A PROMISING TREND: Only one other Champions Tour event -- the Administaff Small Business Classic -- can boast having the last two Players of the Year (Jay Haas in 2007 and Bernhard Langer in 2008) win their tournaments. On three other occasions, the winner of the Toshiba Classic went on to be Player of the Year (Jim Colbert in 1996 and Hale Irwin in both 1998 and 2002).
TRYING FOR TWO: Langer will attempt to not only become the first player to successfully defend a title in Newport Beach, but he also is trying to become the first player since Gil Morgan to successfully defend his first two career Champions Tour victories. In 1997, Morgan repeated at the Ralphs Senior Classic at Rancho Park in Los Angeles and then won a second straight Tradition in Scottsdale, Ariz., in 1998. Langer set up his golden opportunity in Orange County this week by successfully defending at the Administaff Small Business Classic near Houston last fall.
WELCOME BACK, MURPH: Murphy, the 1997 Toshiba Classic winner, will make his first appearance at Newport Beach since 1999. Murphy has been unable to play in this Champions Tour event in recent years due to broadcast commitments with NBC Sports. Tom Watson also returns to Newport Beach for the first time since the 2002 event. In three previous appearances in this event, Watson tied for 12th in 2001, tied for 10th in 2002 and tied for 31st in 2003.
SUPER-'CALIF'- RAGILISTIC: Tom Kite and Tom Watson both have claimed 10 TOUR victories in California, the most among active players on the Champions Tour. Kite won six times on the PGA TOUR in California and has picked up four additional Champions Tour victories in the Golden State. Watson won nine times on the PGA TOUR in California but his only Champions Tour win in the state came at the 2005 Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Sonoma. Hale Irwin has seven combined TOUR wins in California (five coming on the Champions Tour).
THE O.C.: This year's Toshiba Classic will begin a two-week California swing for the Champions Tour. The Toshiba Classic began in 1995, and Toshiba has been the title sponsor throughout the history of the event. The tournament name was originally the Toshiba Senior Classic, but was shortened to the Toshiba Classic prior to the 2006 event. This event has always been contested in Orange County and was originally played at Mesa Verde Country Club in Costa Mesa in 1995 before moving up the road to Newport Beach Country Club in 1996. Hale Irwin is the only two-time winner.
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LAST YEAR'S EXCITING FINISH: Bernhard Langer won his second Champions Tour title in his ninth start, outlasting defending champion Jay Haas. After bogeying the par-3 17th to drop a stroke behind, Langer made a 12-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th hole to force a playoff with Haas. The overtime session lasted for seven holes and didn't end until Langer made a birdie on No. 18 and Haas missed his birdie attempt from three feet moments later.