Langer shoots 62 to grab Champions lead
SPRING, Texas (AP) Bernhard Langer found his putting touch.
Langer shot a 10-under 62 on Friday to take a four-stroke lead after the first round of the Administaff Small Business Classic.
Langer, the German star playing his fourth Champions Tour event since turning 50 on Aug. 27, needed only 24 putts to match the best round of the season on the tour. He had a 43-foot eagle try on the par-5 18th, but settled for his 10th birdie of the day.
"The big difference today was the putter," Langer said. "I made a few putts today, which I hadn't been doing the last few weeks. It was a good putting round. If I could putt something like this or something similar, I'd be happy the rest of my life."
The two-time Masters champion broke the Augusta Pines Golf Course record of 63 set by Jay Haas last year in the second round.
"When you get my age, you don't get many course records," Langer said.
Texan Tom Kite, winless in his home state, pulled within three strokes of Langer with a birdie on the 17th hole, but his bogey on 18 dropped him into a tie for second at 66 with Mark McNulty, Craig Stadler, Tom Jenkins, John Ross and Jeff Sluman, who birdied the final three holes.
"You look up at the leaderboard and realize you'd better put something up there or the whole world is going to pass you," Sluman said. "You never complain about a 66. I hit a few where it could have been a little bit lower. But I'm happy where I am."
Mark O'Meara gave his round a boost with an 8-foot, par-saving putt on the eighth hole and made three birdies on the back nine for a 67. Tom Wargo, Jerry Pate, Eduardo Romero, Bob Gilder, Fuzzy Zoeller, Lonnie Nielsen and Andy Bean also shot 67s.
Langer tied the course nine-hole record of 30, holing an 18-foot birdie putt on the first hole and a 15-footer for eagle on the second. He added birdies of 15, 6 and 15 feet on the front nine and finished with birdies on four of the final five holes.
"I felt I could read these greens well," Langer said. "I felt I could read the green, I could see the speed and putting is all about speed and reading the greens. You can hit the wrong speed and you'll never make a putt. I was very pleased with that today."
Langer made no dramatic changes in his putting.
"I did the same thing I've been doing for 10 months," Langer said. "I've had good putting weeks this year and that's why I've had a lot of good tournaments. It's just the last two or three weeks I haven't been putting like I'd like."
O'Meara birdied three of the first four holes but he went into the rough and bogeyed the par-4 seventh hole. He credited his par-saver on the next hole with getting his round going. He had long birdie putts at 14 and 15 and two-putted from 32 feet on the final hole for his sixth birdie of the day.
O'Meara has 16 PGA Tour victory, but he's winless since joining the Champions Tour this year.
"You've got to pay your dues," O'Meara said. "Just like I had to pay my dues on the PGA Tour and now I've got to pay my dues on the Champions Tour. I'll keep on working and put two more solid rounds together and have a chance on Sunday."
Defending champion Haas, trying to regain the Charles Schwab points lead from Loren Roberts, shot a 69. John Cook also opened with a 69 in his tour debut.
Haas led the Charles Schwab point standings for 19 weeks, but Roberts took the lead with last week' s victory in the Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship. Haas is 161 points behind Roberts. A victory in the Administaff would give the lead back to Haas with two tournaments remaining - the AT&T Championship and the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.
Haas started the week with $2,431,321 in earnings this year. He's trying to become the second Champions Tour player to reach $3 million in season earnings. Hale Irwin won $3,028,304 in 2002.