Bernhard Langer spent 45 anxious minutes Friday wondering if the driver that he has used the last two years would be healthy enough to make it to work Saturday. Fortunately, a Champions Tour club technician was able to find a replacement screw for the one that busted inside the clubhead at the end of Langer’s second round at the Senior Players Championship in Pittsburgh.
The “gamer” back in his ever steady hands, Langer moved closer to his third major title on the 50-and-over circuit, overcoming a slow start to shoot a 4-under 66 in the third round and stay in front of hard-charging Kenny Perry at Fox Chapel.
“There’s always slight doubts,” Langer said. “You’re putting something together. They say it’s the same, but you’re never sure it’s the same ... I was convinced it was very close to the same. You don’t want it to get into your head.”
It hardly looked like Langer was bothered while moving to 15-under 195 through 54 holes at an event where he has five top-10 finishes but no victories. The two-time Masters champ hit 10 of 14 fairways and shot a 4-under 31 on the back nine to regain control after briefly losing the lead to Perry.
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Perry (Lone Oak, WKU), trying to join Arnold Palmer as the only player to win the Senior Players in consecutive years, was three behind after a 65 he allowed could have been even better. Still, the deficit is hardly daunting for Perry, who trailed Fred Couples by two heading into the final round last June only to emerge with the first major of his professional career.
“Hopefully, the results will be the same,” Perry said, laughing.
Russ Cochran (St. Mary, UK), Joe Durant and Bill Glasson were four back. Cochran had a 63, the low round of the day. Durant shot 67, and Glasson had a 68.
Perry bounced back from a methodical 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.
“I need to make that a little bit better tomorrow,” Perry said. “I need to clean it up a little bit and put on a little bit of pressure.”
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.
Not that Langer is taking anything for granted.
“I still have got to shoot under par tomorrow,” he said. “I feel Kenny Perry is going to go under par. There’s still 18 holes to play. That’s a lot of golf.”
Maybe, but Perry knows Langer isn’t going to come back to the pack. Perry estimated it would take a 63 to make things interesting on Sunday. Anything less could turn the round into a victory lap for his good friend.
“If he kicks my butt, I’ll shake his hand, give him a hug, whatever,” Perry said. “We’re going to go out and compete and see where the chips fall.”
› Patrick Reed held it together at Congressional to build a two-shot lead in the Quicken Loans National at Bethesda, Md., and put himself in an ideal position. He has never lost a PGA Tour event when he had at least a share of the 54-hole lead. Reed made three bogeys in a seven-hole stretch in the middle of his round and salvaged an even-par 71, giving him a two-shot lead over Seung-yul Noh, Freddie Jacobson and Marc Leishman.
› Michelle Wie shot her second straight 5-under 66 to take a two-shot lead in the suspended second round of the NW Arkansas Championship at Rogers, Ark. Coming off a victory Sunday in the U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst, Wie had six birdies and a bogey in her morning round at Pinnacle Country Club.
› Pablo Larrazabal shot a 5-under 67 to take a three-stroke lead into the final round of the BMW International Open in Cologne, Germany.