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Nick Price tears up Newport Beach with a 60

Price has a five-shot lead after one round of the Toshiba Classic after matching the best score in Champions Tour history.

March 11, 2011|By Steve Virgen
  • Nick Price waves to the gallery after an eagle on the 18th hole Friday during the first round of the Toshiba Classic at Newport Beach Country Club.
Nick Price waves to the gallery after an eagle on the 18th hole Friday during… (Jason Redmond / Associated…)

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 made that come true and then some Friday.

The 18-time PGA Tour winner, who was No. 1 in the world in his prime, shot an 11-under-par 60, matching a Champions Tour record and setting 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.

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 seven-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 history — Price, 54, appears on his way to his fourth victory on the 50-and-older tour.

"I shot a couple of 61s, which were 11-under, which is basically the same as 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 two-iron on his approach shot that got him two feet from the pin.

Langer, the Champions Tour player of the year the last three years, is five shots back, along with O'Meara, Mark Wiebe and Brad Bryant. Langer won here in 2008 and Bryant is the 2006 Classic champion.

Couples, the defending champion, shot a 66, tying with Andy Bean and David Peoples.

Langer is coming off a victory at the ACE Group Classic in Naples, Fla., on Feb. 20. During that same time, Couples finished tied for sixth at the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club.

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 in Florida, where he finished tied for 55th.

He said that tournament took a lot out of him. But he found his groove Friday, which he credited in part 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."

sports@latimes.com

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