Television analyst and three-time major championship winner Nick Price went wire-to-wire to win the Toshiba Classic at the Newport Beach Country Club, his fourth Champions Tour title.
Price became only the fourth player to not relinquish a lead at the Toshiba Classic, holding off Mark Wiebe by a single stroke for the victory. Price and Wiebe were joined by Joe Ozaki in the final pairing on Sunday, where Wiebe had a chance to force a playoff, but missed a 12-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th.
Price stunned the field in Newport Beach when he opened up the tournament Friday with an 11-under 60, which tied the Champions Tour record. He finished the event with back-to-back 68s bringing his total for the tournament to an amazing 17-under-par. Jumping out to such a large lead early in the tournament put Price on edge, but he managed to stay the course.
“It’s quite stressful when you shoot 60 on the opening day and everyone you see, they tell you, ‘Oh, you are going to win. You’re going to win.’ You’re only a third of the way through the tournament,” Price said.
Last year’s champion and fan favorite Fred Couples had a good run as well, but came up five strokes short of last year’s 18-under-par, which coincidentally would’ve won the tournament this year as well.
Price birdied three of the first 10 holes in the final round to go to 17-under, followed by a bogey on the par-4 12th and a birdie on the par-3 13th. He then closed with five straight pars to finish off the wire-to-wire victory. Wiebe made birdies on Nos. 3 and 5 to close the gap to a single stroke with a chance to even things up but missed a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-4 7th.
Although Price wasn’t stellar with the putter, finishing the final round with 30 putts, he managed to hold off the surging Wiebe.
“My putter wouldn’t let me get away from the guys,” Price said. “I think the longest birdie putt I had on the front was 10 feet. I had 6- and 8-footers all over the place and I jiggled two in. I just couldn’t make a putt.”
Michael Allen played especially well in his 2011 Champions Tour debut by shooting all three rounds in the 60s and finishing 14-under, only three shots off the lead. Mark Calcavecchia also played well in his debut by finishing 10-under. Ian Baker-Finch, on the other hand, struggled in the first Champions Tour event of his career – shooting 74-79-74 to finish 78th in the 80-player field.
Perhaps foreshadowing the events that would transpire, Price chipped in for an eagle on the 18th during his opening round. He looked completely in control off the tee and with his approach shots the entire weekend.
“That’s the great thing in this game, it doesn’t happen too often, but when you are feeling in control of your long game, you can almost picture where you want to hit your iron shots,” Price said. “And if you are in between clubs, you take the club that you know there is very low risk and that’s what I did all of the last two days.”
Price managed to bank $255,000 for his winning effort, but the true heroics came in the form of $1 million produced by the Toshiba Classic that went to Hoag Hospital and the Mary and Dick Allen Diabetes Center.
Photos by Jim Collins