NEWPORT BEACH – Many on the Champions Tour say they love to play the Toshiba Classic because it's in Newport Beach.
They enjoy the shops and restaurants nearby, and most of all they enjoy the sunny weather. The latter doesn't look as if it will hold up this weekend.
Some of the biggest names from golf's past will try to get in three rounds in the 18th Toshiba Classic at Newport Beach Country Club. First-round play begins Friday at 10 a.m. The first tee time has been moved up on Saturday to 8 a.m. because of the threat of heavy rain.
“It's such a tragedy,” Toshiba defending champion and Hall of Famer Nick Price said of the expected rain. “It's really sad because the weather has been great here the past two weeks. But c'est la vie. You can't do anything about it.”
If it does rain, and the tournament is shortened, the first round becomes much more important.
Last year, Price shot a career-best first-round 60, which is a Champions Tour, tournament and course record. The first-round score helped him win by one stroke over Mark Wiebe.
“[Friday], you're going to have to come out with guns blazing because Sunday looks foul,” Price said.
Price said he has been dealing with inconsistency. A recent stomach virus hasn't helped, but he's somewhat optimistic about the weekend.
“I'm hoping I can have three good days,” Price said. “I think we're all hoping we have three good days because of the forecast.”
Tom Watson, a 39-time winner on the PGA Tour, withdrew from the tournament after suffering a wrist injury during a practice round Tuesday.
Fred Couples, who won the Toshiba in 2010, is playing, as is Jay Haas, who won in 2007 and was the runner-up in 2008, when he lost in a seven-hole playoff to Bernhard Langer. Haas is the only player on the Champions Tour to have three top-10 finishes in as many starts this year.
“I've played well here in the past,” Haas said. “Without question it's one of my favorite places to play. Unfortunately, it looks like we are going to get some rain here. Hopefully, they're going to miss that prediction. But I just enjoy being here and I enjoy the golf course. It's a fun place to play.”
Tom Lehman also said he enjoyed the course but noted the “tricky” poa annua greens. Putting could be more challenging with the weather.
Peter Jacobsen avoided a putt altogether on the 203-yard, par-three No. 8 during the pro-am Wednesday. His hole in one has been a highlight this week.
Weather might scare spectators away. But there still should be a large gallery for the first-round grouping of Couples, Price and Langer, who tee off No. 1 at 12:09 p.m.
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