LAKE ORION, Mich. (AP) - Fred Couples joked that someone will have to close with a 60 to catch Bernhard Langer at the U.S. Senior Open.
That might not be low enough.
Langer shot a 6-under 64 on Saturday to move to 10 under for the tournament, putting him ahead of a big-name field by four strokes.
``That's not a huge lead,'' he insisted. ``That can disappear in no time. I'm going to have to get out there and shoot under par. That's my goal.
``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.''
The two-time Masters champion opened with three straight birdies and eight in 12 holes at Indianwood, a course with tight and unforgiving fairways and undulating greens.
``He didn't win two Masters by luck,'' said Corey Pavin, who was in a five-way tie for second place. ``He's an exceptionally good player, very methodical.''
Langer didn't miss a green in regulation during the third round until the par-3 No. 13, where a double bogey cut his cushion to three shots. He bounced back with a birdie at 15 before giving that stroke back with a bogey at 18.
Pavin, Tom Lehman, Roger Chapman, John Huston and Tom Pernice Jr. were at 6-under 204.
Couples surged up the leaderboard with a 65 after starting the day tied for 25th place. He was part of a pack - along with Fred Funk and Jay Haas - that was five shots back in a tie for seventh at the Champion Tour's fourth of five majors.
What did Couples think it would take to get into contention with Langer in the final round?
``Sixty,'' he said. ``How does that sound? Does that sound pretty good? Not really realistic.
``He's not going to come back. Corey and whoever is going to have to play a remarkable round to win. I'm at least inching closer.''
While Langer was in his sensational stretch Saturday, first-round leader Tom Kite and second-round leader Lance Ten Broeck were struggling in the final group.
Kite finished with a 74 to drop into a tie for 17th, nine shots back. Since opening with a U.S. Senior Open nine-hole record 28, Kite is 6 over.
Ten Broeck, a full-time caddie for Tim Herron and occasional player, shot a 72 with three birdies and five bogeys. He is alone in 11th place, six shots back, after starting the round with a one-shot lead over Kite and a two-stroke edge on a group that included Langer.
Pavin was tied with Langer coming in and finished the third round four shots back, insisting he only thought about a two-stroke penalty from Thursday when a reporter asked about it. After pulling into a first-round tie for the lead, Pavin was docked two shots for hitting a ball that moved a fraction of an inch when he grounded his club to prepare for a chip.
Couples, who said that his chronic back problems have kept him from ever practicing for a Champions Tour event, got into contention by driving the green at the 360-yard, par-4 No. 9 and posting an eagle from 105 yards on the next hole that created a buzz on the course.
``You know it's going to be close when they start to ooh and aah,'' he said. ``As it went closer, they threw their hands up. Yeah, it's a great feeling. You don't make many eagles, especially from the fairway.''
Langer scored with his flat stick, making a pair of 20-foot-plus putts for birdies on the first two holes while building confidence on a course set up to be a tough test for the best 50-and-older golfers in the world.
The 54-year-old German has nine top-10 finishes in his 11 previous Champion Tour events this season, including three runner-up showings, and is shooting for his first win since needing surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb last year.
Langer sounds as if he's back to being the golfer that led the senior circuit money list from 2008-2010 - each of his first three seasons on the Champion Tour - before slipping to 25 last year because of a surgery-stunted season.
``Without being big headed, I think I'm one of the better players out here the last three or four years,'' he said. ``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 10 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.