Over his long and illustrious career, one that includes 13 PGA Tour wins and the 2001 PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club, David Toms has never gotten off to the sort of start he’s enjoying this season on the PGA Tour Champions.

Toms already has won twice on the senior circuit, banking nearly $1 million over the first eight events, and is No. 2 on the Charles Schwab Cup standings. So his first-round 7-under 65, which has him sharing the lead with Stephen Ames at the Mitsubishi Electric Classic at TPC Sugarloaf in Duluth, comes as no surprise.

“I never really played great on the West Coast, and I never won a tournament in Florida on the Tour, so it’s got to be exactly what it is – it’s just a really good start,” Toms said. “I enjoy playing out here. This is where we all belong, where we all enjoy playing.”

Toms hit 18 greens in regulation and 13 of 14 fairways Friday while recording his bogey-free round. Toms, never known as a long hitter, was proud that he was able to reach two of the par-5s in two shots, even though he was unable to birdie either of them.

“Just a lot of good golf,” Toms said. “A lot of balls in the fairway. A lot of balls on the green, and I made a couple putts. I missed my share, but all-in-all, it was just a good solid round.”



The same thing can be said of Ames, who won the Mitsubishi Electric Classic in 2017. He hit 17 of 18 greens in regulation and birdied three of the four par-5s. Plus, he made some putts, which didn’t happen last week when he tied for ninth at the Insperity Invitational in Houston.

“I hit the ball very nicely and gave myself some opportunities,” Ames said. “And when I hit the green, it was close. This week I made some putts, which was nice.”

The turnaround with the putter has been the big difference. He didn’t change putters. He didn’t change grips. He just found a surface he likes and began knocking them in.

“I’ve been hitting the ball extremely well and just couldn’t get the ball going into the hole,” Ames said. “Houston was very much like that. I was third in greens hit, 20th in fairways hit and 72nd in putting. The difference today was I made some putts.”

Tied for third at 6-under 66 were 2009 PGA champion Y.E. Yang, two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen, Ken Tanigawa and Rod Pampling. Former Mitsubishi Electric winners Angel Miguel Jimenez and Bernhard Langer are tied with Paul Goydos for seventh place at 5 under. Defending champion Steve Flesch opened with a 1-under 71.

Toms opened with a 65 last year, too. He had a two-shot lead entering the final round and shot 70, allowing Flesch to catch him with a closing 65.

“I remember Steve played really well and came from behind,” Toms said. “I felt like I didn’t lose the golf tournament, but I just didn’t win it. And that’s usually the way it is on Sunday out here. With three rounds (instead of four) a lot of people are close, so even if you’re the leader, you’ve got to go out and win the tournament.”

Toms enjoys playing in Georgia, even though there’s too much red-and-black for his purple-and-gold LSU sensibilities. He won his lone major here and the 1999 Buick Challenge at Callaway Gardens was his second victory on the PGA Tour.

“The grasses are similar to where I live, and I wouldn’t say the terrain – you know, an anthill is an elevation in Louisiana – but I’ve always just enjoyed coming here,” Toms said. “I used to like to drink the sweet tea, too, but my wife won’t let me drink that anymore. Now that I’ve gotten old I try to stay away from it. But I’ve always enjoyed coming to the Atlanta area.”

Jimenez provided the shot of the day when he aced the 179-yard par-3 16th hole with a 7-iron. After seeing the ball disappear into the cup, the Spaniard executed a spot-on Chi Chi Rodriguez-inspired sword-in-scabbard routine, high-fived his caddie and playing partners, then broke into a little dance move before walking up to retrieve the ball.

Langer, who won the first Mitsubishi Electric Classic in 2013, could make history this week. A win would be the 46th of his senior career and break the mark he shares with Hale Irwin. Langer, 65, already has a win this season and has won at least one tournament each year since joining the PGA Tour Champions.