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Langer Vaults into Lead at U.S. Senior Open
Bernhard Langer fired a 6-under 64 to build a four-stroke lead heading into the final round of the U.S. Senior Open. The fourth of five Champions Tour majors is being held at Indianwood Golf & Country Club in Lake Orion, Mich.
As the 36-hole leaders - Lance Ten Broeck and Tom Kite - were slipping down the leaderboard, the 54-year-old Langer began running away with the tournament. The German, who's won two Champions Tour majors - the Senior Open Championship and U.S. Senior Open, both in 2010 - started out hot with a five-birdie front nine that gave him a 5-under 30 at the turn.
After three straight birdies to start the inward half, Langer was rolling. But on the par-3 13th he came back to the field after his tee shot came up short of the green, settling in tall rough. A muffed chip led to a par putt from the fringe, but he missed that as well as the subsequent 3-footer that led to a double-bogey five. But he birdied the par-5 15th and, after two straight pars, bogeyed the last for a 34 on the back side.
"It's hard to put in words," Langer said of his outstanding round during which he hit 17 greens in regulation and needed 28 putts. "The only difference really was just I made some putts. I probably played worse than I played the first two days. The first two days I made very little, and I guess the course owed me some. I made a bunch of putts today.
"Starting out with three birdies and adding two more and then birdied the first three on the back nine, it was really fun. Hoping to go really low and then made an error on No. 13. Really wasn't that bad a shot with the 4-iron. Just hit it a little high on the club and came up two yards short in the rough and hit a bad chip shot and a bad short putt and made double bogey. But came back with a birdie on 15.
"Played pretty solid, just the big difference was the putter. As I said, the first two days I might have played better golf and didn't putt as good. Today I made my share." (See below for his full post-round interview.)
Langer stands at 10-under 200, four ahead of Tom Pernice, Jr. (66), Corey Pavin (68), Roger Chapman (68), Tom Lehman (68) and John Huston (68).
Fred Couples crept back into contention after posting a 68 and 65 following his opening with a 72. The Seattle native is tied for seventh at 205 with Fred Funk (67), Jay Haas (68) and Dick Mast (69).
"I didn't do anything great, but I hit a lot of good irons," said Couples, who in the third round carded four birdies, an eagle on the par-4 10th after his approach rolled into the cup, and a lone bogey. "I had a couple three-putts, but I made a few putts too. When I did drive in the rough, I got very good lies. I think I got most of them onto the green. And really, I just played a good round and made a lot of nice four and five foot par putts.
"The biggest blunder I had was I hit two great shots on - is it 15, the par-5, about 20 feet above the hole and putted it 10 feet by and missed it for par. Other than that, I did all right. I hit the ball solid and got myself semi-back into it."
Second-round leader Ten Broeck slipped into solo 11th at 206 after a 2-over 72. The 56-year-old from Chicago, who opened with promising rounds of 66 and 68, just couldn't get anything going Saturday with three birdies and five bogeys.
"Got off to a decent start, but then I three putted, and things kind of unraveled," said Ten Broeck, whose regular job is the caddie for the PGA Tour's Tim Herron. "A couple of bad breaks off tee shots. I played all right. Just it's hard to play well when you don't make any putts. Tom Kite will tell you the same thing. Neither one of us - we both putted horrible."
Ten Broeck didn't blame his poor showing on Saturday to exorbitant expectations; his problems came on the slick greens at Indianwood. "When I got done (Friday) I had 43 text messages when I turned the phone on. I just put the phone on silent. I talked to maybe a couple people. That was it. But I slept fine. I slept like 7½ hours or whatever. Felt pretty good before the round started, and the beginning of the round felt good. Wasn't uptight or anything until I started strangling that putter."
Sharing 12th another stroke back are Mark Calcavecchia (69), Steve Lowery (69) and Mark Wiebe (70), while tied for 15th at 208 are John Cook (67) and 2004 U.S. Senior Open champion Peter Jacobsen (68).
