David Toms won the 83rd US PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club, and secured his berth in the United States team to play in the Ryder Cup next month, when he made a dramatic up and down at the 72nd hole to edge out Phil Mickelson by the minimum margin.
The 34 year old from Louisiana took the difficult decision to lay up at the 490 yard final hole after his drive landed in the semi rough. He was rewarded for that tactical ploy by wedging to ten feet and slotting in the winning putt after Mickelson’s 25 footer for birdie drew up just short of the hole.
Toms shot rounds of 69-66-65-69 for a 15 under par total of 265 to capture his first Major title, depriving Mickelson of that distinction. Once again the 31 year old from Phoenix, Arizona, missed out after rounds of 66-66-66-68. Steve Lowery took third place on his own on 268 with Mark Calcavecchia and Japan’s Shingo Katayama sharing fourth.
It was Toms’s sixth win on the US PGA Tour and took his career earnings through the $8 million mark and he becomes the third first-time Major champion in 2001 following Retief Goosen in the US Open and David Duval at the Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.
Toms went into the final day with a two stroke lead over Mickelson and the twice during a thrilling duel the left hander caught the leader, firstly at the fifth hole with his second birdie of the day and then again at the 15th with a wonderful two after Toms had re-established his two stroke cushion.
However Mickelson three putted the 16th, allowing Toms the luxury of a one stroke lead playing the last. After Toms laid up, Mickelson hit the centre of the green, applying the pressure to his less experience rival.
However Toms did not buckle under the intense pressure as he stroked his ten foot putt into the centre of the cup for a winning par, forcing Mickelson to suffer an 72nd green disappointment to match his one stroke loss to Payne Stewart in the 1999 US Open.
The new champion, who climbs to fifth in the US Ryder Cup points table, admitted: “I didn’t really want to lay up. I was in the rough by two inches and I felt that was the best way to make par. That was what I had to do and it worked out just fine.”
Mickelson, seemingly the perennial runner-up, commented: “I certainly tried hard enough. David played very solid and it just seemed that every time I caught him I made a mistake like the three putts t the 16th. That hurt me. I played well but it wasn’t enough.”
Jesper Parnevik and Ernie Els were the highest finishers among the 18 European Tour Members who made the cut. Els closed with a 72 for a four under par total of 276 while Parnevik shot a 68 for the same mark.
The colourful Swede said: "I struggled a little bit with my putting for the first three days but I putted a lot better today. If you struggle with the putter it's always going to be difficult."
Jose Coceres of Argentina, a winner in the United States this season, produced a fine 67 for 277 while Ireland’s Paul McGinley and Niclas Fasth of Sweden did their Ryder Cup prospects no harm at all by finishing on 278 and 279 respectively.
Scots Colin Montgomerie and Andrew Oldcorn suffered contrasting fortunes in the final round. Montgomerie was disqualified after signing for an incorrect score while Oldcorn shot his second 67 of the week to finish his first overseas Major with a flourish.
Montgomerie, playing in his tenth US PGA Championship, signed for a par three at the eighth hole when in fact he three putted for a bogey four. The error did not come to light until after the seven-time Volvo Order of Merit winner had signed for a round of 71 and a five over par total of 285.
By contrast, Oldcorn was pleased with his debut in the event and his three under par 67 enabled him to climb the leaderboard inside the top 50 with a one over par total of 281.
Oldcorn said: “That was a better 67 than the one I shot on Friday. It was much harder today and this gives me confidence for next week’s Scottish PGA Championship at Gleneagles.”
He intends flying back to Britain tomorrow and heading to Scotland, where the tournament offers an increased prize fund of £1 million, despite going head to head with the WGC-NEC Invitational in Akron.
Oldcorn added: “I played pretty good golf this week and I’ve got a taste for playing in a Major and it’s something I want to repeat. I haven’t managed to get into the top 12 to play in the NEC but there is a £166,660 first prize at stake at Gleneagles and if I could win that it would give me another chance to get into the Ryder Cup side.
“I’ve got to keep going until it’s physically impossible not to qualify. I owe it to myself to try as hard as I can. The first prize at Gleneagles equates to fourth place in the NEC so I will be doing my best. All things considered, it was a good week.”
It was also a good week for McGinley, winner of the Celtic Manor Resort Wales Open last weekend. He matched Oldcorn’s 67 for a two under par total of 278 to consolidate his position in the Ryder Cup points list.
Andrew Coltart, who could have usurped Ian Poulter in 12th position in that table, came up just short after a final round of 70 left him with a level par total of 280. Like Oldcorn, he is flying straight home to his native Scotland to embark on his penultimate attempt to collect enough Ryder Cup points to make his second appearance in the European team.