The field for the 2011 Toshiba Classic will boast¬ 23 former major champions and 16 players who own Champions Tour major titles. A total of nine members of the World Golf Hall of Fame will tee it up at Newport Beach Country Club for this week's tournament, which starts Friday.
Defending champion Fred Couples will return to Newport Beach, Calif., and defend the title he won with the second-best 54-hole score in the tournament's history. Couples will attempt to join Hale Irwin as the only golfers to win two Toshiba Classic titles.
Last year, Couples posted an impressive 18-under-par 195 in his third Champions Tour start to win by four shots. Last year Couples won four events, set the Champions Tour's new scoring average record (67.96), finished second to 2008 Toshiba Classic champion Bernhard Langer on the Champions Tour's 2010 money list and Charles Schwab Cup points standings, and was named Champions Tour Rookie of the Year.
Langer will be back. The German is in top form after winning the ACE Group Classic last month in record fashion. Also entered is John Cook, the Corona del Mar, Calif., resident and winner of the first event on the 2011 Champions Tour, the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai; Mark O'Meara, who grew up in Mission Viejo and owns two major championships; along with legends Tom Watson (eight majors and that memorable near-miss in the 2009 British Open) and 71-year-old Lee Trevino (six majors). Watson carded a final-round 62 last year and Trevino will be playing his only Champions Tour event of 2011.
First-time Toshiba Classic participants include former British Open champions Mark Calcavecchia and Ian Baker-Finch ¬- who is making his Champions Tour debut. Other "rookies" are Champions Tour major winner Michael Allen, Keith Clearwater, Bill Glasson, J.L. Lewis, Steve Lowery, Frankie Minoza, Lee Rinker and Rod Spittle.
Current Charles Schwab Cup leader Tom Lehman, who acquainted himself well in his Toshiba Classic debut last year by finishing T3, is entered along with Fred Funk, 2010 Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin, Tom Kite, Nick Price, Fuzzy Zoeller, Craig Stadler and Loren Roberts. All but Funk and Roberts (a two-time Charles Schwab Cup champion) own PGA Tour major championships.
The 65-year-old Irwin, the overall event money leader ($780,091 in 14 appearances), has the most victories in Champions Tour history (45) and is one of 10 former champions in the field. He joins Couples, Langer (2008), Jay Haas (2007), Brad Bryant (2006), Mark "Beerman" Johnson (2005), Tom Purtzer (2004), Allen Doyle (2000), Bob Murphy (1997) and Jim Colbert (1996).
Pavin, Lehman, Watson, Trevino, Kite, Ben Crenshaw, Curtis Strange, Hal Sutton and Dave Stockton all captained Ryder Cup squads. Stockton will compete in his 19th consecutive Toshiba Classic and is the only player in event history to play in every event. His best finish is a T2 in 1995 at Mesa Verde Country Club.
Members of the World Golf Hall of Fame entered include Watson, Irwin, Kite, Langer, Trevino, Crenshaw, Price, Curtis Strange and Larry Nelson.
Cook, Lehman (Allianz Championship) and Langer have claimed the three 2011 Champions Tour events to date. Langer now has 14th Champions Tour titles in 71 career starts, moving him to 15th on the career victory ladder.
"When you look at the names we have in our field this year, all you can do is marvel in wonder at how much history you're seeing on these fairways and greens," said Toshiba Classic executive director Jeff Purser. "A great amount of the game's history over the last 40 years is represented in this event, but what shouldn't be forgotten are these players continue to impress and amaze on a weekly basis and Newport Beach Country Club has always been a great template for them. This event not only raises millions of dollars for charity, but it continues to raise the bar of golf on the Champions Tour and the players in our field are the reason for that."
The $1.7 million Toshiba Classic, the only Southern California event on the over-50 circuit, awards a $255,000 winner's check and will be televised on Golf Channel Friday, March 11, from 3:30-5:30 p.m. PT, Saturday, March 12, from 3:30-6:30 p.m. PT, and Sunday, March 13, from 4-6:30 p.m. PT.
Daily tickets for the Toshiba Classic are $20 if purchased in advance or $25 at the gate. Season patron badges, providing admission to the grounds and clubhouse for practice rounds and the tournament, are $100. Daily patron tickets, providing access to the grounds and the clubhouse on a single day, are $40. All tickets can be obtained at www.ToshibaClassic.com, while tickets and corporate packages are available by calling 949/660-1001.