|CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Ten years ago, David Toms etched his name in golf's record book, thanks in part to a particular shot struck with a fairway wood.
In the first round of the Wells Fargo Championship, he hit his fairway woods far more times than he would have preferred. But that didn't matter, as the 2003 champion fought his way to the top of the leaderboard during the morning wave at Quail Hollow Club.
Roughly half of the afternoon group of players had yet to tee off when Toms, winner of this tournament in its first year - when it was still called the Wachovia Championship - capped a 6-under-par 66 to join Jonathan Byrd as the clubhouse leaders midway through the opening round.
David Toms lines up a putt on the 12th hole at Quail Hollow. Toms, who won the inaugural Wachovia/Wells Fargo Championship in 2003, shot 66 to share the midday clubhouse lead with Jonathan Byrd.
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Toms carded four birdies between the sixth and 15th holes before finishing bogey-birdie on a Quail Hollow course that is playing 7,442 yards this week.
To Toms and others who teed off early Thursday morning when temperatures barely climbed into the 50s after an unseasonable overnight low of 41, the course seemed even longer than that.
"First of all, it was cold this morning, and I just hung in there, made a lot of pars, which, if you looked at the leaderboard in the first hour of the round, everybody was trying to make pars," said Toms, who opened with five straight pars after starting his round at 7:50 a.m.
"It started to warm up, and I birdied 6, eagled 7 and all of a sudden, I'm into the round and playing well. It was awfully long, that front nine this morning ... I hit wood four times into holes in regulation"Any time you're doing that, a golf course is playing long, especially for me.
“Even the guys I was playing with… Sergio (Garcia) made a comment he's never hit so many three irons in his life into par 4s."
Toms hit fairway-wood approaches into three par 4s, as well as the 248-yard par-3 sixth, on the front side alone. His yardages into holes three, four and nine were 218, 228 and 230 yards, respectively. Yet he played those four holes 1 under par, thanks to three pars and a birdie 2 from 16 feet at the sixth.
His fairway wood expertise recalled a certain tee shot he hit at Atlanta Athletic Club's Highlands Course on his way to the 2001 PGA Championship.
There, in the third round, he aced the 15th hole from 227 yards with a 5 wood before winning the title by a single shot over Phil Mickelson the following day.
It wasn't a fairway wood but a long iron that set up the eagle from just inside 5 feet at the 532-yard seventh and suddenly, he was 3 under. He added birdies at both back-side par 5s, holes 10 and 15, as well as the short par-4 14th, before dropping his only shot of the day at 17 when his tee shot came up short and right.
Toms rebounded with a birdie at the difficult, uphill finishing hole with a seven-iron to 21 feet. The closing "3" was five shots better than the quadruple bogey he made in the closing round here in 2003. Fortunately, in the inaugural Wachovia-now-Wells Fargo, Toms had a six-shot lead coming to 18, and his 10-under 278 total was still two shots better than that of a trio of players, including Vijay Singh, who would come back and win the tournament two years later.
"You know, as far as what's changed for me, I'm just older," Toms said, reflecting on his 2003 victory at Quail Hollow. "I probably hit the ball the same distance as I did then, what with the technology and everything. So the golf courses have gotten longer. This one certainly has gotten longer."
Despite the lengthy demands Quail Hollow places on a player like Toms, who averaged just 263 yards off the tee in the opening round, the course remains one of his favorites on Tour.
"I like it here, and I played great today," Toms said. "And hopefully, I can keep it up."
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