Sunday 18 February 2018

Langer leads Senior field

Alasdair Reid

Bernhard Langer may have reached that stage of life where men start worrying about their blood pressure, but matters vascular should not be too great a concern for him for some time yet.

As he made his way around Carnoustie, clocking up the round of 69 that gave him a three-stroke lead over Corey Pavin going into the Senior Open Championship's final day, he played the same kind of golf that was his trademark in that era when he won his two Masters titles -- much to admire and little to excite.

And less still to set any pulses racing -- least of all his own. Langer's poker-faced progress round the course was a sublime demonstration of near-flawless golf, marred slightly by a bogey at the last after he had found sand off the tee and had been forced to lay up.

Langer still hit a lovely approach to six feet, but his putt went a couple of inches wide of the hole. Had it gone in, he would have matched the achievement of Fred Funk, who had recorded the tournament's first bogey-free round earlier in the day.

From a distance Carnoustie can seem deceptively flat, but it is a roller coaster of a track at close quarters. Yet Langer ironed out its challenges, playing precision golf all the way round and taking three of the birdie chances that came his way. A fourth beckoned at the 17th, but he slid a five-foot putt just wide.

Langer's round was all the more impressive to those at the 18th who had just witnessed Mark Calcavecchia's battle with the closing hole. The squarely built American went rather pear-shaped in the third round at St Andrews last weekend, and he derailed his challenge in similar fashion here, running up an eight that had seen him go out of bounds and into water in quick succession.

Nor did Pavin have much better luck in his round, although a card of 72 looked prettier at the finish than Calcavecchia's 75. Pavin, level with Langer at four-under at the start of the day, had kept the German in his sights over the front nine, his bogey at the third redeemed by his birdie at the sixth, but his round went haywire just after the turn as he registered bogeys at the ninth and 10th.

Langer is not in clover just yet, nor is he a rookie when it comes to winning from the front. The concern for the rest is that Langer can pack a straight bat in the final round and wait for the challengers to turn up.

There is probably no player in the game with his mastery of defensive strategy, and nor are there many of his rivals here who have made their names through bold attack.

It is also hugely in Langer's favour that he has been as consistently excellent in his first few years among the seniors as he was in his early days on the regular tour. Staggeringly, he has already taken 10 US Champions Tour titles, and has topped the money list in each of the past two seasons.

Sam Torrance has been useful among the seniors as well, but home hopes evaporated as his round came apart after five holes. Torrance was going along nicely, but three bogeys and a double-bogey between holes six and nine sent him tumbling down the field. His back nine was little better, his round of 80 placing him 19 shots back from Langer.

Sunday Independent

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