Bernhard Langer fires 64, shares first-round lead with Marco Dawson at Ally Challenge

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Grand Blanc —  Bernhard Langer wanted to shoot his age on Friday, the perfect way for the Hall of Famer to celebrate his 64th birthday.

After draining a birdie putt on the par-13 17th in front of the usually boisterous crowd at Warwick Hills, Langer did just that, parring No. 18 to finish with an 8-under 64 to share the first-round lead with Marco Dawson at the Ally Challenge.

“It’s the first time I shot my age,” Langer said. “I’ve tried for two years. I actually had a bet with Scott McCarron when I was 62. We had a bet for dinner —  if I don’t shoot my age, I owe him dinner. If I shoot my age, he owes me dinner. No we’re 1-1.”

Bernhard Langer

It proved to be quite a way for the day to close as Mother Nature put a stop to the first round before it even started. A downpour at Warwick Hills just before the first round was set to begin turned into a roughly five-hour delay.

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Not long after the players hit the course around 3 p.m. for the fourth istallment of the Champions Tour event, the red numbers started popping up on the leaderboard.

Langer wasted no time, dropping in a birdie putt on No. 1 then carding birdies on 6 and 7. He shook off a bogey at No. 9 to card six birdies on the back nine to come in with a 30, just missing a birdie putt on 18 that would have given him a 63 and a better score, but missing on his birthday number.

“That would have been even better, one better,” Langer said with a smile. “But I made an incredible putt on 17 in front of a large crowd and it was just fantastic to see that ball drop in to go 8-under par. I was trying not to mess up 18 or maybe make birdie and go even lower than my age.”

Believe it or not, Langer had the 64 in mind even as he sat through the delay, trying to kill some time before getting out on the range.

“I was texting with my family this morning because of the rain delay and I said, ‘My goal is to shoot my age today and give myself a birthday present,’” Langer said. “Just shows you the strengths of the mind if you put something in your mind and a goal and sometimes you can achieve it.”

As good as Langer was, he had plenty of company near the top of the leaderboard.

Dawson got off to a quick start, opening on the back nine and recording birdies at 10 and 11 before a birdie at 15 and an eagle at the par-5 16th. A birdie at the ninth, his closing hole, pulled him into a tie for the lead.

“Drove it well and I putted well,” Dawson said. “That usually leads to good scoring. And the irons were pretty good for the most part. I think I missed one green, got it up and down.”

Defending champion Jim Furyk, K.J. Choi and Joe Durant all shot 7-under 65 to sit one shot back.

Furyk got off to a heck of a start in his own right, holing out from the fairway on No. 1 for an eagle and a quick two-shot advantage on the field. Four pars followed before Furyk birdied three of four holes to close the front nine with a 5-under 31.

“I made an eagle early then kind of plodded along, made some good pars, had a couple good looks,” Furyk said. “Was able to get a putt at 6 and that kind of opened the floodgates. Birdied 6, birdied 7, birdied 9. Really, that front nine my wedge game was real strong. Hit a wedge in real close about six feet on No. 12 as well. I had it going and wasn't able to convert on wedges at 13 and 14.

“I lost my speed a little bit on the back nine. I hit some really good putts, but left some like either short or not hard enough and they kind of died and missed low. So just missed my speed a little bit on the way in, but felt good. It was a good solid round.

Two shots back at 6-unde were Darren Clarke, Woody Austin and Doug Barron.

Play was suspended around 8:30 p.m. Twelve groups were set to return at 7:30 a.m. Saturday to finish their opening round before the second round is set to begin a little after 10 a.m.

Twitter: @mattcharboneau