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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The real dirt on Toms' first practice round

Toms arrived just before noon at Medinah and headed straight to the range with teacher Rob Akins. Toms was having some difficult hitting the ball solid to begin his session, but he's still trying to work the kinks out from missing six weeks after the U.S. Open.

Some of the Cleveland Golf guys convinced Toms to hit one of the new Cleveland hybrids, but after one swing Toms said it was "too heavy" and quickly gave it back.

On the second hole, a 191-yard par-3, Toms hit his first shot right of the hole, but stiffed his second attempt. As he walked off the tee, a fan shouted "use the second swing."

Toms retorted, "That's usually how it is. My 'A' player is better than my 'B' player.

Walking to the third tee box, Toms passed on several autographs, for good reason, though. If he would have signed every hat, flag and pad put in front of him, it might have taken 7 hours to play. However, one kid had an LSU cap. Bingo, Toms said he'd sign that!

Toms had some loyal followers Tuesday. Some girls from the Southern Illinois University golf team decided to follow the former LSU star beginning at No. 8. They were quite vocal all day, screaming for several of Toms' quality shots. They followed closely until Toms' birdied the 13th hole. They shouted "Go Tigers" as they headed for their cars.

Check to see how Toms plays the 11th and 16th holes this week. Both holes call for a big draw off the tee and right now Toms doesn't have that.

"I can't play this hole, can't I just skip this one," Toms said after having trouble finding a good place in the fairway on the 438-yard, par-4 11th.

No. 16, is 453 yards and requires the same effort off the tee.

Toms had what had to be one of the best shots of the day en route to his birdie on the 244-yard 13th. It was that lucky 5-wood -- the one he made the hole-in-one with at the 2001 PGA -- that left him just 8 feet from the cup. Toms hit another spectacular shot on Medinah's final par 3, the 197-yard 17th. It's one of the most beautiful and challenging short holes in the game of golf -- and one of three par 3s that force a shot over Lake Kadijah.

After Toms finished his solid round, he headed toward the incredible clubhouse and the Champions Dinner.


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