Langer, Forsbrand, Mast share lead
CONOVER, North Carolina (AP) — Bernhard Langer is looking for every opportunity to make up ground on Kenny Perry in the Champions Tour’s season point standings.
If Langer has a few more rounds like he had Friday, there’s a good chance he’ll be in the running for the $1 million annuity that goes to the season champion.
The two-time Masters champion birdied the final hole Friday for a 6-under 64 and a share of the first-round lead with Anders Forsbrand and Dick Mast in the Greater Hickory Classic. Perry opened with a 68.
“Every little bit helps,” said Langer, who trails Kenny Perry by 609 points in the Charles Schwab Cup standings with three events remaining.
“I was leading the Schwab Cup last year, and Tom Lehman wound up winning. There are a lot of points available, so I’m trying to close the gap so that maybe I can win or have a good finish in the last tournament and maybe win the overall championship.”
Langer, a two-time winner this season on the 50-and-over tour, and Forsbrand each had seven birdies and a bogey, while Mast had six birdies in a bogey-free round on the reconfigured Rock Barn Golf and Spa layout.
“I played well until the last three holes,” said Forsbrand, who made the field for the event after tying for fifth last weekend in Cary, N.C. “I missed two fairways on those last three holes, but I putted beautifully all day. It feels good to play like that.”
After flooding in July damaged the Jones Course, tournament officials cobbled together 18 holes that they are calling the “Champions Course.” Nos. 10-18 from Rock Barn’s Jackson Course are being used as the front nine and Nos. 1-6 and 16-18 from the Jones Course — the usual tournament venue — make up the back nine.
“The only hole that might be a little odd is the first hole, because it’s a par 5 that we’re playing as a par 4,” Langer said. “It’s challenging ... but the rest of the course isn’t easy. You’re getting a lot of tricky greens. It may be a little shorter, but you’ve still got to be extremely precise. I’m not saying it’s extremely hard, but it’s not easy to be 3 or 4 under. You’ve still got to earn it.”
Mast and Forsbrand played together, starting on the back nine.
“Anders was playing so beautiful, but I made a couple of birdies on the backside,” Mast said. “He was in a groove and made it look easy, and that kind of carried me along.”
John Riegger, the Boeing Classic winner in August, and Olin Browne were a stroke back. Mike Goodes and Brad Bryant shot 66.
David Frost, third in the Schwab Cup standings, shot a 67. Defending tournament champion Fred Funk also opened with a 67.