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DeMarco is just no match for Toms

Monday, February 28, 2005

CARLSBAD, Calif. -- David Toms played the best golf of his life, put his name in the record book with the biggest blowout in the Match Play Championship and barely broke a sweat while earning $1.3 million.

All he lacked was an explanation.

A major champion but hardly a juggernaut, Toms rolled through Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott to reach the semifinals, then beat Ian Poulter with the most dynamic stretch of golf ever seen at La Costa Resort.

He found an ever higher gear Sunday in the 36-hole final against Chris DiMarco, beating him so badly that Toms caught himself rehearsing his victory speech with 11 holes left in the match.

"I can't explain why I felt like I did all week," Toms said. "I just felt very, very comfortable with myself and the golf that was in front of me. I don't know that I've ever really felt like that."

Toms delivered the most dominant performance in the seven-year history of this fickle tournament, winning eight out of nine holes to put away DiMarco before lunch, then pouring it on in the afternoon.

The score was 6 and 5, by two holes the largest margin of victory in the Accenture Match Play Championship.

And it could have been worse.

Toms was 9 up at one point and had a chance to end the match on the 27th hole. Tournament officials trailed Toms over the final four holes with the Walter Hagen Trophy and a podium in the cart, waiting to set up the trophy presentation when the drubbing was over.

"That's the worst beating I've taken for sure," DiMarco said.

DiMarco played some of his best golf when it no longer mattered. He saved par from thick rough behind the ninth green, then made three straight birdies. All that did was spare ABC Sports more dead time in its telecast.

Toms made only four bogeys in six matches over four days on a soggy golf course with 6 inches of rough. He played 116 holes this week and was behind in only 10 of them.

Someone asked Toms for a turning point in his final match. He couldn't think of one.

"This whole round is kind of a blur," he said.

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.

It was his 11th career victory on the PGA Tour and moved Toms up to No. 9 in the world ranking.

"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 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 -- not Mickelson, not Scott, not anyone.

He was awesome against Poulter in the semifinal, going birdie-eagle-eagle to seize control and hitting every approach over his final eight holes to within 12 feet.

DiMarco saw highlights Saturday evening, then saw firsthand just how good Toms was playing.

"I think those are probably two of the best back-to-back rounds you can see," DiMarco said.

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.

Then came the back nine, where Toms won five straight holes and took a 6-up lead into the break.

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."


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