NEWPORT BEACH — At the 17th Toshiba Classic many saw Nick Price, a three-time major winner, do his best to maintain a first-round five-shot lead.
In the ropes, if they looked closely and heard him speak afterward, they would've seen a rebirth of a champion.
Price, a World Golf Hall of Famer who said he hit a low point in his career in his late 40s, said he feels like he's having fun again. Collecting the $255,000 winner's check Sunday at Newport Beach Country Club helped.
Holding off a pesky Mark Wiebe also did the trick.
Price, who shot an opening-round 11-under-par 60 — a career best that matched a Champions Tour record — finished what he started. He shot 68, just as he did Saturday, to win the Toshiba Classic at 17-under 196, one shot lower than Wiebe (65-65-67).
Joe Ozaki (68-64-67) of Japan and Michael Allen (69-64-66) finished tied for third at 14 under. Fred Couples (66-67-67), the defending champion, tied for fifth at 13 under with 2006 Toshiba champion Brad Bryant (65-70-65) and Robert Thompson (68-66-66), who qualified for the tournament on Monday. Mark O'Meara (65-67-69—201), a fomer Costa Mesa City champion who grew up in Orange County, finished tied for eighth with three others.
Price's wire-to-wire triumph was his fourth Champions Tour victory and his third win in the last 11 months on the 50-and-older tour.
Equipment changes have aided him along the way, but the 18-time PGA Tour winner said his mentality has also been a huge asset.
That wasn't the case before. While he enjoyed great success and a No. 1-in-the world-ranking in the 1990s, Price said he saw his game fall apart at 47 and for the following three years.
He said he couldn't keep up with all the changes in golf.
"I felt, at 47, I was being left behind," Price said. "The worst thing about those two or three years before you get [on the Champions Tour], you feel like you are treading water … trying not to drown."
But the native of Zimbabwe has rediscovered his game a bit at 54.
"I don't know how many more years I've got left," he said. "I want to win four or five times out here. I want to win a major or two … I still have a competitive instinct and drive in me that I want to win. That's what gets me to the practice tee every day when I got to practice. When I get on the airplane and have to leave my family, the only thing is the light at the end of the tunnel is that I got a chance to win. I'm not coming here just to make a check. That ain't going to work."
In addition to battling Wiebe, Price said he also took on the stress of dealing with such a big lead after the first round.
Wiebe nearly added to Price's fears when he came within inches of forcing a playoff on the par-five, 510-yard 18th. Wiebe missed a 14-foot putt for birdie.
"I had no doubt it was going in and somehow it just didn't go in," Wiebe said. "It was breaking right in like it was going to go in the middle. It just slipped underneath the hole."
Price's finish wasn't dramatic or even spectacular. He hit into the bunker near No. 18 on his second shot. He flubbed a shot onto the green and then missed a 22-foot putt. But par was enough to win.
Price's ball striking — he hit 37 of 42 fairways and onto 16 of 18 greens and had just two bogeys in 54 holes — was also enough to hold off Wiebe.
Wiebe started the round two shots back, but he got to within one stroke four times on Nos. 3, 5, 13 and 15. Wiebe missed an eight-foot birdie putt that would've put him within one of Price on No. 14.
Price actually had a three-shot lead after a birdie on No. 10, but bogeyed No. 12 to open the door for Wiebe again.
But Wiebe, seeking his first victory on the Champions Tour since 2008, could never catch Price. Neither had a birdie over the final three holes.
"I just felt like if I could just chink away, [but] Nick is such a fantastic ball striker, fantastic," Wiebe said. "I mean, there is really not that many opportunities to capitalize because he is in the fairway and he is on the green. … It was just a long day."
The Toshiba Classic raised $1 million for charity. This year, the money went to the Mary & Dick Allen Diabetes Center at Hoag Hospital.
Lee Trevino, 71, playing in his only event on the Champions Tour this year, finished tied for 56th at one-over par.
Greg Hopkins, a Newport Beach resident who owns Cleveland Golf, finished 80th, last in the tournament.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times