Langer hanging on at Constellation Senior Players Championship

Icy start, coupled with Perry's torrid play, has German ahead by 3



Bernhard Langer is the ice man. At least, that's what Kenny Perry calls him.

But, after his lethargic start in the third round of the Constellation Senior Players Championship, that frosty demeanor was beginning to melt in the 90-degree heat at Fox Chapel Golf Club.

And that allowed Perry, who got off to a searing start, to catch him without hardly breaking a sweat.

"Bernhard's a different character," Perry said. "He's gritty. He's tough. He's got a lot of heart."

There is another adjective to describe Langer: Unflappable. That's what he was for the final 13 holes Saturday, making six birdies to offset his slow start and regain control of the tournament he had momentarily let slip from his grasp.

When it was all over, there was Langer in the same position he began the day -- at the top of the leader board, this time with a three-shot lead, though this time with Perry breathing down his neck.

Langer shot a back-nine 31, thanks to four birdies in a five-hole stretch, to shoot 66 and finish at 15-under 195 after 54 holes.

Perry, the defending champ, shot 65 -- his fifth score of 65 or better in his past six rounds at Fox Chapel -- to jump into second place at 12-under 198.

That means the Champions Tour's top two players -- Langer and Perry -- will be paired in the final grouping today in what should be golf's Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Birdies at 20 paces, if you will.

"It's not over by any means," Langer said. "Kenny has played very well here on this golf course. I need to get under par because Kenny Perry's going to go under par."

Langer is on pace to break the tournament scoring record of 261 set by Jack Nicklaus in 1990 and tied by Perry a year ago. Nicklaus did it on a par-72 course, Dearborn Country Club in Michigan.

"I'm going to have to counter him," Perry said of Langer. "I'm going to have to make birdies with him. He shows no emotion. He shows no nerves. He's the ice man out there."

Perry, who has won three of the past four majors on the Champions Tour, is following a familiar script at Fox Chapel.

A year ago, he shot 63 Saturday to move into second place, two shots behind leader Fred Couples. Then, in the final round, he leapfrogged Couples to win his first major of any kind with a final-round 64.

"It's kind of running like last year," Perry said. "It's very similar, it's déjà vu, it's like Groundhog Day."

Langer, who has 20 career victories on the Champions Tour and leads the Charles Schwab Cup points race, has made 16 birdies in three days -- tied for tournament high with Bob Gilder.

But, after making just one bogey in his first two rounds, he made two in the first five holes to relinquish his two-shot lead.

And he did it on two of the easiest holes at Fox Chapel -- No. 1, which was yielding birdies as though they were using a 15-inch cup, and No. 5, a 345-yard par-4 when Langer's tee shot landed in a sandy divot.

On top of that, Langer failed to birdie No. 2, the reachable par 5 that played as the easiest hole in the third round (4.363 stroke average). That almost felt like a bogey.

"From there on I played really solid," Langer said. "I hit a lot of good shots and then finally made some putts coming in. Overall, it was pretty solid."

Perry, who began the day four shots behind Langer after a second-round 63, wasted little time closing the gap on the leader.

He birdied the first hole from 8 feet and eagled the par-5 second when he hit a 6-iron to 10 feet, pushing him to 10 under. When Langer bogeyed the first hole -- one of the few to do that -- Perry briefly had a share of the lead.

Perry is trying to become the tournament's first repeat champion since Arnold Palmer in 1985.

"I was all go, I was ready," Perry said. "I went birdie, eagle the first two holes and I'm thinking, man, we got to go."

But Langer had a very bad break turn into a good one.

He was able to have his driver repaired after the second round when the aluminum tip on the end of the shaft broke after his tee shot at the 18th hole. Langer took his club to the equipment trailer, which fortunately was still on site because the repair man, Mike Bertha, is a Baldwin native and decided to spend a few extra days in his hometown area.

Typically, the van would leave the tournament site at the start of the tournament.

"Mike looked at me and said I think I can fix that," Langer said. "I was really surprised because to me it looked like there was a piece broken and I was surprised he had that piece."

It could be the final piece in Langer's march to victory.

Gerry Dulac: gdulac@post-gazette.com and Twitter @gerrydulac.


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