Robert Thompson let his putter carry him from qualifying for the 17th Toshiba Classic to a tie for fifth following Sunday's final round at Newport Beach Country Club.
Thompson scored a bogey-free final round to finish 13-under-par 200 (68-66-66), placing four shots behind tournament champion Nick Price. Price (17-under) finished one shot ahead of Mark Wiebe for his fourth Champions Tour title. Thompson, 2010 Toshiba champion Fred Couples and Brad Bryant all finished the tournament at 13-under.
Thompson's performance was his second-best in 23 events on the tour for golfers 50 and older. The Huntsville, Texas resident tied for fourth in the 2008 Turtle Bay Championship. He had to do some work earlier in the week to get into Friday's first round.
Thompson was one of two players to qualify for the Toshiba Classic following a 68 at Goose Creek Golf Club in Mira Loma on Monday. Thompson made a par on the fourth playoff hole to join P.H. Horgan III from a group of five golfers.
"I felt like I was playing two tournaments this week," Thompson said. "I hit the ball good [at the Toshiba Classic]. I like the golf course and had a decent finish."
"[Sunday] I hit it solid all day. On two or three greens I made good up-and-downs. I nicked a tree and was 20 yards short" on the par-four seventh. Then I was 2 ½ feet above the hole." Thompson made par on No. 7.
He birdied five holes Sunday, including the par-five 15th. Then Thompson checked the leaderboard to see where Price was at. Price led Thompson by four shots when Thompson was on No. 16. Thompson made par on his final three holes – he singled out a four-footer on the par-three 17th. He led the field of 80 finishers in putting average (25.3 putts per round).
The check for more than $70,000 is Thompson's second-largest Champions Tour payday.
With the Toshiba finish, Thompson qualifies for the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic April 1-3. Qualifying has been part of Thompson's professional life in the last four years.
He turned 50 in January 2007 and played in three Champions Tour events through 2008. In 2008 he earned medalist honors at the tour's national qualifying tournament and played 17 events in 2009.
He tallied four top-25 finishes in 2009, earning $206,996.
He made just two starts in 2010 and finished seventh in the tour's national qualifying tournament in November at TPC Eagle Trace in Coral Springs, Fla. He is not fully-exempt.
Thompson made 161 PGA Tour starts and 75 on the Nationwide Tour. His best professional finish was a tie for second in the Nationwide Tour's Ben Hogan Boise Open.
Thompson said the Newport Beach Country Club course's relative short length (6,584 yards) – the course is the second-shortest on the Champions Tour – helped.
"I'm a medium-length player, so I felt good," Thompson said. "I like the golf course.
"The golf course is tight. I drive the ball well and I'm usually a good iron player."
Thompson finished in a tie for 15th (70-69-69 – 208) in his prior Toshiba appearance in 2009.
Now it's back to Huntsville and preparing for Mississippi. Qualifying is taken care of.
When the group of Mark O'Meara, Michael Allen and Tom Pernice Jr. was on the third hole, the leaderboard looked like that from a late 1990s PGA Tour event. Price, then at 14-under, led Couples, Corey Pavin and O'Meara by three shots.
Price, Couples, O'Meara and Pavin have combined for 64 PGA Tour victories.
Price became the fourth wire-to-wire Toshiba champion and the first since Jay Haas claimed victory in 2007.
Russ Cochran tied for 12th following a seven-under 64 Sunday, the low final round. He eagled the par-five 15th hole to go with eight birdies, six pars and three bogeys. Cochran finished the tournament at 11-under (68-70-64 – 202). Cochran started the third round tied for 34th.
Cochran comes off two victories in 2010, his inaugural Champions Tour season.
He tallied 11 top-10 finishes last year.
BRYCE ALDERTON is the golf writer for the Daily Pilot. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.