BLAINE, Minn. (AP) – Bernhard Langer was right on target in the 3M Championship.
Entering the final round Sunday, Langer thought he would have to shoot a 10-under 62 to win the event for the second time in four years.
That’s what he did, and it was enough to overcome a six-stroke deficit for a two-stroke victory over David Peoples. The 54-year-old German won his 15th Champions Tour title, ending a 24-event victory drought – his longest on the 50-and-over tour.
“Winning is always special, but this is pretty important because it’s been awhile since I’ve won, and especially after what I’ve been through the last few weeks being in contention and not being able to close the deal,” Langer said. “It was very important for my confidence to pull off a win here sooner than later.”
He finished at 17-under 198 at the TPC Twin Cities.
Langer led by a stroke entering the final round last week in the Senior British Open, but dropped five shots in five holes on the back nine to shoot a 75 and tie for sixth. Three weeks ago, he had a four-stroke lead entering the last round of the U.S. Senior Open, but had a 72 to finish second.
Peoples, three strokes ahead entering the final round, had it on cruise control much of the day and shot a 70 to finish second – two shots behind. The runner-up finish is his best in 51 starts on the tour.
“I should have looked at the boards and I should have paid attention to what was going on,” he said. “I got in my own little world and fell in love with where I was. … I kind of felt like, `Just don’t make any mistakes and you’ll be all right.’ I had no idea.”
Kenny Perry and Olin Browne tied for third at 15 under. Perry had a 64, and Browne shot 66.
Langer, also the 2009 event champion, was 5 under on the front nine, added birdies on Nos. 11 and 12 to get within two shots of the lead, and birdied Nos. 14 and 15 to tie Peoples at 17 under.
“It’s not easy to play with a big lead and you start to protect a little bit and you don’t start to shoot at the flag or whatever,” Langer said. “David hasn’t won a lot of tournaments lately, but he’s a great player, and I figured if I could put the pressure on it might be harder for him to close the deal.”
Moments after Peoples bogeyed No. 16, Langer put his 218-yard approach within about 8 feet on the par-5 18th to set up a clinching birdie. It was the largest final-round comeback in the history of the tournament.
Langer joins Hale Irwin as the only multiple winners in the event. Irwin won in 1997, 1999 and 2002.
The 52-year-old Peoples, who hasn’t won an event since the PGA Tour’s 1992 Anheuser-Busch Golf Classic, birdied three of the first five holes to open a five-stroke lead, but while he made par on 11 straight holes before the bogey on No. 16, others were closing the gap. Peoples also had a bogey on the par-3 17th before a birdie at 18.
“I just didn’t feel like I was aggressive enough on that back nine. I hit a lot of wedge shots – you’re supposed to hit those in there closer – and I didn’t hit the ball in there really close.”
The 67-year-old Irwin shot a 65, the first time he’s beaten his age in tournament play. His round included a 171-yard hole-out for eagle on the par-4 ninth hole, something never done in the 12 years the event has been at the course. He birdied six straight holes on the back nine, but bogeyed No. 18 after his second shot landed in the water while he tried to lay up. He tied for 50th at 3 under.
“That’s kind of the synopsis of my game right now,” Irwin said. “Either I’m playing really well or I’m doing that stuff to keep really good scores from emerging.”
Irwin shot 74 each of the first two days.