JOHNS CREEK, Ga.-- Ten Years After is a long-forgotten rock band remembered only when a sportswriter needs a spiffy lead about something that happened ten years ago. So familiarize yourself again with David Toms, ten years after he won the 2001 PGA here by famously laying up on the final hole, because he's threatening to do it again.
On Saturday he birdied the treacherous 18th hole. That, along with an eagle-birdie-birdie stretch on the front nine helped Toms shoot 65 and play his way into contention at the 2011 PGA Championship. He finished 54 holes at two under par before the leaders, Jason Dufner and Keegan Bradley, even teed off. Given that Atlanta Athletic Club has been doling out punishment like an evil pro wrestler, Toms might be closer to the lead by Saturday night than you think.
But why no layup on 18 ten years after the big one? "I had 150 yards, which is the perfect 5-iron for me, and the pin was back right so it was perfect for my little left-to-right shot," said Toms. "But the way the crowd ooh'ed and ahh'ed up there, I was glad to get over the water."
If Toms in contention here feels like "Groundhog Day," then so be it. Toms didn't ace the par-3 15th hole this time, like he did Saturday in 2001. "Halfway through the back nine when I was rolling pretty good, I walk up to 15 and there's the plaque right next to where we were teeing off and people were saying stuff about doing it again," Toms said. "You flash back to that time. There are a lot of memories, for sure. The golf course is different, much more demanding, so I have to play extremely well."
Friday, Toms hit a 3-hybrid at the 15th that landed short of the hole and rolled to the back bunker. Saturday, he played it just short of the green but his ball plugged in the grass and stopped.
"So it's been a tough hole for me so far," Toms said.
Apparently it is, but he practically owns the 18th, which he birdied on Saturday. "Maybe I concentrate well on the tee shot knowing that I have to hit a good one," he said. "That's really all there is. It's a tough hole and I'm not afraid to lay up. I've made 4 that way when it really mattered. I know if I don't hit a good tee shot, I'm going to lay up so maybe I free-wheel it a little bit there."
Ten years after, let's see if he can do an encore. (Photo: Matt Slocum/AP)