Langer, Barron top crowded leaderboard as Ally Challenge heads to final round
Grand Blanc — Bernhard Langer wanted to be clear — he did not age two years overnight.
A day after shooting a first-round 64 at the Ally Challenge on his 64th birthday, Langer was nearly as good Saturday during the second round at Warwick Hills, recording birdies at 16 and 18 to finish with a 6-under 66 and head into Sunday’s final round tied for the lead with Doug Barron.
“I was very pleased with the round in the sense of made some long putts today for some reason,” Langer explained. “Didn't make too many of the closer ones, but made three or four long ones, which is fun. I haven't done that in a while. … Maybe some of my irons weren't quite as close as I wanted them, so I had to make mid-range putts instead of 6- or 8-footers, but overall very pleased because the course is playing long for me. I'm hitting a lot of longer clubs into most of these greens than about half of the field.
“But I'm happy to be on top of the leaderboard and have a chance going into (the final round).”
At 64 years old, it’s not a surprise that Langer, a 41-time winner on the Champions Tour, is hitting longer clubs into the green. But it’s hardly slowed the two-time Masters champion.
Trailing Barron by two shots heading into No. 16, Langer knocked his approach stiff at the par-5 then rolled in roughly a 30-foot putt on the 18th.
“Absolutely, it keeps the momentum going, have good vibes,” Langer said of rolling in the birdie putt on the last hole. “It’s always more fun to finish well than finish bad, let's put it that way.”
It’s not just a two-man race, either.
Joe Durant is one shot back of the leaders at 13-under while Thongchai Jaidee is two back at 12-under. Marco Dawson, who was tied for the lead after the first round, is at 11-under, and Steven Alker is at 10-under. Three more players sit at 9-under while a group of six, including defending champion Jim Furyk, are at 8-under.
“It’s going to take a low one because it's really bunched up,” Langer said of what he’ll need on Sunday to win. “It’s not just Doug Barron and I, there's about 15, 20 guys that can still win this tournament going low. We can't afford to sit on our laurels and make pars and hope to win this tournament. You've got to go low tomorrow to have a chance to take the trophy away.”
There were no blemishes on the card for Barron, who won two weeks ago at the Shaw Charity Classic. His eight birdies, including five on the back nine, gave him a 64, tied for the best round of the day.
“Well, I'm playing great,” Barron said. “I'm trying to just play smart and play good. I'm putting beautifully. My caddie helps me so much. I was a little off in the pro-am and I got one little feel and I've literally missed two shots off the tee in two days. I'm playing with a lot of confidence. I just won obviously. Just having a lot of fun right now.”
Barron agreed with Langer saying it would take a low number in the final round to win, but he added Warwick Hills is playing perfectly, meaning some good scores are out there to be had.
“This is one of our favorite courses out here,” Barron said of the course that hosted the Buick Open on the PGA Tour for most of its 48-year run that ended in 2009. “I think everyone would say this is one of our top-five best courses. The people are great, the course is phenomenal, the greens are amazing.
“I mean, I'm not counting anything. I know what I've got to go shoot tomorrow. My two wins, I shot 6-under both rounds, so I wouldn't expect anything less tomorrow if I'm going to win. I would have to probably shoot 6- or 7-under.”
Durant is a three-time winner on the Champions Tour, but his last victory came in 2018.
He might not be tied for the lead, but he’s got a number in mind that might end his championship drought.
“It's going to take another low one,” Durant said. “I wouldn't mind being 20 (under), see what 20 does tomorrow. It's just going to be fun. It's a shootout. A guy could come out and shoot 62 tomorrow, so you've just got to go out and put the pedal down.”