Kite, who held the 18-hole lead after a 65, shot a 4-over 74 to drop into 17th at 209 with Peter Senior (66).
Tom Watson carded an even-par 70 and now shares 29th at 212 with several others.
Doug Hanzel took over the low-amateur honors after a 71. The former Kent State player, who now lives in Savannah, Ga., is now T-47 at 4-over 214. He replaced Sean Knapp, who shot a 6-over 76 and is now at 218.
For all the scores, visit http://www.ussenioropen.com/scoring2012/dyn/alllb.html.
After Langer signed his impressive scorecard, he met with reporters for the following Q&A. A surprise visitor chimed in with a few questions.
MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everybody. We are pleased to welcome Bernhard Langer to the Media Center. He is the 2010 U.S. Senior Open champion. He posted today's low of 6 under and is in the lead through 36 holes, at 10 under for the championship. Today's round was his personal lowest score in a major. What an exceptional round today. Size it up for us.
BERNHARD LANGER: Yeah, it's hard to put in words. The only difference really was just I made some putts. I probably played worse than I played the first two days. The first two days I made very little, and I guess the course owed me some. I made a bunch of putts today. Starting out with three birdies and adding two more and then birdied the first three on the back nine, it was really fun. Hoping to go really low and then made an error on No.13. Really wasn't that bad a shot with the 4 iron. Just hit it a little high on the club and came up two yards short in the rough and hit a bad chip shot and a bad short putt and made double bogey. But came back with a birdie on 15. Played pretty solid, just the big difference was the putter. As I said, the first two days I might have played better golf and didn't putt as good. Today I made my share.
Q. What does this shooting around like this do for your confidence going into tomorrow's final round?
BERNHARD LANGER: It helps a lot, especially putting long. It makes a big difference, because I was a little down with my confidence on my putting, especially yesterday. I made nothing. I made the two putt birdie, and I made a ten footer. That was it, out of about 11 or 12 chances. So I was very happy to see that ball go into the hole from all sorts of distances today. So I don't have to change putters. I just need to do what I'm doing.
Q. Bernhard, your record in the senior majors the last three years has been quite phenomenal. Anything about that? I mean, obviously, you've been very successful out here, but especially in the majors. You've just been very, very close. You won a couple, but the others how do you explain that?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, without being big headed, I think I'm one of the better players out here the last three or four years. I'm on the money list. I've won the Schwab Cup. If you do that, you've got to play well. If you can win normal tournaments and be in the top five or top ten on a regular basis, you ought to be doing fairly well in the majors too because the majors are even harder. The better players, I think, will separate themselves even more from the average player in the majors because conditions are usually tougher. But I still think I could and should have done better in the majors. When I look back, I wish I'd won four or five, but I haven't yet. I'm working on it because time is short.
Q. Bernhard, would you go over these birdies, including the length of the putts.
BERNHARD LANGER: Number 1, I hit a good tee shot and a 3 iron, which I pushed a little bit into the bunker, took a bad bounce, and had no shot. So I played a decent shot out to about, I want to call it, 20 feet, made that. Then No. 2, hit my tee shot left. My iron onto the green a little long. That was probably 25 feet. Then No.3 was not quite as long. It was probably about 12 feet. Where are we next? 6 was another I'm trying to remember these holes. That was a driver, 6 iron, and probably 18 feet. And then 3 wood, 9 iron, where I kind of hurt my hand. Ball was in a divot, and I had to dig it out of there, and it was rock hard. The club didn't go through, so I pulled it a little bit too because I had to go down after it. And it was probably another 28 footer, something like that.
10 was three feet, 11 was about four feet. 12 was maybe eight feet. Then I missed about a four footer on 13 and made another probably 15 footer on 15. Then I three putted 18 from the very back of the green. Tough putt. First putt went about 12 feet or so, and missed the next one.
Q. Yesterday, you said your putter was ice cold. Today, obviously, you putted well. Was it confidence, or was it something that you worked on after yesterday's round? Technique?
