David Toms is one of the most successful American golfers of his generation. He’s collected 13 PGA Tour victories, including the 2001 PGA Championship; played on three Ryder Cup teams; and, over a career spanning nearly 25 years, amassed a little under $40million in prize money.
And yet, if he’s named on Thursday as Davis Love’s successor to the Ryder Cup captaincy, there remains a sense the decision will have owed more to his inoffensiveness and political good fortune than golfing pedigree.
Though the 45- year-old looks a logical choice (he ticks a number of the relevent boxes), and his candidacy appears to have built momentum on that basis, it’s difficult to find a Toms partisan.
His rivals for the post, Larry Nelson and Tom Watson, have each succeeded in inspiring greater enthusiasm, albeit on a more limited scale.
Of course, there’s a danger in allowing Toms’ public persona — that of a polite and diffident Southern gentleman — to obscure his shrewdness and tenacity as competitor, qualities that have marked both his greatest personal successes and seven team appearances.
He’s perennially underrated; dismissed, somewhat perversely, on the basis of his phenomenal longevity and quiet commercial success.
If Watson — currently rumoured to have received a phonecall from PGA representatives (a courtesy yet to be extended Toms) — or Nelson should win selection at the Louisiana native’s expense this week, will he have been dealt a gross injustice?
The answer to that question, I suppose, depends on how willing you are to place faith in qualities he has yet to exhibit publicy. That, of course, and the extent to which you consider recent trends a legitimate measure of worthiness.
*UPDATE* Insider sources suggest a Toms success is looking doubtful. Smart money’s on Tom Watson, apparently.
[*Ed. Note: Last week at the Australian Open, Watson welcomed the idea of captaining the next Ryder Cup team: “It would be a great honor if I got tapped on the shoulder. ’93 was the last time I’ve been to a Ryder Cup. I’d like to go back as captain. That would be cool.” –SW]