PALM COAST, Fla. (AP) — Bernhard Langer birdied his first two holes at the Ocean Hammock Golf Club, then avoided the mistakes that plagued his closest rivals Saturday in the Champions Tour’s Ginn Championship.
The two-time Masters champion was one of only two players without a bogey Saturday on the windy Oceanside course. He shot a 6-under 66 to reach 11-under 133 and move two strokes ahead of career club pro Lonnie Nielsen (69).
Fred Funk (69), tied with Langer with three holes to play, made a bogey at No. 16 and a double bogey at No. 17 to fall into third at 8 under.
Two peers of Langer’s in the Hall of Fame, Nick Price (67) and Ben Crenshaw (68), were 5 under along with Joe Ozaki (65) and Mark McNulty (69).
Langer has won twice in 10 career starts on the Champions Tour. A winner of 63 worldwide events, Langer is taking his play on the Champions Tour seriously – evident by his four top-10 finishes in five starts this season.
“I don’t prepare, why am I out here?” the German star said. “I expect my best. I’m going to give 100 percent, the same way I do most things in life.”
Langer made two short birdie putts jump-start his round, added two other short birdie putts later on the front nine, then birdied No. 12 from 15 feet and No. 14 from 18 inches to build his lead.
Nielsen and Funk, who will play with Langer in the final threesome again Sunday, also expect no less from Langer.
“I can’t afford any mistakes because the way he’s playing, Bernhard’s not going to make any,” Funk said. “He’s really tough this week.”
“Bernhard will be awful hard to beat,” Nielsen said. “He’s playing so well that he almost can’t help himself, making birdies. He’s that good.”
Nielsen birdied three holes in a row at one point tie Langer, but made two bogeys on the back nine to fall back.
Funk chipped in from birdie from 97 feet away at the par-4 15th hole to pull even with Langer, but bogeyed the next hole, then blew his tee shot over the green at the par-3 17th, needed two chips to get on the green, and two-putted for a double bogey.
“I really disappointed at myself for letting the round go,” Funk said. “I played really well – good enough to be right there with Bernhard.”
Ian Woosnam struggled again in his first Champions Tour start, following his opening 78 with a 75 to finish at 9 over – 20 strokes behind Langer.