- The Washington Times - Monday, September 19, 2005

LAKE MANASSAS, Va. — Despite last week’s health scare at the 84 Lumber Classic, U.S. veteran David Toms was among the first wave of players to arrive at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club yesterday in preparation for this week’s sixth edition of the Presidents Cup.

Toms collapsed with a rapid heartbeat during the first round of last week’s PGA Tour event outside Pittsburgh and had to be rushed via ambulance to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The 38-year-old Toms was diagnosed with supraventricular tachycardia, a problem with the electrical system in the upper chamber of his heart, and postponed a procedure to repair the problem permanently so he could play for captain Jack Nicklaus and the United States this week.

“It was definitely a little spooky, but I feel back to normal now,” said Toms, who will be taking medication to control the problem until undergoing the procedure. “I played 18 holes today, and I’m really not too worried about it anymore.”

A native of Shreveport, La., Toms had experienced a chaotic month courtesy of Katrina even before last week’s mayhem and is looking forward to concentrating on golf this week.

“It’s been a busy month. Our home and family was fine, but there are so many people that I know personally that were hit [by Katrina] that it really puts things in perspective,” Toms said.

Toms’ presence and attitude is certainly a response to those who claim U.S. players aren’t properly committed to the event.

“I do think it says a lot about what this event means to us as players, but I think it also says a lot about David Toms and what kind of person he is,” fellow U.S. player Fred Couples said.

Players have a say

Like Nicklaus, International boss Gary Player intends on polling his players before putting together his pairings, weighing their preferences “every bit as much or more” than his instincts. When asked whether he would have partnered Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson together as Hal Sutton did with disastrous results (0-2) at last year’s Ryder Cup, the demonstrative Player erupted:

“No, sirrreee. That would have been the last thing that I would have done. But I hope Jack does it again this week.”

Fred is easily coupled

Speaking of pairings, one of the primary reasons Nicklaus selected Fred Couples with one of his wild-card pairings is that the affable 45-year-old veteran is one of the most popular players in the game among his peers and easily could partner with anyone on the U.S. roster. The hero of the first two Presidents Cups, both of which also were held at RTJ, Couples is that rarest of commodity in team match play events — a player with both an easy demeanor capable of relaxing his partner and a serious game capable of producing brilliant shots in the clutch.

Couples knocked out then-No. 1 Nick Price (1-up) in the 1994 singles by nearly holing an approach to the 17th green and then dropped Vijay Singh (2 and 1) in the anchor match of the 1996 event, rolling home a 30-foot birdie bomb at the 17th to provide the final salvo in a 16½-15½ U.S. victory.

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