NEWPORT BEACH — The sunny weather this week in Southern California has been great for the golf course at Newport Beach Country Club. Perfect timing, as the 17th annual Toshiba Classic begins Friday.
Lee Trevino took notice after playing in the Toshiba Classic Pro-Am Wednesday.
"I've never seen it better," said Trevino, who is playing in his 15th Classic, which is in its 17th year. "It is in the best condition I have ever seen it. The scores are going to be extremely low, I think, which will be good … It is immaculate. The fairways are the best I've ever seen, the greens. Just everything about it … This is one of the finest golf courses I've ever played."
Ron Benedict, in his 20th year as the NBCC golf course superintendent, says the course is in "good of shape as it's ever been."
"Last year was probably the best ever, quite frankly," he said Wednesday. "The rough this year isn't quite as consistent. We started out OK with the overseed. But it got real hot in November and the kikuyu [on the fairways and roughs] kind of climbed over it."
Benedict said the rain and cold temperatures didn't help the roughs.
"The rough is a little inconsistent but the fairways are perfect, the greens are really good," he said. "All in all I'm really happy with the golf course."
Most of the golfers on the Champions Tour enjoy the course, as well, it's one of the reasons the Toshiba Classic has remained at the NBCC for the past 16 years and it will go for least two more.
Tom Watson, who shot nine-under-par 62 in his final round last year, certainly likes the course.
"I've always enjoyed this golf course," the 39-time PGA Tour winner said. "It's the classic golf course. "It's a course that anybody can go out and play and get around the course without losing any golf balls."
Benedict said the weeks leading up to last year's tournament made the course attain its best condition. Fred Couples would certainly agree, as he won the Toshiba Classic.
Benedict says he hears all types of comments about the course during the tournament week.
"Look at their scorecards," Benedict somewhat joked. "It depends on the scorecard. If he shot a 65 he loved it. Shot a 77? They don't."
Mostly, Benedict receives feedback from tournament staff or officials on the Champions Tour, he said.
"I tend to stay away from the players," he said. "I do my best to go about what I do and let them do what they do. If they win, congratulations and we'll you again next year."
Ian Baker-Finch, making his Champions Tour debut at the Toshiba Classic, has been experiencing a wide range of emotions in his return to competitive golf.
Baker-Finch, the famous TV analyst who won the British Open in 1991, said he was apprehensive of how he would play this week.
In the weeks leading up to the Toshiba Classic Baker-Finch thought, "I hope I don't make a fool out of myself. I hope my golf is good enough that I can continue to enjoy myself and enjoy the experience."
In the past two weeks, Baker-Finch let those thoughts take over him, as he "had at least five different swing thoughts every day."
"I went from shooting an average of 68 every time I played to an average of 74 every time I played just in three or four weeks," he said.
Baker-Finch said he went back to doing what he had done in the past and he has gained positive thoughts. He expressed optimism, yet it was mixed with uncertainty.
Perhaps it's a good thing he's only playing four events on the Champions Tour. Or, maybe he'll score low this weekend.
His TV schedule keeps him busy, so no one would blame Baker-Finch for just having fun with this opportunity.
But he appears to be taking it serious, yet with some realistic expectations.
"… For me it's more of my first time out, just going and playing and see how I go and hopefuly be able to be comfortable enough to play like I know I can play," he said.
Watson said this is the final tournament he'll play in as he prepares for the Masters. At the Toshiba Classic he said he'll be using a new putting stroke.
"I've adjusted my arm position and my setup position," he said. "Basically I'm a little bit more behind the ball with my head. I'm not on top of it. I'm behind it. My right shoulder and right arm is closer to my body. I open my stance to get there. We'll see if it works."
Watson's best finish at the Toshiba Classic, came last year when he tied for fifth.
Toshiba Classic Pro-Am Results
Newport Beach Country Club (Par 71)
(Professional in bold)
Morning Flight, Low Net
1. Lonnie Nielsen, Michael Mathe, Richard Cucco, Rodolfo Paskvan, Leon Mordoh 52
2. Fuzzy Zoeller, Ray Appel, Bob Goon, Paul Folino, Mike Downey 53
3. Chip Beck, Alan Zuckerman, Richard Afable, Rick Norling, Alan Beyer 54
T4. Keith Clearwater, John Barry, Ralph Cimmarusti, Bruce Schwartz, Andy Moreno 55
T4. Mike McCullough, Ralph Bilyeu, Mike Coelho, Don Bumer, Jeff Shepherd 55
T4. John Morse, Bret Osborn, Gary Johnston, Jim Welsh, Bob Singsank 55
Afternoon Flight, Low Net
1. David Eger, Ron Clarke, Bob Murphy, Jim Worley, Tim Smith 51
T2. Frank Minoza, Simon Diaz, Jose Antonio Vargas, Hector Lara, Javier Narro 52
T2. Tom Jenkins, Cliff Cook, Terry Weiner, Hoyt Vanderpool, Mike Baghramian 52
4. Ian Baker-Finch, Jeff Johnson, Mark Simons, Jason Bonfig, Steven Guggenheimer 53
T5. Don Pooley, Don Milder, John Benner, Dick Allen, Brett Allen 54
T5. Keith Fergus, Tom Woods, Jeff Gorski, Eldridge Daniel, Steve Turnbow 54