Toms back at Pebble with Match Play on his mind

Toms back at Pebble with Match Play on his mind

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) — David Toms returned to the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am for the first time in seven years, partly because of a change in the schedule that put Pebble a week after his annual ski trip to Colorado with his family.

The other reason?

Toms is at No. 66 in the world ranking, and this is his last chance to qualify for the 64-man field in the Accenture Match Play Championship, where he is a past champion and has a nine-year streak of never losing in the first round.

He started the year at No. 116 in the world ranking, and already has moved up 50 spots on the strength of his tie for second at the Sony Open and a tie for fourth in the FBR Open.

“I’ve been able to play well knowing that I needed to,” Toms said Tuesday. “So that’s been very encouraging. I know if I go out and play well, that will take care of itself.”

It could be entirely up to him this week.

Of the dozen players on the bubble, the only ones playing this week are Pat Perez (No. 60), Dudley Hart (No. 63), Toms and D.J. Trahan (No. 70). Among those not playing anywhere in the world are Ryo Ishikawa, the 17-year-old from Japan who is at No. 64.

Only when the final field is set at Pebble and the Malaysian Open will it be clear what Toms needs to do.

Some players have not played the week of a qualifying deadline because it could help their ranking. Toms said he was told by the tour that his divisor would be reduced by one if he skipped Pebble, allowing for him to possibly move up. But that would depend on how other players performed ahead and behind him.

“I think there would be an outside chance if I didn’t play this tournament that I could make the top 64,” he said. “I don’t really know the scenarios. But I know if I play this tournament and I play well, I’ll get in.”

If Tiger Woods decides not to return at Match Play, the top 65 will qualify for the $8.5 million event. If he does play, and Toms gets the last spot at No. 64, that would be quite a first-round match.

“I just need to get in the field,” Toms said.


HONEST HAYES: J.P. Hayes was celebrated in the world of golf for his honesty late last year when he essentially disqualified himself in the second stage of Q-school upon discovering he might have used a golf ball that was a prototype and not on the approved list.

He already had lost his card, and by notifying officials of the mix-up, assured himself of losing his job.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote a story that soon reached millions. Hayes found himself getting interview requests on national radio and television shows, along with every major print outlet.

“I always thought that the next phone call was going to be the last, but it never stopped ringing for three days,” said Hayes, who estimated he took 300 phone calls. “I would say the response was overwhelming – a little bit embarrassing to be honest with you.”

Hayes was simply doing what he felt most players would have done.

There were some benefits. He immediately received sponsor exemptions from the John Deere Classic, U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee and the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, where he is making his 2009 start. Hayes also said he received exemptions to the HP Byron Nelson Championship and the Crowne Plaza Colonial.

But his greater act of honesty might have come during the media frenzy.

He said several businesses offered him money to speak to various groups on what he went through, money that would come in handy for a guy who lost his tour card last year.

“I was very careful to say ‘no’ to a lot of things where I might have profited from this,” he said. “I don’t think it was right. I don’t think I’m a spokesperson on ethics. People saw it for more than it was – more than for what I saw it.”


NOW ON THE TEE: PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem will be making his debut as a player this week in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, playing in the foursome with Davis Love III, Hunter Mahan and AT&T chairman Randall Stephenson.

David Toms can see one benefit from the commissioner stepping inside the ropes.

“It might be the only chance we have for this tournament to be moved to October,” Toms said with a laugh, referring to weather issues that have occasionally plagued Pebble.


LPGA PUBLICITY: The LPGA Tour gets under way this week in Hawaii, where Michelle Wie makes her debut as an LPGA member on her home island at a course where she tied for second as a 15-year-old.

According to the Sports Business Journal, the LPGA will not promote her any differently from the other 20 rookies. The commissioner, Carolyn Bivens, said Wie and the rookies will be promoted through “varied media outreach,” primarily local newspaper stories.

Wie had at least a share of the lead on the back nine of three majors in 2006, but injuries and poor scheduling sent her into a massive slump from which she finally recovered last year, earning her card with ease.

The Sports Business Journal said neither Nike or Sony are featuring their endorsement client in advertising. The Golf Channel, meanwhile, will use Wie to promote its live coverage of the tournament.

Meanwhile, the LPGA Tour has decided not to publish a media guide this year, saying it made a “strategic decision” to transfer the content online. By going to cyberspace, the tour said it could provide more updated information in a timely manner.

In an informal meeting two years ago, the Golf Writers Association of America objected to Bivens’ plan to do away with a media guide, citing the inability to get information when the Internet was not available, or the timeliness when the connection was slow.

DIVOTS: About the only championship site not announced at the USGA annual meeting last week was when the U.S. Women’s Open would be played at Pebble Beach, although course officials believe 2014 is the most logical year. … U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Amanda Blumenherst has declined her invitation to the Kraft Nabisco Championship, wanting to save her six exemptions for later in the year with hopes of avoiding Q-school.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Webb Simpson, a 23-year-old rookie, was the oldest player in his group during the third round of the Buick Invitational. He played with Jason Day (21) and Gregor Main (19), an amateur qualifier from UCLA.


FINAL WORD: “It was the first players meeting I ever attended that no one brought up pace of play.” – Kevin Sutherland, on a mandatory players meeting at Torrey Pines where the topic was sponsor and media relations.

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