RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — For a while, it looked like David Toms would be lapped by the field Sunday in the final round of the Galleri Classic. As it turned out, Toms was the one circling the field.
Trailing by three shots after eight holes to a red-hot Retief Goosen, Toms turned on his game on the back nine of the Dinah Shore Tournament Course to win the inaugural PGA Tour Champions event in Rancho Mirage by four shots. A final-round 7-under 65, tied for the lowest round of the week which he established in the first round, pushed Toms to a wire-to-wire victory at 16-under 200.
“It’s good that you have to go out and play well, not back into it,” Toms said. “I was able to do that on the back nine. I was able to play a good nine holes. I played the back nine a lot like I played it the first day (also a 31). That’s really what separated me from the rest of the field.”
Steven Alker, the reigning PGA Tour Champions player of the year, fired a 5-under 67 to move into second place alone at 12-under 204. Goosen, who was 9 under through 12 holes on the day and led Toms by three shots, stumbled on his way in with two bogeys and a mere par-5 on the 18th hole for a 67. He tied for third at 11-under with Paul Stankowski.
The wire-to-wire victory, which earned 53-year-old Toms $330,000 from the $2.2 million purse, was Toms’ second PGA Tour Champions win in his last three starts and fourth overall.
“I think that was huge,” Toms said of his win three weeks ago at the Cologuard Classic. “I think that carried over to the performance you saw this week. Knowing that my good golf is good enough, that I don’t have to do anything special. If I keep the ball in the fairway and hit good iron shots and feel confidence on the greens, I’ll have plenty of chances, plenty of opportunities.”
The 36-hole leader, Toms treaded water on the front nine with three birdies and one bogey and was passed by Goosen, who shot 6-under 30 on the front nine and then birdied the first three holes on the back nine. But Toms birdied the ninth hole, then added six birdies on the closing nine. The key may have been the par-4 15th hole, where Toms made birdie about an hour after Goosen made bogey on the hole.
Goosen put the pressure on the field early. Starting at 4-under, the two-time U.S. Open winner found the key that was missing earlier in the week.
“I haven’t made any putts for two weeks and then finally today I started making a few early on,” Goosen said. “Yeah, got it going nicely. It’s disappointing about the finish.
“When I was driving to the course this morning I was thinking if I could shoot 10 under, I’ve got a pretty good chance,” Goosen added. “I could have shot 10 under.”
A clipped tree on his second shot led to Goosen’s first bogey of the day on No. 15, and a poor tee shot on the par-3 17th added another bogey. His second shot to the island green on the par-5 18th went over the green but stayed on grass, but he wasn’t able to get up and down for a birdie.
As Goosen struggled late, Toms caught fire. He birdied the par-5 11th, then added a birdie at the 13th before a par-save 10-foot putt on the par-3 14th after missing the green.
“On that hole the wind was all over the place,” Toms said. “It would be in, it would be down, it would be right to left, left to right. I kind of chickened out on my line off the tee. Even though I missed the green to the left, I probably didn’t miss my spot by 15 feet from where I was trying to hit it. That was a chip out of a hairy lie that can get away from you.”
Toms followed the critical par with a 20-foot birdie putt on the 15th, a short birdie putt on the 16th, a two-putt from off the fringe on the 17th and finally holed a 10-foot birdie putt on the 18th to cap the week.
Alker was one of just two players to break 70 in all three rounds — Steve Stricker was the other — and his 67 was his best round of the week. But he started six shots behind Toms and was never really a threat to win the event.
Goosen tied for third with Stankowski, who wasn’t even in the field until Friday morning when Mark O’Meara withdrew. Stankowski fired a 69 on Sunday.
Five players, including Vijay Singh, Padraig Harrington and Stricker, the money leader on the tour this year, tied for for fifth at 10 under.
Bernhard Langer, looking for a record 46th PGA Tour Champions victory, finished tied for 19th at 6-under 210 that included a 69 Sunday. Langer’s tournament was derailed Saturday with a 72 that included three bogeys and a double bogey.
The wire-to-wire win on the Shore Course will add to his rising confidence, Toms said.
“It is tough to win wire to wire, because you’ve got to do this (talk to the media) every day, talk to them about the round and what it is going to be like the next day. Everybody knows you are kind of the target. You are the front runner, and after a good first round, I kind of held it together (Saturday). I felt I played pretty solid but I didn’t score well. Then to keep the lead, and you have to sleep on that.”