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Putter is in the Black during weekend

Two-time PGA Tour winner receives advice from wife and fuel from large galleries to finish four shots back.

March 08, 2010|By Bryce Alderton

NEWPORT BEACH — Ronnie Black said to have a shot to win the 16th Toshiba Classic at Newport Beach Country Club Sunday he would have to shoot a 63 and Fred Couples not show up with his putter.

Well, Black arrived with his putter and he maneuvered the poa annua greens with near precision en route to a six-under-par 65 and a solo second-place finish (14-under; 67-67-65 – 199) in his second Toshiba Classic. Black finished four shots behind Couples, who claimed his second straight Champions Tour title in three starts (18-under; 66-64-65 – 195).

“[Couples] can play lousy and shoot a 67,” said Black, who took 25 putts (11 one-putts) in a round that featured one eagle on the par-five 15th, six birdies and two bogeys. Black, who finished second in the Champions Tour’s Dick’s Sporting Goods Classic in 2009, birdied the final two holes and took home $149,600.

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“That was fun,” said Black, who made a swing change in the last week-and-a-half and admitted he struggled with his swing Sunday. “But I was a putting genius and that makes up for a lot of shots.”

Black began the final round in a two-way tie for fourth with Loren Roberts, both four shots behind Couples. Black started strong with two straight birdies and birdied his third hole on the par-three eighth. Black, 51, whose career low round is 63 [twice], hit a 4-iron to within inches of the hole for a birdie. He called the iron shot the best of the tournament.

Two straight bogeys on Nos. 9 and 10 set him back, but he rebounded with a birdie on the par-four 11th and the aforementioned eagle on 15th. Black’s wife, Sandra, moved in front of him between the 14th green and 15th tee and gave her husband a tip to adjust his posture. Black hit a 5-iron into the green and sank a 40-foot putt for eagle. After the putt, Black pounded his chest with two fist pumps.

Black, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour, made a 12-foot birdie putt on the par-three 17th to move to 13-under, while Couples stood at 17-under.

The two played together Saturday. Black said the large galleries, an estimated 17,000 spectators Saturday coupled with about 25,500 Friday and 24,000 Sunday, helped spur him.

“We had a little bit bigger crowd out here than what we had at some other events,” Black said. “[Couples] makes people excited. There was a lot of yelling and screaming and people supported me very well, for whatever reason.

“It’s exciting to play in that atmosphere. If you don’t enjoy playing in that atmosphere, probably at this age, you’re probably going to be selling insurance because this is what it’s about.”

Black tied for 57th (three-over) at the 2009 Toshiba. He said the difference this year was putting. Black, who made his 29th Champions Tour start at Toshiba, earned fully-exempt status for the second straight season by finishing among the top five [he tied for second] at the 2009 Champions Tour National Qualifying Tournament.

“This is the best I’ve putted in quite a while,” Black said. “I made some technical changes.”

They paid off during the weekend.


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