Price primed to defend

When Nick Price won the Toshiba Classic last year there were two firsts he achieved.

Now he's looking to accomplish another first at the 18th annual Toshiba Classic. Price will try to be the tournament's first repeat winner when the first of three rounds begin Friday at Newport Beach Country Club, where the pro-am began Monday.

Price, who arrives Wednesday, will gladly take the same first-round score he had in 2011. He shot an 11-under-par 60, a Champions Tour, Toshiba Classic and course record. It was the first time in Price's impressive career that he shot a 60.

Price's victory at Newport Beach was also his first on poa annua greens, he said.

Price said he fought off nerves last year because he knew he had never won on a course with that type of grass.

The first-round score also resulted in some anxiety for the 55-year-old Hall of Famer.

"When you play that well in the first round, everyone hands you the tournament," said Price, an 18-time PGA Tour winner, who was the World No. 1-ranked player in his prime. "There was a lot of pressure for me in that regard. You feel like a fool if you end up not winning. The rest of the week, I played very smart golf … I was really happy that I used my head the last two rounds."

Price's Toshiba win was his fourth on the Champions Tour. He never really found success until his third year on the Champions Tour. He had had three victories in 2010. He said equipment changes helped.

Also when he started to win, that helped his confidence. He has always had a fun approach toward the Champions Tour. He said he enjoys playing with sponsors in the pro-am and making sure they receive a worthwhile experience.

It's totally different from his days on the PGA Tour, but he's having fun.

"I just feel that when you don't play so well on this tour, it's not the biggest deal in the world," Price said. "The tour has such a nice atmosphere. Generally speaking, the guys are just appreciative to be out there … You can still make money on this tour. The real goal is to compete well and win. When you have a second chance like this, you appreciate it. I feel so happy that people want to watch me play."

This year, Price's best finish in three tournaments came at the Allianz Championship in Boca Raton, Fla. He finished tied for seventh last month.

Price still plays on the PGA Tour when it fits his Champions Tour schedule. He tried to play in the Mayakoba Golf Classic Feb. 22-26. But he withdrew after one round because of a stomach virus he described as violent.

"I lost 10 pounds in three days," Price said. "I never had anything like that before."

But Price said he feels much better now.

"I'm doing quite a bit to get ready for Toshiba," Price said.

He said the days leading up to the first round will be low key, as he'll play the pro-am and dine with family and friends. But he wants to turn it up during tournament play. He wants to be a part of another first.

Twitter: @SteveVirgen

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