David Toms tees off for his final round on Sunday. After starting slowly, he birdied six of the last 10 holes to win by four shots. Credit: Kevin Fitzgerald

After surviving a competitive maelstrom in the midst of Sunday’s final round of the PGA Tour Champions Galleri Classic at the Mission Hills Country Club, David Toms stood at the 18th tee with a three-shot lead—and only the par-5 final hole between him and his second victory in five 2023 starts

Playing conservatively but beautifully he rolled in a birdie putt to match the score of 65 that he posted in round 1 on Friday leaving him at 16 under par, four shots in front of runner-up Steven Alker.

Retief Goosen injected some much-needed suspense into the tourney as he roared out of the gate on Sunday, posting birdies on nine of his first 12 holes and taking a three-shot lead. But just as quickly as Goosen had caught fire in the morning, he lost that momentum in face of Toms’ back-nine comeback. Goosen finished with a 65 that tied Tom’s round of the day—enough for a third-place tie at 11-under.

“I saw Retief got off to a great start, had a really hot round. … It’s good that you have to go out and play well to win, not back into it,” Toms told the media post-round. “I was able to do that on the back nine. I knew I needed to play a good nine holes. I played the back nine a lot like I did the first day, and that’s really what separated me from the rest of the field.”

Toms said he “really felt calm the last four, five holes. I’m sure winning earlier in the season had a lot to do with that, and even there on 18, there’s water all over the place, and I got up and striped it right down the middle.”

Goosen summed up his day by saying, “I haven’t made any putts for two weeks, and then finally, today, I started making a few early on. Yeah, got it going nicely. It’s disappointing about the finish. … I think when I was driving to the course this morning, I was thinking if I could shoot 10 under, I’ve got a pretty good chance. I could have shot 10 under if I didn’t mess up coming in.”

While no official attendance figures have been released for the three-day tournament, a lot of seats in the grandstands around the 18th green remained open. While the leaders and tour favorites attracted spectator galleries of a respectable size, the Dinah Shore Tournament Course grounds felt far from crowded.

While Toms declined to follow the tradition—long established during the recently departed LPGA tour stop here—of the winner launching themselves into Poppie’s Pond to celebrate, he expressed optimism about this new stop on the PGA Tour Champions schedule

“I think what you saw is you saw some good crowds out there, people interested,” he said. “This is a great time of year to be here. A lot of us still live in places where the weather’s very unpredictable, so it’s nice to be here. … We had a great sponsor, and I think most guys will tell you the golf course is hard to get in any better condition than the golf course we played. So you put all that together and I think guys will continue to come back here. And the guys that didn’t come, they will be here just because the word will get out on what a nice event it was, and how good the golf course held up.”

Kevin Fitzgerald is the staff writer for the Coachella Valley Independent. He started as a freelance writer for the Independent in June 2013, after he and his wife Linda moved from Los Angeles to Palm...