Lake Orion, Mich. –
A four-stroke lead through 54 holes of the U.S. Senior Open isn’t
insurmountable. So says the man who holds it.
With the low round
of the championship Saturday, a 6-under 64, Bernhard Langer has taken control
of the 33rd U.S. Senior Open at
Indianwood Golf and Country Club. When Sunday’s final round commences, his 200
total, 10 under par, will be four strokes better than his next nearest
It’s a big lead.
But maybe not big enough.
“Well, I don't know
if the lead is all that big,” Langer countered after his performance Saturday
that featured nine birdies. “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.”
Just about everyone
agrees that Langer can be caught. But just about everyone agrees that Langer
isn’t going to help anyone catch him.
That means a low
round is going to be necessary to prevent the steady and steely German from
adding a second U.S. Senior Open to the title he claimed in 2010 at Sahalee
Country Club near Seattle.
“Against a guy like
Bernhard, four shots is an awful lot,” said Tom Lehman, one of five players
tied for second place with a 204 total. “He's such a precise player. When he's on his game, he doesn't give much
back. He'll be very, very tough to catch.
Somebody is going to have to shoot a very low score to catch him.”
“It would take an
awfully special round to catch him for sure,” said Jay Haas, who trails by five
shots. “He's not one to back up too much.”
“Yeah, 60,” Fred
Couples, responded when asked about his target score for today. “How does that
sound? Does that sound pretty good? Not really realistic. I could tell you this
much – he's not going to come back tomorrow. So whoever it is, is going to have
to play a remarkable round to win.”
Along with Lehman,
Corey Pavin, Tom Pernice and Roger Chapman trail Langer by four with 204
aggregate totals. Haas, Couples, Fred Funk and Dick Mast are next at 205.
Second-round leader Lance Ten Broeck is six behind.
Those are the
closest pursuers. Langer, 54, who will play in the final pairing with Pernice
starting at 1:50 p.m. EDT, has clearly built up a handsome head start. His four-stroke advantage is the largest in the
championship since Bruce Lietzke held a four-stroke lead over Tom Watson and
Vicente Fernandez in the 2003 U.S. Senior Open at Inverness Club in Toledo,
Ohio.Lietzke won by two
Here’s more bad news
for the pursuers. In the last 24 Champions Tour events, the winner has come out
of the final group 23 times, and in the U.S. Senior Open, the winner has come
out of the final group five of the last six years.
“We've all played a
long time. It's not the easiest place to be in the lead with a four‑ or five‑shot
lead sometimes,” Pernice said.
Another sunny and
warm afternoon is in the forecast for today, and all it takes is for one player
to hit fairways and greens and give himself opportunities to perhaps pick up
the scent. They’ll have to perform with the same precision as Langer has so
far. He’s missed only four greens through three rounds.
But the key today
is more than simply making putts.
a low score out there if we have the same weather conditions,” Huston said.
“You just have to hit it in the fairway. If you hit it in the fairway, there's
a lot of good chances to make birdie because a lot of the times, the ball will
feed to the hole if you hit it in the right section of the green.”
“The course will
give you decent score if you really play well,” Lehman said. “So somebody who
is six under, five under, is going to have to go out and just play great, and
Bernhard is going to have to give us some help. I'm not going to count on
“He's an exceptionally
good player, very methodical,” Pavin said. “And this type of a venue is a very
good one for him.”
Langer might be
methodical and patient, but he also is a smart player. He won’t attack the golf
course the way others must today, but he won’t try to sit on his lead either.
No one wants to get caught running in place, and that could happen.
“I'm going to have
to get out there and shoot under par. That's my goal, I think, to go under
par,” he said. “If I go two under or three under, it will be very difficult for
anyone to catch me. And if they do, they deserve to win.”
Indeed, they will
have earned it.
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance
writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites.