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Thursday’s roundup: Langer leads at Senior PGA

Ben Nuckols
Associated Press

Sterling, Va. — Shrugging off fatigue from last week’s victory, Bernhard Langer shot a 7-under 65 Thursday to take a two-shot lead in the first round of the Senior PGA Championship.

The 59-year-old German could break Jack Nicklaus’ record of eight senior majors with a win at Trump National. He tied Nicklaus last week with a five-shot victory at the Regions Tradition. He would also become the first player to win all five of the current senior majors.

Langer started with five straight pars on a cool, misty morning before sparse galleries. The start was delayed 80 minutes because of overnight rain that saturated President Donald Trump’s already-soft course on the shores of the Potomac River, about 25 miles from Washington.

“I was really tired on Monday and Tuesday, really low on energy,” Langer said. “Today, I felt fine. I got up early at 5 a.m. and went through my stretching routine and stuff and then heard about the delay, so sat around for an hour and a half, got all stiff again, so that part didn’t help.”

Langer’s lead held up as afternoon thunderstorms halted play for the day with half of the 156-man field still on the course.

Langer pumped his fist when he rolled in his first birdie, an 18-footer at the par-4 sixth hole. That started a run of six birdies in eight holes that tied him for the lead at 5 under. He missed only two fairways and just one green in regulation, leading to his only bogey.

“I hit a lot of good putts,” Langer said. “There was one or two other ones that actually I thought I made them and they just went over the edge, or one actually lipped out, but I also had two or three that went in that don’t go in every day.”

He finished his round by hitting a 2-hybrid from 216 yards to 3 feet for eagle on the par-5 18th.

“I had a very good yardage,” Langer said. “I knew if I hit it somewhat solid it should land near the hole and it landed perfectly.”

The PGA of America allowed players to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairways and moved up some tees on the soggy course so that it played at just under 7,000 yards.

“They shortened the course quite a bit and it turned out to be such a nice day, the course played incredibly short,” said Tom Lehman, who was two shots back after a 67.

Lehman briefly had the lead until he chunked a 4-iron into the water on 18, leading to a bogey.

“I played very well. I’m not going to dwell on one bad swing,” he said.

Lee Janzen, Scott McCarron and James Kingston also were two shots behind Langer. Kingston, a South African who got into the field by finishing among the top 20 in money on the European Senior Tour, tied Langer at 7 under before two late bogeys.

Among the players who didn’t finish, Larry Mize had the best round going at 5 under through 10 holes. Miguel Angel Jimenez was among the group at 4 under, playing alongside John Daly and defending champion Rocco Mediate, who were both 1 under.

Langer has 31 career victories and $22 million in earnings on the PGA Tour Champions, trailing only Hale Irwin’s 45 wins and $27 million. He has topped the money list eight times in nine seasons.

“I feel like Bernhard is catchable, but you’ve got to play awfully, awfully well,” Lehman said. “He’s accomplished so much, but yet I think we all still feel that he can be beat. It’s just that you need to play really well to do it.”

PGA

At Fort Worth, Texas, Kelly Kraft, Derek Fathauer and PGA Tour rookie J.T. Poston all shot 5-under 65 to share the lead after the first round at Colonial.

Jon Rahm, Scott Brown and Graeme McDowell followed at 66. Two-time Colonial champions Phil Mickelson and Zach Johnson both birdied their last three holes and were among six players with rounds of 67.

Defending champion Jordan Spieth, coming off consecutive missed cuts, was tied for 34th after an even-par 70 with six birdies, four bogeys and a double bogey.

Only 33 of the 121 players finished under par.

Kraft and McDowell had the only bogey-free rounds. Brown had the lead outright at 6 under before a double bogey on his last hole.

Brian Stuard (Jackson) shot par 70.

Europe

At Virginia Water, England, British Open champion Henrik Stenson shot a bogey-free, 4-under 68 to lie two strokes off the lead held by Swedish compatriot Johan Carlsson after the first round of the BMW PGA Championship.

All four of Stenson’s birdies came on the back nine as Wentworth rolled out its new greens for the signature event on the European Tour. They appeared to meet with widespread approval, especially from Carlsson, whose hot run came on the front nine where he reached the turn in 30 shots, thanks to five birdies.

“The greens are so good. I love this golf course right now,” said Carlsson, who had eight birdies in total in his 66. “I think it has become so much better.”

Ernie Els was behind the latest changes to the West Course following criticism of his original redesign in 2010. The renovation program started eight days after Chris Wood’s victory last year, with all 18 greens stripped of their old turf and reseeded.

The greens on Nos. 8, 11, 14 and 16 were completely rebuilt and another five were partially rebuilt. All the bunkers were redesigned.

“The greens are absolutely as pure as you can find,” Els said. “We listened to some of the players’ comments through the years since we started first changing, and I think I feel we’ve got it right this time.”

Els appeared to have chipped in for an eagle on the par-5 12th hole, but instantly realized he had not replaced his ball in the right place after checking to see if it was plugged. The four-time major winner was assessed a two-shot penalty and shot a 1-under 71 to lie five shots off the lead.

Carlsson holds a one-shot lead over Francesco Molinari, Scott Jamieson and Kiradech Aphibarnrat.