Benton Harbor — Beginning with Englishman Roger Chapman’s victory here at Harbor Shores two years ago, the PGA of America has been noticeably gracious to foreign players.
Chapman’s victory at the 73rd Senior PGA Championship was his first in a major.
Ditto for Kohki Idoki of Japan at the Senior PGA Championship last year at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis.
Now, Europeans Colin Montgomerie and Bernhard Langer are one-two on the Senior PGA leaderboard heading into Sunday’s final round in Benton Harbor.
“We’re off last (Sunday),” Montgomerie said. “Two Europeans out there playing in an away venue. I look forward to playing (with Langer).”
Montgomerie made a downhill, left-to-right 30-foot birdie putt on the 54th hole to shoot a 3-under-par 68 to move to 7-under 206, one stroke ahead of Germany’s Langer, who shot 69 on Saturday.
For the fourth consecutive round, the two will be paired together, this time in the final group.
“It’s always fun playing with Colin, and we go way back,” said Langer, who captained the Europe Ryder Cup team, that included Montgomerie playing a big part, in a 2004 victory over the U.S. at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Township. “We played many times on the European Tour around the world and also on the Ryder Cup.
“We know each other’s game pretty well.”
Three players are two shots back at 5-under 208, including Americans Bart Bryant and Marco Dawson, and Kiyoshi Murota of Japan.
Five are at 3-under 210, notably this year’s U.S. Ryder captain Tom Watson, 2006 Senior PGA champion Jay Haas, and John Cook, who was runner-up here two years ago.
An American won the tournament each of the four years before Chapman’s win. And before South African Denis Watson won it in 2007, an American had claimed the Alfred S. Bourne Trophy 12 consecutive years.
Montgomerie’s tribulations in majors are well-documented. He’s never won one despite tremendous success on the European Tour, as a Ryder Cup captain and as a Ryder Cup participant.
The Scotsman finished second five times in majors, twice losing in a playoff.
One of Montgomerie’s biggest disappointments came in 2006 at the U.S. Open. He had a share of the lead after the 71st hole at Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, N.Y., but made bogey on the final hole.
“I’m not looking backwards at all,” Montgomerie said of past majors. “This is why I joined the Champions Tour; to look forward. I can’t look back on the shocking upsets and the tragedies that happened in my golfing career in America. But thank you for bringing it up.”
Montgomerie might have lost many a tournament with late errant shots, but he’s never lost his dry sense of humor.
“If you play with Bernhard four times in any tournament, you’re doing something right,” Montgomerie said. “Obviously, I am.”
Montgomerie and Langer entered play Saturday in a six-way tie for first place at 4 under. Montgomerie got it to 5 under with a birdie on No. 3, then made a tap-in birdie putt at the par-4 No. 12. That allowed him to move into first all alone at 6 under, a shot ahead of a group of five that included playing partner Langer and Tom Watson.
Montgomerie nearly gave that shot back on the par-3 No. 13 as he left his pitch well short. But he made the 15-footer to save par and maintain a one-stroke lead.
He made bogey on the par-3 No. 17, then finished with the long birdie putt.
Langer dug a hole by making double-bogey on the picturesque par-4 seventh, but made birdie on Nos. 10 and 11 to get back to 5 under. He got to 6 under with a birdie on the par=5 No. 15. It was the third straight day Langer has made birdie there.
“Yeah, I need more of those holes,” he said.