Originally created 02/28/05

Toms has no match at La Costa



CARLSBAD, Calif. - David Toms played some of his best golf to reach the finals of the Match Play Championship.

Then he got even better.

Toms delivered the most dominant performance in the seven-year history of this fickle tournament, winning eight out of nine holes Sunday to put away Chris DiMarco before lunch, then pouring it on in the afternoon for the largest margin of victory ever in the 36-hole final at La Costa Resort.

"This whole round was kind of a blur," Toms said. "I don't know that I've ever felt that way in an event."

The score was 6 and 5, and it could have been much worse.

Toms was 9 up at one point and had a chance to end the match on the ninth hole. DiMarco played some of his best golf when it no longer mattered, saving par from thick rough behind the ninth green and making three straight birdies, but all that did was spare ABC Sports more dead time in its telecast.

Tournament officials followed the final four holes of the match with the Walter Hagen Trophy and a podium in a cart, waiting to set up the trophy presentation on whatever green the match was decided.

Toms earned $1.3 million for his 11th career PGA Tour victory, and first World Golf Championship title.

His record in the Accenture Match Play Championship improved to 18-5, second only to the 21-4 mark by two-time defending champion Tiger Woods.

"I've won a few tournaments along the way, but I never felt this at ease on the golf course," Toms said. "Not that it was easy. I just felt I could hit the shot no matter what it was. I have no idea how to explain it."

Toms lost to Woods, 2 and 1, in the final match two years ago when he fell 4 holes down in the morning round and fought just to extend the match to 35th hole.

He never gave DiMarco any hope.

DiMarco still looked like he was in a state of shock when Toms holed an 8-foot birdie putt on the 13th hole to end the match.

"They got a good champion," said DiMarco, whose $750,000 runner-up check was the largest of his career.

The match was even through nine holes until Toms went on another tear, making birdie on five of the next six holes to take a 6-up lead after the morning round, the largest ever.

By then, the sparse gallery at La Costa knew this was over. At times, it looked as though DiMarco knew, too.

As they stood on the first tee to start the second round, someone in the grandstand mentioned it was an all-SEC final - DiMarco (Florida) and Toms (LSU) competed against each other in college. As DiMarco bent over to stick his tee in the ground, he said under his breath, "Yeah, like when LSU pummeled us a couple of years ago," referring to a 36-7 victory over the Gators in 2002 at the Swamp.

Even a few tournament sponsors started to ask how ABC would fill the rest of its broadcast.

Thank goodness it still had a consolation match to show between Retief Goosen and Ian Poulter, and they did their best. Both birdied five of the first six holes on the back nine. Long after the trophy presentation, Goosen finally won the 20th hole.

That kind of drama was missing from the championship match, but it was no less impressive.

After winning on the 18th hole in the first two rounds, Toms simply had no match the rest of the week.

The former PGA champion rolled through big-hitters Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott in consecutive rounds, then beat Poulter in the semifinals with some of the greatest golf ever seen at La Costa - birdie-eagle-eagle to take a lead, no approach shot more than 12 feet away over his final eight holes.

And somehow, he managed to save his best for the final match.

Maybe tournament sponsor Accenture should change the slogan on its commercial: "Go on, be a Toms."

Toms had only four bogeys in six rounds, and trailed only 10 of the 116 holes he played.

The final match actually was tight for a while, and DiMarco was firmly in control in the early stages. He was 3 under his first seven holes, but still had only a 1-up lead.

If there was a key moment - hard to find in such a blowout - it came at the seventh hole in the morning round. DiMarco already was 1 up when he hit his approach to within 3 feet for a sure birdie. Toms hit his shot into 8 feet, and made the sliding putt to halve the hole.

Toms was 2 up when he knocked a 15-foot birdie putt some 5 feet past the hole on No. 12; miss it, and momentum probably swings in DiMarco's favor. But it was as pure as just about every stroke he made all weekend, and the next thing DiMarco knew, the match was over.

Toms won the next five holes to go 7 up, and DiMarco felt sick walking to the 18th tee.

"It was tough to hit that tee ball," he said. "I was hoping it was only an 18-hole match. What am I going to do, lose 13 and 12? I mean, you've got to take your hat off to David Toms."

Toms thought about his match with Woods two years ago, when he managed to make a game of it. He made sure that wasn't the case against DiMarco, making a 10-foot par on the first hole of the afternoon and keeping DiMarco at bay.

Ultimately, he felt exactly how Woods has during some of his big wins.

"When Tiger played his best golf and the way he made birdies and dominated fields and made it look easy at times, I guess maybe that's what it feels like," Toms said. "I could certainly get used to that."