NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. – Bob Tway, Chein Soon Lu and Mark Wiebe shot 6-under 65s on Friday to share the first-round lead in the Toshiba Classic, leaving Champions Tour newcomer Fred Couples a stroke back at Newport Beach Country Club.
Olin Browne, Lonnie Nielsen and Mike Goodes matched Couples at 66, and defending champion Eduardo Romero was another stroke back along with Tom Lehman, Loren Roberts, Wayne Levi, Ronnie Black, D.A. Weibring, Bobby Wadkins and Gary Hallberg.
Wiebe, bothered by a head cold, had his first bogey-free round of the season, making five birdies on his first nine holes – the back nine
“I didn’t know it was bogey-free until my caddie told me on the last hole after I picked my ball out of the cup,” Wiebe said. “I had no idea, which kind of tells me that my head was in the right place.”
Tway missed from a foot on No. 11 for his lone bogey.
“I hit a very good second shot and I hit my first putt about a foot by,” Tway said. “It was kind of in a footprint and I missed about a foot putt, so that was disappointing.”
Wiebe was thrilled with his round, especially the way he was feeling.
“Your expectations are pretty low when you don’t feel well,” Wiebe said. “I thought if I can just focus and keep my focus it was be great.”
Wiebe had 12 one-putt greens and only 24 putts overall.
“I putted really well,” Wiebe said. “I had a great feel with my putting. The pace was really good. I didn’t let anything good, get too far away from me.”
Lu has conditional status on the Champions Tour and earned a spot in the field with a top-10 finish – a ninth-place tie – two weeks ago in the Allianz Championship.
It was Tway’s first competitive round on the course.
“You kind of get to know it,” said Tway, who played one practice round and two pro-am rounds. “I had a couple of local guys, members here in the pro-ams. They helped me a little bit about some of the breaks, the tendencies, so that was good.”
Couples is making his third Champions Tour start. He won the ACE Group Classic on Feb. 14 in Naples, Fla., and finished second behind Tom Watson in the season-opening event in Hawaii. Couples tied for 14th last week in the PGA Tour’s Phoenix Open.
The long-hitting Couples, leading the tour’s driving distance stats at 300.2 yards, overpowered the 6,584-yard course. He used driver on every par 4 and 5 except two holes and had nothing more than a 9-iron for his second shot.
“I hit a wedge on my first hole,” Couples said. “I made a 20-footer, which was a great start. … I feel good about the round. I probably couldn’t have gotten much more out of it.”
Wiebe was just happy to get through his round.
“When I made my last putt I looked at my caddie, he said, ‘Nice playing,”’ Wiebe said. “I said, ‘I’m glad it’s over. I want to go lay down.”’