When David Toms tees off in this week's PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club, many of the fans watching him will have vivid memories of how he finished to win the title in 2001 when the major was last played here.

Toms famously laid up on the final hole before hitting a sand wedge into the green, and he then needed to sink a testing 12-footer for par to beat fellow American Phil Mickelson by one shot.

There were plenty of groans from the crowd crammed around the par-four 18th that Sunday afternoon when Toms decided to lay up, though none of them would have known the Louisiana native had no other option.

"I was about a yard through the fairway and I was in some light Bermuda rough," Toms recalled of his position off the tee on the final hole, 234 yards from the pin. "But I was on the side hill with a downhill lie.

"The ball was going to come out low out of the rough, and I had to hit it over water with the bunkers behind. I really needed a seven-wood, which a lot of guys were carrying at the time. That was kind of a popular club during late '90s, early 2000s, but I didn't have one."

All week, Toms had said he would not be embarrassed to lay up on 18 and avoid the daunting water hazard guarding the front of the green. With a maiden major title on the line, he and his caddie discussed their options.

"We're like, 'What's the best way to make four?', because that's what I had to do," Toms recalled. "Said, 'Well, we need to lay up, and not only do we need to lay up, we need to play up to a good yardage.

"We don't want a half wedge in there and we don't want too long of a shot.' I had a full 60-degree sand wedge in. It couldn't have been any better as far as the way I laid it up in a good spot."

As it happened, Toms did not hit a very good approach from 84 yards and he then had to watch Mickelson, who was one stroke behind playing the last, line up a 25-foot birdie putt.

Mickelson's attempt stopped inches short of the cup, however, and Toms, relieved and nervous at the same time, eyed his 12-footer to seal victory.


He took a couple of deep breaths before turning to his caddie, Scott Gneiser, and said: "These are the putts you're supposed to make to win a major, especially your first one."

Seconds later, he duly delivered in champion style.

"That putt was perfect," Toms told reporters while preparing for this week's PGA Championship. "It was downhill left-to-right, which is not the easiest putt in the world, but just the kind you have to get started.

"You don't have to hit it very hard, you just get it started on line, and I did that."

A closing 69 earned Toms a one-shot victory, and a 15-under total of 265 which was the lowest of all time in the majors. He also ended Tiger Woods' two-year reign as PGA champion.

Toms has since gone on to win a further seven PGA Tour titles, including the prestigious WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in 2005, but joining the elite company of major winners was a defining moment in his career.

"It does something for your insides," he said with a smile. "At lot of tournaments now announce you on the first tee, 'Hey, 13 victories, including the 2001 PGA Championship'.

"Every time they say that and you're playing with guys who are players who might have won the same amount of times and they don't have one, it's just an elite group.

"There are not too many guys out here that have played as long as me that have one, and certainly in the time of Tiger winning every third one or something, it's been a tough thing to do."

When Toms is introduced on the first tee before Thursday's opening round, he will be in illustrious company. His playing partners for the first two days are Mickelson and Fijian Vijay Singh, a twice former PGA champion.