David Toms tops PGA Tour Champions’ debut Galleri Classic
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David Toms tops PGA Tour Champions’ debut Galleri Classic

A photo of golfer David Toms David Toms looks down the 18th fairway while he waits to tee off during the final round of the Galleri Classic in Rancho Mirage, Calif., Sunday, March 26, 2023.

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Tying a dominating bow on the PGA Tour Champions inaugural Galleri Classic on Sunday, David Toms went wire-to-wire with bookend 65s to author a four-shot win over the tour’s reigning Player of the Year, Steven Alker.

Despite Toms’ substantial victory margin and 16-under winning tally, Sunday at Mission Hills Country Club wasn’t sans drama.

Seemingly swinging for the course tournament record of 62 twice shot (Lorena Ochoa and Lydia Ko) across 51-years of the desert’s since-departed Chevron Champion at Mission Hills, two-time major champion Retief Goosen entered Sunday undeterred by a five-shot deficit to Toms.

By virtue of going 9-under in his first dozen holes -- including of birdies on seven of eight holes between Nos. 5-12 – the South African grabbed a three-shot edge on the leaderboard as he headed to his final seven holes.

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And yet, a stunted Goosen close, in concert with a Toms finish that featured three birdies on his final four holes, narrated the final outcome.

“When I was driving to the course this morning, I was thinking, ‘You know, if I could shoot 10-under, I’d have a pretty good chance,’” said Goosen, who finished in a tie for 3rd after bogeying two of his final four holes. “And I could have shot 10-under if I hadn’t messed-up coming in.”

After a booming, albeit askew tee shot on the par-5 home hole, Goosen (who hit just six fairways on Sunday) didn’t hesitate to for an eagle try to the island green despite a cut lie from the rough.

“It was always going to be reachable. It was a 5 or a 6-iron. I was thinking 6, my caddie was thinking 5,” Goosen added of his eventual par on the dramatic 18th. “And then he said, ‘How about just laying it up?’ But I thought that I had to give it a go.”

Finishing in a tie for 3rd with Goosen at 11-under was the event’s first alternate, Paul Stankowski, while a five-way tie for 5th featured Vijay Singh, Padraig Harrington, Miguel Angel Jimenez and a share of 10-under between brothers-in-law Steve Stricker and Mario Tiziani.

The twin 65s from Toms were matched only by the Sunday showings from both Goosen and Billy Andrade.

Unofficially replacing the LPGA’s longstanding event at Mission Hills’ Dinah Shore Tournament Course proved an instant hit for the desert demographic, with three-deep galleries eager to watch a field of legends that included 10 World Golf Hall of Famers.

While not himself among the enshrined, Toms -- a 13-time PGA Tour winner and victor of the 2001 PGA Championship – earned his fourth career Champions win (including capture of the Cologaurd Classic earlier this month) with a superb driving accuracy generally required to conquer the Dinah; across the week, Toms hit 33 of 42 fairways (78.5%) to lead the field.

“It is tough to go wire-to-wire,” Toms said after the victory. “You come do this (with the media) every day, talk about your round and come back the next day where you’re kinda’ the target as the frontrunner. You have all these guys chasing you who have won all these golf tournaments; it makes it tough, but also makes it feel even better when you get it done.”

As a point of compare with the longstanding, former ladies’ event on the nuanced grounds, Toms’ four-shot win margin served as a number bested but six times across more than a half-century of LPGA play.

“There are holes out there where you knew that par was a good score, and that you have to take advantage of the scoring opportunities,” added Toms of the Dinah. “I heard some guys talking before the round today about a couple of the disasters they had on the course, couple of O.B.s and things like that, and I was just like, ‘Please don’t talk about that.’

While the LPGA’s memory has been replaced by a welcome new Tour, the ladies’ singular history in the SoCal desert wasn’t overlooked by the men’s 50-plus set.

“It’s good, good to be where the girls were,” concluded Rocco Mediate, who finished the Galleri in a tie for 10th. “And the history here, it’s cool as hell. Walking up the 18th, seeing the Dinah (statue), the Wall of Champions it’s neat, a really cool spot. I hope we’re doing the ladies justice, because they certainly gave us some beautiful stuff to watch.”

About the author

Judd Spicer

Judd Spicer

Judd Spicer is an award-winning writer, co-host of The Press Box radio show on ESPN 103.9 FM-Palm Springs and contributing columnist to The Desert Sun newspaper. A Minnesota native, he relocated to the Palm Springs area in 2011 to pursue his Champions Tour dream. Sporting suspect accuracy off the tee, he refers to his 56-degree as his Magic Wand. Visit www.JuddSpicer.com or @JuddSpicer for more.