FOX CHAPEL, Pa. – After 54 holes of plotting and scheming, the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship has a decidedly familiar look to it.
Bernhard Langer (pictured by Getty Images) is on top, Kenny Perry is in pursuit and there are enough contenders to make Sunday’s final round – and farewell to Fox Chapel Golf Club – a tasty morsel.
The Champions Tour players took a bite out of the Seth Raynor design again in Saturday’s third round. Forty-five golfers are under-par, with six in double-digits.
Langer broke his driver on his final swing with it Friday and got it fixed almost immediately. His third round took a bit longer to get going when he made a couple of unlikely bogeys on the first five holes. Then he reversed the bad karma to shoot 66 and is at 15-under 195. That’s three shots better than Perry, who opened birdie-eagle and shot 65.
Perry, the defending champion, made six birdies and an eagle but also had three bogeys. Left-hander Russ Cochran joined the fray with 63. Cochran is at 11-under along with Joe Durant (67) and Bill Glasson (68). Jeff Sluman’s 64 put him in sixth place at 10-under.
Perry leapfrogged Langer, who had a 2-shot lead after 36 holes, and into the lead with his torrid start. For the rest of the round it was a tug-of-war until Langer turned on the after-burners and once again clearly demonstrated the kind of tenacity with which he plays. An opening three-putt from 15 feet, a bad bounce at the second and finding a sand-filled fairway divot at the fifth for another bogey didn’t discourage Langer. His focus is narrow and his determination is expansive.
Langer rebounded to make six birdies on the final 13 holes to regain control.
“Bernhard’s a different character,” Perry said. “He’s tough. He’s gritty. He’s got a lot of heart.”
It’ll be Langer, Perry and Cochran in Sunday’s final round at Fox Chapel. The SENIOR PLAYERS will move next year to Belmont Country Club in Boston after a three-year stay in Pittsburgh.
“Bernhard is a good friend and I enjoy competing against him,” Perry said. “Looking forward to the challenge … I need to shoot 7-under probably.”
But Langer correctly pointed out that it’s not just about himself and Perry.
“There are about 10 other guys within striking distance,” Langer said. “It’s not over by any means. Kenny played very well here on this golf course last year. He’s had some low rounds this year. I played with him the first two days, he played very well. He drives the ball very far and pretty straight, which sets himself up pretty good.
“I’ve still got to shoot under par. As I said, somebody shot 7-under today I think, right? So anybody that is 10-under, 11-under, shoots that kind of score, I’ve got to go under-par. I need to get under-par anyway because Kenny Perry’s going to go under par. Still 18 holes to play, it’s a lot of golf.”
Langer is the only Champions Tour player with two victories this year. He won the season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai in January and the Insperity Championship in May. He also has three runner-up finishes and two third-place finishes in 11 events.
Cochran also opened birdie-eagle, making a similar 15-foot putt on each hole, and he went out in 31.
“I like the direction my game is going in,” Cochran said. “I finished up last week (Encompass Championship) with a 64 and a nice solid round. But out here the thing is there are a lot of low rounds. If you can catch a hot putter and get the ball in the right spot on the greens, there are going to be a lot of low rounds.
“Although I like the way my game’s trending, I know I’m going to have to kind of come out and shoot a good round (Sunday). I didn’t expect to be in this position, so it just feels great to have a shot at it.”
Perry shot 63-63-64 in the final three rounds last year at Fox Chapel. He added another 63 in Friday’s second round and had visions of more dancing in his head.
“I was all go, I was ready,” Perry said. “I end up making an eagle, six birdies and I made two really bad bogeys. But all in all it was a great day, I thoroughly had fun. I was looking forward to getting out there and trying to see if I could back up another 63.
“Everything’s playing out just like last year. I was behind Freddie Couples going into Sunday last year, so hopefully the results are going to end up being the same.”
Perry won’t need a leaderboard in the final round.
“I shot well enough to get it to where I can at least be in the group with Bernhard to kind of see what he’s shooting out there,” Perry said. “Definitely you need to see what your opponent is doing, and if he’s making birdies he’s going to put a lot of pressure on me. I’m going to have to counter him, I’m going to have to make birdies with him. But he shows no emotion, he shows no nerves. He’s the ice man out there.”
Source: PGA Tour