Bill Nichols

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Blown lead could be good for David Toms

FORT WORTH _ David Toms blew a seven-stroke lead on Saturday at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.

After shooting 8-under 62 the first two rounds, Toms posted a 12-stroke differential with his 74. He missed six fairways and 10 greens. He missed short putts.

And he’s only trailing Charlie Wi by one stroke. 

For Toms, the bad news is actually good. It’s much more difficult to hold a lead. Better to blow the lead on Saturday than on Sunday. 

Toms is still in great shape. He’s already blown his lead. Wi is searching for his first victory. He has never felt the pressure of protecting a lead on a course that’s been surrendering low scores.

Wi knows he’s vulnerable. If a seven-shot lead can evaporate in one day, then how secure is a one-shot lead?

``It feels great,’’ Wi said. ``I know I had many 36-hole leads out here. To get yourself in contention to win, that’s what we practice so hard for. I’m really excited about being on top.’’

Wi knows first-hand that any lead is surmountable. He entered the third round seven strokes back, shooting 4-under 66 to reach 13 under. Twice he’s entered final rounds tied for second. 

At last year’s AT&T National, he shot 69 on Sunday and finished tied for fourth. At last year’s BMW Championship, he shot 74 to tie for eighth.

The last two Colonial winners, Zach Johnson and Steve Stricker, came from behind to claim plaid jackets.

``It’s such a crazy game,’’ Wi said. ``I don’t want to say too much because golf is such a fickle game. You never know what’s going to happen.’’

Toms got his bad round out of the way. The odds were against him going 72 holes without a bogey. He has experienced pressure at the highest level, sinking a 15-foot putt to win the PGA Championship. He has 12 victories.

At last week’s Players Championship, he drained a 15-footer to make the playoff with K.J. Choi, but then missed from four feet.

``I’m right where I set out to be when I started the week,’’ Toms said. ``I would love to be sitting here with a 10-shot lead and trying to break some record or something like that. But, you know, it’s all about getting in position an seeing how I do. I did well last Sunday with a chance. I didn’t quite get there. To be one shot back with one round to play, I’m happy with that opportunity.’’

Toms knows what it’s like to be chasing the lead. He experienced that first-hand with Wi on Saturday in the toughest scoring day of the tournament. Pins were tucked in difficult spots with the 10-20 mph winds.

Without the weight of the lead on your shoulders, it’s easier to stay relaxed, play aggressively.

``They may play a little looser,’’ Toms said. ``I know Charlie, he putted great. He kept the pressure on all day. He played like you have to play with the conditions that we had. For the most part, I felt like I was hanging on all day, trying not to make a mistake rather than going out and playing great. That’s probably what that big lead does to you.’’

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