For the fourth time in it's history, the Atlanta Athletic Club's Highland Course will play host to a major championship this week with the PGA Championship. This course has seen Jerry Pate walk away with the U.S. Open in 1976, Larry Nelson with a Wanamaker Trophy in 1981 and of course, the last time the course held a major, in 2001 when little-known David Toms took down Phil Mickelson. Let's relive the last time this course has played host to one of the big four, and see just what Toms did to win his first and only major.
You'd be joking to say back in 2001 that David Toms was on your short list of people with a good shot at Atlantic Athletic Club. A five-time winner at the time, including the Compaq Classic in May of that same year, Toms had finished in the top-10 in just two majors at that point and had missed the cut in three of his previous four PGA Championships. But everyone knew Toms to be one of the best putters on tour, and when greens are slick and testy, confidence in the putter is as important as 320-yard drives.
Interesting enough, Toms had beaten Phil Mickelson earlier that season in New Orleans and would eventually meet the majorless Lefty in the final group, but that was well before Toms took full advantage of great conditions in Atlanta, posting opening rounds of 66-65-65, giving him a two-shot lead over Mickelson heading into Sunday.
That was incredible, but maybe the most remembered golf shot from this 2001 major was on the 15th hole (video above), when Toms hit a 5-wood on the lengthy par-3 that rolled up the flag, back down and dropped in for an ace, giving him a boost and one of the greatest shots in the history of golf.
It was great, but was it as clutch as what we saw with Toms on Sunday? A shot up on Mickelson with one hole to go, Toms found his ball in a strange lie on the 18th hole, guarded by water, and decided to lay-up instead of go for it, paving the way for people like Zach Johnson later in life. Toms hit to a comfortable distance, pitched his third shot to 20 feet and after Mickelson's birdie bid rolled just outside the cup, Toms sank his, pumping both fists and giving him one of the greatest and gutsiest decisions in this tournament's history.
Some people get handed major championships, but Toms won this one with great play and an incredible par on the last. It is still his only major title, but it wasn't a fluke; not even two months after his PGA Championship win, Toms added a third title to his '01 season with a defense at the Michelob Championship at Kingsmill.
- David Toms
- Atlanta Athletic Club