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Two weeks ago, when David Toms stood on the verge of winning the PGA Tour's flagship event, the Players, he was convinced that doing so was his destiny. In December, Toms was playing in an outing at TPC Sawgrass when he learned that his grandfather, Tom Toms, had undergone emergency surgery. Tom died three days later.
His death was a big loss for David. Tom was the one who had given David the Bob Toski and Jack Nicklaus instruction books to pore over as he grew up in Shreveport, La. Tom took David to the course at Barksdale Air Force Base to shag balls. Tom took David to junior tournaments, too, and later bought him his first car. Tom was a mentor, a supporter, a believer. He loved watching golf, especially David's golf.
So surely Tom was somehow watching the Players when his grandson sank the dramatic putt on the 72nd hole to force a playoff. "I really thought he was in control [then]," Toms said on Sunday after he had won the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, in Fort Worth. "I thought it was going to happen."
What happened instead was heartbreak. Toms missed a short putt on the first playoff hole and lost to K.J. Choi. The TV cameras caught David's son, Carter, 13, turning away in disappointment.
Call it redemption, then, or perhaps simply a more complicated plan on Granddad's part. David endured a crazy week at storied Colonial Country Club. He opened with a pair of eight-under-par 62s, tying the lowest 36-hole score in Tour history and taking a seven-stroke lead. He lost that advantage after a frustrating third-round 74 and found himself trailing Charlie Wi by three shots in the final round. But Toms regained the lead for good when he holed out from the 11th fairway for an eagle 2.
On Sunday night Toms wore the Colonial champion's plaid jacket and fought back tears. He is 44, hadn't won since the 2006 Sony Hawaiian Open and had been through two long and trying weeks.
"I didn't know if this day would ever come, to be honest," Toms said. "To come back after what happened last week is probably the most satisfying victory I've had—even [more than] the PGA Championship, even winning in my home state."
By winning the Colonial, Toms earned a spot on the club's Wall of Champions that rises next to the 1st tee and on which the names of past champions are chiseled in marble. His name will appear beside some of the greats, players such as Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Sam Snead. "The wall means a lot," Toms said, but honoring another man, one who earned the Silver Star in World War II while leading his tank destroyer company during the Battle of the Bulge, means even more.
"It was special to get past last week and win here for him, and to win for my wife and kids and friends and family. But to win for my grandfather ... he didn't get to see this victory... ."
Or maybe he did.