PITTSBURGH — Bernhard Langer moved closer to his first Senior Players Championship victory Saturday, shooting a 4-under 66 in the third round to stay in front of hard-charging Kenny Perry.
Langer was at 15-under 195 through 54 holes in the third Champions Tour major the season, where he has five top-10 finishes but no victories. The two-time Masters champion shook off a slow start with a 4-under 31 on the back nine. Perry, trying to join Arnold Palmer as the only player to win the Senior Players in consecutive years, briefly took the lead midway through the round before settling for a 65 that left him three strokes behind Langer.
Russ Cochran, Joe Durant and Bill Glasson were four back. Cochran had a 63, the low round of the day at Fox Chapel. Durant shot 67, and Glasson had a 68. Jeff Sluman was at 10 under following a 64 as the field began to spread out behind Langer.
The 56-year-old Langer, a two-time winner this year, began the day with the lead but also concerns about his driver after a broken screw in the clubhead was repaired.
After some extra time on the range making sure everything was OK, the driver turned out to be fine. Early on in his round, it was everything else in Langer's game that was shaky. The German three-putted the first hole for bogey and couldn't get up and down for par from a greenside bunker on the fifth.
No matter. The steadiest player on the 50-and-older circuit quickly turned things around.
A 30-foot birdie from the back of the green on the par-4 sixth got Langer going and he backed it up with another birdie on the seventh to bring him back to even par, setting the stage for the strong back nine. After finding himself one shot behind Perry at the turn, Langer put on a clinic. He birdied the 12th then ran off three more birdies from Nos. 14-16, all of them on putts inside 15 feet.
Langer has been one of the most dominant players on the Champions Tour since making his debut in 2007. He has won 20 times since turning 50, including the Senior British Open and the U.S. Senior Open in 2010. He has challenged frequently at the Senior Players, where he's never finished worse than 13th in six starts, including a tie for eighth behind Perry last June.
This time Langer finds himself in the role of leader, but he'll have an eyeful of Perry on Sunday after the streaky Kentuckian put together another scorching round at the par 70 layout.
Perry shook off an even par 70 in the opening round with a 63 on Friday. He followed it with a roller-coaster 65 that included six birdies, an eagle and three bogeys.
A birdie on No. 14 seemed to have Perry poised for his second straight 63, but he cooled over the closing stretch, bogeying the 16th after his tee shot landed against a tree. Playing into the wind on the uphill par-5 18th, he settled for par, leaving himself and the rest of the field with some work to do to catch Langer.