Beer Man Johnson Defends Toshiba Classic

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2005 Toshiba Senior ClassicThe Champions Tour finishes their two-week stay in California this week with the Toshiba Classic. Last year, Mark Johnson, a former beer truck driver, holed out for eagle on the 18th hole in the final round to win by four strokes over Wayne Levi and Keith Fergus.
 
Johnson began the final round with a three-shot lead over Fergus. He rolled in an eight-foot birdie putt at the first. However, he tripped to a double-bogey at the next. Johnson bounced back with a birdie on No. 3 at the Newport Beach Country Club. He faltered to a bogey at the seventh, but his lead was still three over Fergus. Johnson was unable to get up and down for par from in front of the green at 11. With that bogey, his lead dropped to two strokes.
 
With Fergus getting closer, Johnson took things into his own hands to make sure he wouldn't lose this tournament. He dropped a five-iron 22 feet from the hole at the par-5 15th. Johnson rolled in that eagle attempt to get back to minus-12. He stumbled to another bogey at the 17th. The Californian then lost his tee shot into the trees right of the fairway at the last. Johnson calmly hacked a shot out of trouble and back into the fairway.
 
From there, he pulled out a wedge for his third shot. The ball bounced past the cup, but spun back into the hole for an eagle from 89 yards out giving Johnson his first ever Champions Tour title. Johnson drove a Budweiser truck for 18 years before pursuing a professional golf career.

Hale Irwin is the leading money winner at this event with $696,610. He is the only two-time champion, winning in 1998 and 2002. He's been among the top-10 in five of his 10 appearances in Orange County and is a cumulative 70-under on the Newport Beach course. Irwin held the course record with a 62 in the final round of the 1998 event before Tom Purtzer shattered it in 2003 with his 11- under-par 60 in the opening round. Incredibly, Purtzer could make only 11 birdies in the final two rounds after posting nine birdies and one eagle in his opening round.

Four of the last seven Toshiba Senior Classic champions claimed their first Champions Tour victory at this event. Gary McCord collected his first title in a playoff at the 1999 event; Jose Canizares defeated Gil Morgan in extra holes at the 2001 tournament; in 2003, Rodger Davis won his first tournament after turning 50 and Johnson won last year in his 14th Champions Tour start.
 
Newport Beach Country Club was originally known as Irvine Coast Country Club when it first opened in 1954. William Bell designed the course in 1952, which has had redesign work by Harry Rainville and Ted Robinson. At 6,584 yards it is the shortest course for an official event on the 2006 Champions Tour schedule.
 
After two weeks in California, the Champions Tour will travel to Mexico in two weeks for the inaugural Puerto Vallarta Golf Classic.
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - Toshiba Senior Classic
  • Full Coverage - Toshiba Senior Classic