Australian Rodger Davis returns as the defending champion after his four-stroke victory over Larry Nelson gave him his first Champions Tour title. Davis set a 36-hole tournament record during the first two rounds (64-65 — 129) and narrowly missed . The win gave Davis victories on five continents -- Australia, Africa, Asia, Europe and North America.
Dana Quigley is scheduled to play in his 225th consecutive event — a span of more than six years — and will make his 239th straight appearance for which he's been eligible when he tees it up next Friday in the first round of the Toshiba Senior Classic. Quigley led the tour last year in birdies (381) and tied for second in rounds in the 60s (41). He has won at least one tour event the last four years.
Hale Irwin currently has a streak of 10 straight rounds in the 60s at Newport Beach Country Club and is the only two-time winner of this event. He's been among the top 10 in five of eight appearances in Orange County and is a cumulative 65-under-par at NBCC. Irwin holds the course record with 62 in the final round of the 1998 event, and has a scoring average of 68.17. He's also the event's leading money-winner with $674,099.
Fuzzy Zoeller has been among the top 15 in three of his first four events in 2004, including a season-opening victory at the MasterCard Championship and a tie for third at the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am. Zoeller made 11 birdies in the final round of the Outback event in Tampa, Fla., and flirted with a sub-60 round before settling on a career-best and TPC of Tampa Bay course-record-tying 61. For his outstanding play, Zoeller was voted as the Champions Tour's Player of the Month for January/February. He will join Chi Chi Rodriguez and defending champion Rodger Davis at the Champions Breakfast at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Newport Beach Marriott in Fashion Island.
Japan's Hajime Meshiai will waste little time from his 50th birthday to his first Champions Tour start. The 11-time winner on the Japan Golf Tour turns 50 today and will tee off in the first round next Friday. Meshiai earned a full-exemption on the Champions Tour for 2004 by finishing third at last fall's National Qualifying Tournament in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. His best finish on the PGA Tour was a tie for 29th at the 1988 Honda Classic. Last year, Andy Bean made his Champions Tour debut at the Toshiba Senior Classic and finished tied for 26th.
Jerry Pate, Ed Fiori, D.A. Weibring, Craig Stadler, Mark McNulty, Sam Torrance and Mark James will all make their tournament debuts this year.
Paul Hahn, the head pro at NBCC since 1995, turned 50 on Feb. 11 and received a sponsor's exemption to play in this year's tournament.
At 6,584 yards, NBCC is the shortest course for an official event on the 2004 Champions Tour schedule. Last year, the par-71 layout played to a stroke average of 70.3 after the field averaged 70.4 in 2002. In both years, the par-3 eighth hole was the most difficult (3.266 in 2003 versus 3.233 in 2002). The easiest hole both years has been the par-5 15th (4.46 in /2003 versus 4.522 in 2002).
Three of the last five Toshiba Senior Classic champions claimed their first Champions Tour victories at this event. Gary McCord collected his first title in a playoff in 1999. Jose Maria Canizares defeated Gil Morgan in extra holes at the 2001 tournament. Last year, Rodger Davis won his first tournament after turning 50 in Newport Beach.
In the previous nine tournaments, including three of the last four years, only four players who have led or been tied for the lead after 36 holes have gone on to win the event. Jim Colbert was the first in 1996, followed by Allen Doyle in 2000, Hale Irwin in 2002 and Rodger Davis last year. Doyle's victory came when the final round was rained out. Four first-round leaders/co-leaders have also gone on to win — Jim Colbert (1996), Bob Murphy (1997), Gary McCord (1999) and Jose Maria Canizares (2001).
There has been just one hole-in-one in this event and that came in 2002 when Sammy Rachels aced the 13th hole with a six-iron.
Few players have enjoyed the success Tom Kite has had in California. Kite has a total of nine wins in the state, including the 1992 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach to go with three victories on the Champions Tour. Kite last won on the Champions Tour at the 2002 Napa Valley Championship in Northern California.