PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Kenny Perry, Bernhard Langer and Paul Goydos aren’t quite ready to switch to shuffleboard.
The wily PGA Tour veterans showed they can still hang with the youngsters, taking up three of the top four spots on the leaderboard after two rounds at The Players Championship.
Then again, who better to handle demanding conditions at TPC Sawgrass than three guys who’ve been around it more than a few times.
“It’s the type of course where it doesn’t hurt to have played it a bunch,” Langer said.
Langer proved that Friday, shooting a 5-under 67 in the blustery second round, moving one shot behind Perry (6-under 138) and setting up a final pairing that’s a combined 97 years old.
Langer already has won twice this year – on the Champions Tour.
The two-time Masters champion and former Ryder Cup captain thought about withdrawing Thursday morning when he felt pain in his lower back, which caused his groin and left knee to ache. Throw in some shoulder soreness, and the 50-year-old German hardly seemed ready to compete against a field that includes some players who weren’t even born when he won his first Masters
“I think I can win,” Langer said.
So do Perry and Goydos, who is also one stroke off the lead, along with Sergio Garcia .
The 47-year-old Perry went to the PGA Tour’s weekly Bible study at Fred Funk’s home Wednesday night and found some inspiration. He discovered Funk’s crystal trophy from the 2005 Players, the one in which he became the tournament’s oldest champion (48).
“I got a good look at his trophy,” said Perry, who rubbed it for good luck. “That guy inspired me.”
Goydos, 43, is the youngest of the three and maybe the least experienced.
“I’m more journeyman than veteran,” said Goydos, who has won only twice in his 15 years on tour.
Perry, Langer and Goydos looked like they might be chasing Garcia, but the 28-year-old Spaniard’s poor putting overshadowed his accurate driving. Garcia hit all 14 fairways, missed only three greens and took 33 putts on his way to a 73.
What cost him the 36-hole lead was a double bogey on the notorious par-3 17th – and he didn’t even hit into the murky lagoon surrounding the island green.
Garcia’s tee shot went over the back of the green and rolled down the artificial turf path, leaving him a chip over a corner of the water. His shot came out hot, rolled off the green and only a slight rise in the first cut of rough kept it dry. He chipped weakly and missed another putt, then missed a 7-foot birdie putt on the last.
“I probably deserved a little bit more than what I got,” Garcia said.
Perry didn’t do anything spectacular. He made birdies on a pair of the par 5s, a 12-foot birdie putt on No. 1 and a hybrid that rolled into a tough lie on the bunker at the downwind, par-3 eighth, leading to his only bogey. Nerves were tough to control, however, in steady 20 mph wind that gusted as high as 35 mph, swirled through the pines and made just about every shot a challenge.
“It was the kind of day where you could shoot a big number in a hurry,” Perry said. “You’re at the mercy of the wind. It was hard to ever feel comfortable on any tee shot.”
When the round ended, 15 players remained under par, a group that included Fred Couples at 2-under 142, with defending champion Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els at 143.
The biggest surprise was Langer, who first played Sawgrass in 1984 when Garcia was barely out of diapers and Anthony Kim (4-under 140) was not born.
Langer eagled the second hole, birdied Nos. 4 and 5, then took the outright lead with a 15-foot birdie on the eighth. He was poised to shoot 30 on the front until dumping a wedge into the bunker left of the green on the par-5 ninth, making bogey for the second straight day.
“I felt like throwing up,” Langer said. “When you make 6 on a hole when you’re 80 yards away, feels worse than when you’re playing bad. I had a long walk from there to (No.) 10 and had a little bit of a talk.”
Now, he gets to rest – along with Perry and Goydos.
“Basically, right now we’re still just pace cars,” Goydos said. “We’re going to wait and see what happens on the weekend when the racing starts. But it’s a good place to start the weekend off.
“If nothing else, you get to sleep in.”