CHAMPIONS
Langer Picks up Right Where He Left Off January 23, 2017 By David Shefter and Scott Lipsky, USGA

Bernhard Langer found the winners' circle for the 30th time in his PGA Tour Champions career. (USGA/Fred Vuich)

The calendar may have turned to 2017, but Bernhard Langer has picked up right where he finished 2016.

Two months after securing his third Charles Schwab Cup and being named the PGA Tour Champions Player of the Year, the 2010 U.S. Senior Open champion from Germany claimed the weather-shortened, season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai on Hawaii’s Big Island on Saturday.

The event was shortened to 36 holes after winds gusting in excess of 40 miles per hour forced Tour officials to postpone Saturday’s final round. A similar forecast was expected on Sunday. Scoring conditions were ideal the first two days when Langer shot 64-65 for a one-stroke lead over Fred Couples.

“It’s not the way I wanted to win,” said Langer, who notched his 30th PGA Tour Champions victory. “I was ready to compete and battle it out, but I don’t make the rules. ... [Sunday] would have been more wind, supposedly. So this was really the right decision.”

Langer also won on the senior circuit for an 11th consecutive season, matching five-time USGA champion Hale Irwin, the Tour’s all-time wins leader with 45.

Near-Miss for DJ in Abu Dhabi

2016 U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson kicked off his 2017 campaign in Hawaii two weeks ago, finishing tied for sixth in the PGA Tour’s SBS Tournament of Champions. He inched ever closer to the winners’ circle on Sunday, firing a final-round 68 to finish tied for second in the European Tour’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, at Abu Dhabi Golf Club in the United Arab Emirates. Johnson, who climbed up the leader board on Saturday with an 8-under 64 in Round 3, closed with an eagle to finish one stroke behind winner Tommy Fleetwood, of England. While not the victor, Johnson wowed the fans in Abu Dhabi with his famously prodigious length off the tee.

One stroke behind Johnson was 2014 U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer, who was the 36-hole leader before ultimately finishing in a tie for fourth.

Testing his mettle against the top players in the professional game was reigning U.S. Amateur champion Curtis Luck. Luck, 20, of Australia, posted a second-round 65 to move into contention heading into the weekend, before a pair of 74s put him in a tie for 49th.

Silver Showing

The USGA sent four of its mid-amateur (25 years and older) champions to Argentina to compete in the South America Open Amateur at Martindale Country Club. Reigning U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Julia Potter (she also won in 2013) and four-time champion Meghan Stasi shared runner-up honors after both carded 6-under 66s in Sunday’s final round. But neither could catch Isabella Fierro, 16, of Mexico, who posted a 14-under total of 274 to win the women’s competition by 10 strokes.

Potter, the only left-hander to win multiple USGA championships, registered seven birdies against one bogey in the final round, while Stasi played a bogey-free round with six birdies.

In the men’s competition, 2014 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion and 2015 USA Walker Cup competitor Scott Harvey finished 13th at 3-under 285 and reigning U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Stewart Hagestad tied for 24th at 2-over 290. Harvey, the 2014 South American Amateur champion, was in contention through 54 holes, but a final-round 75 cost him a top-10 finish.

Paul Chaplet, 18, of Costa Rica, who won the Latin America Amateur Championship in the Dominican Republic last year, claimed the title by two strokes over this year’s LAAC runner-up, Joaquin Niemann, of Chile. Chaplet carded a 3-under 69 in the final round for a 72-hole total of 274.

 

Lee Comes Up Short

Min Woo Lee, 18, of Australia, who claimed the U.S. Junior Amateur title last July at The Honors Course in Ooltewah, Tenn., nearly added his country’s national amateur championship to his résumé on Sunday at Yarra Yarra Golf Club.

In an epic 36-hole final match, Matias Sanchez recorded 11 birdies in rallying for a 1-up victory over Lee. Sixteen holes were won or halved with birdie.

Lee, the younger brother of 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Minjee Lee, held a 2-up lead with three holes to play, only to watch Sanchez hole a remarkable 33-foot birdie putt from off the green on the 34th hole to trim the margin to 1 down. An errant drive cost Lee the 35th hole, sending the match to the final hole all square. Lee’s approach from a fairway bunker on 18 sailed over the green and he failed to get up and down for par, leaving Sanchez a 6-foot putt for par to win the title, which he converted.

“Hats off to Matias, he played some great golf, especially in those last few holes,” a gracious Lee told Golf Australia. “You never like to lose, but he played some incredible golf today.”

In the women’s competition, Eun Jeong Seong, of the Republic of Korea, who made history last summer by winning both the U.S. Girls’ Junior and U.S. Women’s Amateur in the same year, lost in the quarterfinals. Countrywoman Hye-Jin Choi, the low amateur in the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open, claimed the title with a 4-and-2 victory over So-Mi Lee in the final.

Harman Continues the Climb

A strong weekend out west has Brian Harman poised for another solid season on the PGA Tour. Harman, the 2003 U.S. Junior Amateur champion, finished tied for third in the Career Builder Challenge on Sunday, held at three courses over four days in La Quinta, Calif. Harman, who turned 30 on Thursday, finished two strokes behind winner and former University of Georgia teammate Hudson Swafford, and continued his steady rise in the pro ranks. Harman, who is one of just six left-handed players to win a USGA championship, claimed victory in the 2014 John Deere Classic, and has finished in the top 60 in the Fed Ex Cup standings four times since earning PGA Tour status in 2012.

David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org. Scott Lipsky is the manager of websites and digital platforms for the USGA. Email him at slipsky@usga.org.  

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