Editor’s note: This column originally published in The Charlotte Observer on May 12, 2003.
David Toms won the inaugural Wachovia Championship at Quail Hollow Club on Sunday and simultaneously answered that age-old golf question: “What’s the best time for a quadruple bogey?”
It turns out to be when you are leading by six strokes on the last hole of a golf tournament. You can lose four strokes on No. 18 and still win by two shots, and you get the added bonus of providing a laugh track to a final-round afternoon that, until then, was remarkably unremarkable.
With those eight nasty shots on No. 18, Toms gave this rookie tournament both a world-class winner and someone for hackers to identify with. He played astounding golf for 71 holes and astoundingly bad golf on hole No. 72.
Golfers call a score of “8” a snowman because of the number’s shape. A snowman was about all we didn’t get during this weird weather week until Toms finally looked human on No. 18.
Already, Toms knows that his voice mail will fill up this week with fellow PGA Tour golfers, offering congratulations to a well-liked peer and then jabbing the needle for that dreadful final hole.
“They are going to have to stick it to me a little bit for the way I finished, but that’s fine,” Toms said. “I’ve got the trophy and that big check.”
The big check was for $1.008 million, and that’s so much money Toms can afford to refer to No. 18 as a “little mishap.” That’s what he called it for those assembled at the 18th green for the trophy presentation, and that’s ultimately all it was.
But that quadruple bogey was actually fortunate. It’s the hole that everyone will talk about both today and a year from now, when Toms comes back to defend his championship and the tournament enters Year Two.
Until Toms reached No. 18, Sunday’s final round had been a rain-soaked blowout, about as exciting as the 2002 Carolina Panthers offense.
Toms had gone the first 17 holes without a bogey. He had started the round with a five-shot lead, and it was not seriously threatened. Even the rain couldn’t seem to touch Toms. He simply would step out from under an umbrella, hit another perfect shot, and then step back under again as the leader board yawned. His shirt color was an appropriate beige.
But all that changed on No. 18. Playing partner Kirk Triplett actually checked Toms’ pulse after Toms’ eighth and final stroke.
“Maybe he thought I was dead, the way I played that last hole,” Toms said.
Here, in Toms’ words, is how No. 18 started:
“I hit a great tee shot there the first three days. My game plan was to make a birdie and finish off in style. I wasn’t more than 10 yards off the entire week with a drive as far as where I was trying to hit it, and there it went 50 or 60 yards off-line.
“It just came out of nowhere. I wasn’t nervous. I’m sitting there with a six-shot lead and felt like if I got past 17 without a disaster, the tournament was mine.
“I chipped backward (on the second shot) and just hit it too hard, hit it in the fairway by the water. I hit a great shot for my third shot, got to where I could hit a sand wedge on the green (on shot No. 4).”
But that fourth shot spun back 50 feet from the hole. Suddenly, Toms would later admit, he was nervous.
Toms rammed his first putt 10 feet past the hole. His second putt rolled 4 feet by. His third missed by 11 inches. Finally, he tapped in for a four-putt, a quadruple bogey to break an 0-for-41-tournament winless streak.
Toms is a great golfer. He was ranked No. 8 in the world entering the tournament – funny how that number keeps coming up. He’s also a nice guy and a deserving champion.
And, to top it all off, Toms can even build a snowman in May.
Surviving the Snowman
Wachovia Championship winner David Toms teed off on the tournament’s final hole with a six-shot lead. After making an 8 on the par-4, 478-yard hole, he left with a relieved smile and a two-shot win. Shot by shot, here’s how Toms’ quadruple-bogey went:
1. What Toms calls his worst tee shot of the tournament goes 287 yards but lands in the deep right rough, 217 yards from the pin.
2. Toms tries to chip the ball backward into the fairway, but overshoots. He knocks it over the fairway and nearly into the creek on the hole’s left side and is now 232 yards from the pin.
3. The third shot from the rough travels back into the fairway, but is still 108 yards from the pin.
4. Toms finally hits the green, 50 feet away, with his fourth shot.
5. Toms’ first putt runs 10 feet past the hole.
6. Toms’ second putt goes 4 feet awry.
7. From 4 feet, Toms misses again.
8. From 11 inches, Toms taps in for the quadruple bogey – and the win.