NEWPORT BEACH — With pleasant weather and ideal course conditions this week many predicted low scores for the 17th Toshiba Classic at Newport Beach Country Club.
Nick Price proved that, and then some on Friday.
The 18-time PGA Tour winner, who was the World No. 1 in his prime, shot an 11-under-par 60, matching a Champions Tour record for a round. His opening-round 60 was a career-best for the three-time major winner.
Fred Couples, Bernhard Langer and Mark O'Meara created quite a buzz at times during the first round. But Price came and stole the show. Seven birdies, two eagles and a bogey-free, record-tying round can usually grab the spotlight. Price firmly grasped the leading-man role with the 60.
He called it one of his best putting rounds. He ended it with an eagle on the par-five, 510-yard 18th. His 60 also tied a course record, and his 7-under 29 on the back nine also tied a course best. Tom Purtzer set both in 2004 when he went on to win the Toshiba Classic.
With a five-shot lead – which matches the largest first-round lead in Champions Tour's history – Price appears on his way to matching Purtzer as the champ. It would be the 54-year-old's fourth victory on the 50-and-older tour.
"I shot a couple of 61s which were 11-under, which is basically the same what I shot today," he said. "Sixty just sounds better to me. There was a flash in my mind when I eagled 15, I sort of thought to myself, if I birdie the last three holes I can break 60, which I've never done before."
Though Price ended on a high note with his eagle on the 18th, he said his shot of the day came on his other eagle, on the par-five 495-yard 15th. From 218 yards, he used a 2-iron on his approach shot that got him two feet from the pin.
Langer, the Champions Tour Player of the Year the past three years, as well as O'Meara, Mark Wiebe and Brad Bryant are five shots back, tied for second. Langer won here in 2008 and Bryant is the 2006 Classic champion.
Langer is coming off a victory at the ACE Group Classic in Naples, Fla. Feb. 20. During that same time, Couples finished tied for sixth at the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club.
Meanwhile, Price finished tied for third at the ACE Group Classic. Last week, he could've taken a break, like the others on the Champions Tour. But he played the PGA Tour's Honda Classic, where he finished tied for 55th, shooting nine-over 289.
He said that tournament took a lot out of him. But he found his groove Friday, which he credited some to changes in his equipment, including a blade belly putter instead of the mallet he had used.
"I'm really excited about my golf," Price said. "I said to someone last week at the Honda, if anyone had asked me when I was 34 if I was going to be having this much fun playing golf at 54, I would have called him a liar. It's very special out here and it's great fun to compete with these guys."