Couples comes from behind to win Toshiba Classic
Newport Beach, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - Fred Couples birdied three of his final four holes on Sunday to close out a 5-under 66 and earn a 1-stroke victory at the Toshiba Classic.
Couples, who also won this tournament in 2010, collected his 10th career Champions Tour title at 15-under-par 198.
"My goals are to play well on this tour and if I do, I always feel like I'm going to be near the lead," said Couples. "If you're near the lead and you birdie a few holes, you're going to win like today."
Colin Montgomerie fired the low round of the week at Newport Beach Country Club with a 9-under 62 to vault into a share of second place at 14-under 199. He was joined by second-round leader Bernhard Langer (70) and Steve Pate (66).
Kenny Perry (69), Mark O'Meara (64), Michael Allen (67), Jeff Hart (68) and Scott Dunlap (68) tied for fifth at minus-13, a shot ahead of Loren Roberts (66) and Kirk Triplett (68).
Chien Soon Lu opened the day with a birdie at the first to move within a shot of Langer's overnight lead before Langer bogeyed the first to meet Lu at 12- under.
After Couples made it a three-way tie for the lead with birdies at the second and fourth, Lu bogeyed the third to lose his share of the first place.
Dunlap replaced him with a birdie at the fifth, and then made it two gains in a row at the sixth to claim the outright lead at 13-under.
Hart followed a streak of five opening pars with three straight birdies from the sixth to meet Dunlap atop the leaderboard, but neither of them could hang on as Hart bogeyed the 10th and Dunlap dropped a shot at the ninth to fall into a large pack of players tied at 12-under.
O'Meara was the first to emerge with a birdie at the 14th, his second in a row and seventh of the day.
Triplett quickly followed with a birdie at the 11th, and Couples made it a three-way tie at minus-13 with a birdie at the 10th.
Montgomerie, meanwhile, was steadily moving into contention with his impressive round.
The 31-time winner on the European Tour opened his bogey-free round with four birdies over his first five holes, and later added back-to-back gains at the 12th and 13th to move to 11-under.
After pouring in another birdie at the 15th to pull within a shot of the lead, Montgomerie closed his day with birdies at the 17th and 18th to grab the clubhouse lead at 14-under.
"You could see that round here today, playing third off the greens were better, better conditions being third off as opposed to being near the end," Montgomerie said about his round. "I don't envision winning, but it's nice to have a good performance, it gives me more confidence to go forward to next week."
O'Meara, Triplett and Dunlap would eventually earn a share of the lead before O'Meara and Dunlap bogeyed the 17th and 14th, respectively, to fall a shot off the pace.
The group at 14-under would reach as high as six players until Pate, Hart and Dunlap all fell victim to bogeys at the 17th to leave just Montgomerie, Langer and Perry hanging on.
Perry had played his first 14 holes at 1-under with 13 pars and a birdie before jumping into the group sharing the lead with an eagle at the 15th.
Couples then moved back into contention with birdies at the 15th and 17th, while Pate regained his share of the lead with a birdie at the 18th to push the group at 14-under back up to five.
That group would fall to four when Perry was the next person to bogey the 17th.
Couples was able to finally jump ahead with a birdie at the par-5 18th after chipping his third shot to about six feet from in front of a grandstand behind the green.
Needing a birdie at the last to tie Couples and force a playoff, Langer sailed his second shot into the rough to the left of the green and was forced to take a drop.
His next shot rolled well past the hole and he saw his lengthy birdie putt burn the left edge of the hole to finish in a share of second place.
NOTES: Couples collected $262,500 with the win and now trails Langer by $185,009 for the tour's money lead ... Langer also finished in a share of second place in the Champions Tour's last event, the ACE Group Classic in February. He has finished inside the top seven in all four starts this season, including winning the season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship ... Lu carded a 2-over 73 to fall into a share of 20th place.
03/16 22:10:47 ET