everything. And certainly you can overcome a lot of things. I try not to sit and think, 'You have to be confident. You have to do this.' It's more a process that happens, and it comes from having good results. I guess you can trick yourself into it. I know you can talk yourself into a bad shot. So, why can't you trick yourself into a good shot?"

The half-empty-glass way to look at things is that Toms is 96th on the tour in driving distance. The half-full way to look at it is this: Toms ranks ninth on the tour in reaching greens in regulation, 15th in putting average and fifth in ball-striking.

Toms is 38, and he has made the past two Ryder Cup teams, and he's fourth on the current money list, yet he can't seem to inoculate himself against doubt.

"I can't explain it," Toms said. "And I don't think anybody out here can. Everybody goes through it. Everybody does. Every year in my career, I'm going to have a month where I don't play well. That is the way it goes. It's almost like I go through these stretches where I don't play well and lose confidence, and then, all of a sudden, I have a great week, and I get right back going again.

"So that is the way I have to feel it's going to be. It's always been that way, and why would this time be any different?"

 

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