BERNHARD LANGER: No, I worked a lot on the putting green, but I do that almost every day. So I did nothing special. Tried a little different grip on the putting green, but that didn't feel comfortable, so I just went back to what I was doing. I just had the pace, and I read them good. I was fortunate with some of them too. You can hit great putts out here, and they might not all go in because they all have pretty good breaks on them. It's not that you have a lot of straight putts out here. If you get a straight putt, everything seems to break two or three feet.
Q. Could you just talk about how adventurous that 18th green is and how interesting it can be tomorrow as you're coming down the stretch?
BERNHARD LANGER: The 18th green is one of the largest you'll see with a lot of humps and bumps. The key is to hit a good tee shot. If you hit the fairway, then you can hit an iron shot where you control the spin and the distance. I hit a good tee shot, but it must have taken a big bounce and went in through the fairway and into the rough. Now, I didn't know if I was going to get a fly or not. I figured I'd get a little fly. Took one club more from the fairway and got an enormous flier and took off and ran about 40 yards. Now I'm 35 yards away or something, putting over two humps with a nine foot break. It's just tough to judge.
Q. Did you say that you hurt your hand today? Was it the same hand that you had screwed up?
BERNHARD LANGER: No, it was the other hand. So now I'm sort of level. No, it was the other hand.
Q. What exactly did you do?
BERNHARD LANGER: This one is healed, and now this one is sore. It's okay now, I think. It's fine. But it was pretty sore for a while.
Q. Did that affect you as you were playing?
BERNHARD LANGER: I hope not. I wasn't thinking about it. It hurt really bad for about two or three minutes, and then I made a nice putt, which probably helped the pain. Moved on from there.
Q. Couples said it would take a 60 to possibly catch you tomorrow. How do you go into tomorrow with such a big lead in terms of being conservative or aggressive?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, I don't know if the lead is all that big. It depends on the rest of the guys out there, but I don't imagine it's going to be huge. So if it's three or four shots, whatever it might be, that's not a huge lead. That can disappear in no time. So I'm going to have to get out there and shoot under par. That's my goal, I think, to go under par. If I go 2 under or 3 under, it will be very difficult for anyone to catch me. And if they do, they deserve to win.
MODERATOR: Question in the back.
BERNHARD LANGER: You need to wait your turn.
COREY PAVIN: Could you tell me how to make -
BERNHARD LANGER: Is he allowed to ask me questions?
COREY PAVIN: He won't let me ask my question. Could you let me know how to make nine birdies out there in a round?
BERNHARD LANGER: Do I have to answer that?
COREY PAVIN: Good playing.
BERNHARD LANGER: Yeah, you too. Thanks.
MODERATOR: Was the course any different in the second round?
BERNHARD LANGER: It's firmer. The greens seem to get firmer every day. The rest of the course is pretty much consistent.
MODERATOR: Another question in front.
Q. You've only missed four greens in regulation so far. Is that among the best performance you've had? What do you attribute that to?
BERNHARD LANGER: I attribute it to good shot making. The first day was really fun. I hit the ball brilliant the first day. I hit 17 greens, and I hit it close. I had lots of opportunities. Second day was still very, very good, but I think I missed a few. Today I'm sure I missed a few greens too. I'm not sure how many. You know more than I do. I'm not one for statistics. I just go by feel, what my swing feels like, what I think is good and what could be improved upon. But the ball-striking has been fairly good. No doubt about it.
Q. On the double-bogey there, what happened? Were you trying to get it close? You were short sighted, or did you just mis hit it? What happened on that chip?
BERNHARD LANGER: The lie was okay, but it was in the thick rough, and I was going a little bit up, and then the green was going down. So I had to land it in the span of a few inches to get it close. I was trying to be cute with it, trying to land it right on the edge of the green. And otherwise, if I land it too far, it would just take off down the hill. And I landed it short, and it just stopped. So now I had to putt over that ridge and putt into about four feet or so for the return.
MODERATOR: An exceptional round. Congratulations.
BERNHARD LANGER: Thank you. Appreciate it.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.