Langer birdies way to tournament title


By J.R. De GROOTE

Stephens Media Hawaii

Like the surf crashing to shore just a few feet away from the 18th green, Bernhard Langer came roaring into the final hole of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai on a five birdie-streak, and with an easy two-putt sealed a second consecutive day at 8-under 64 to take home the Makau trophy Sunday.

“I’m very pleased to win at the first event of the Champions Tour season,” Langer said. “I started playing fantastic on the finals six holes. I think I could have birdied the 18 but played away from the flag knowing I had the lead.”

Langer used the birdie spree to run away from a crowded leaderboard, including clubhouse leader Jeff Sluman (-19) and fellow hall of famer and final group member Fred Couples (-19). Sluman finished the day with a 65 and Couples — looking for his 10th Champions win and second in a row — had a 67.

Langer’s three-stroke victory is the largest winning margin at Hualalai since Hale Irwin won by five stokes in 2007. The 22-under-par 194 is also the best 54-hole score on the Champions Tour since Rocco Mediate shot 22-under at the inaugural Shaw Charity Classic last summer.

The win also breaks an unfortunate streak for the World Golf Hall of Fame member. Langer had finished in the top 10 in each of his last 11 tournaments, but failed to record a victory.

“It is good to have a W again after the last four or five months last year when I couldn’t do it despite playing great golf,” Langer said.

Langer played his 19th victory on the Champions Tour bogey free on the final 45 holes and recorded just a single bogey the whole tournament.

The 56-year-old German joins the short list of two-time winners at Hualalai, and it comes at an appropriate time. Langer will soak in the win while celebrating his 30th wedding anniversary today with his wife Vikki on the Four Seasons property before heading home.

Sluman put together a nice front-nine 31, but slowed down on his way in. However, Sluman was not discouraged by the runner-up finish — his best result at the season-opening event — and credited Langer for the excellent performance.

“Frankly it is a great way to start the year,” Sluman said. “You come into the first tournament not knowing what you have, having not played competitively for over two months. When you shoot 19-under you have to do some things right. I hit one good iron shot after another, hit some good putts, but today it was not quite enough.

“When I get on the plane tonight, I can know I played one heck of a tournament and I can take a lot of this the next tournament knowing I’m swinging pretty well.”

Couples remained at the front of the pack all weekend, but was stung by poor performances on the par-5s. Couples did no better than a par on both of Hualalai’s par-5s on the back-nine Sunday. Jay Don Blake, Russ Cochran, Brad Faxon, Mediate and Kirk Triplett thrived on the long holes, each going 10-under for the week. Langer was 9-under for the tournament on the par-5s.

First-round leader Mediate rebounded from a mediocre second round, shooting 5-under 67, good enough for fifth.

Defending and two-time champion John Cook (-8) finished tied for 19th., while reigning senior circuit Player of the Year Kenny Perry (-4) finished towards the bottom of the leader board, tied for 34th.

NOTES: Mark O’Meara was the only player in the field to make three eagles. Bernhard Langer’s 21 birdies were the most by a player in the field, one more than Jeff Sluman. Langer also made the fewest bogeys with just one and played his last 45 holes of the tournament without a bogey…Langer earns 307 Charles Schwab Cup points and a check for $307,000. His career earnings in seven appearances at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai now total $991,500.

Champions Tour

Mitsubishi Electric

Final Scores

The Associated Press

Sunday

At Hualalai Golf Course

Kaupulehu-Kona, Hawaii

Purse: $1.8 million

Yardage: 7,107; Par 72

Final

B. Langer (307), $307,000 66-64-64—194

Fred Couples (159), $159,00065-65-67—197

Jeff Sluman (159), $159,000 66-66-65—197

Jay Haas (111), $111,000 68-66-65—199

Rocco Mediate (91), $91,000 63-70-67—200

David Frost (76), $76,000 68-64-69—201

Mark O’Meara (76), $76,000 66-65-70—201

Tom Lehman (59), $59,000 67-66-69—202

Tom Pernice Jr. (59), $59,00065-70-67—202

Bart Bryant (48), $47,500 66-68-69—203

Fred Funk (48), $47,500 65-70-68—203

Russ Cochran (0), $39,000 70-67-67—204

Dan Forsman (0), $39,000 64-73-67—204

Jay Don Blake (0), $34,000 66-72-67—205

Steve Elkington (0), $34,000 65-67-73—205

Kirk Triplett (0), $34,000 70-69-66—205

Brad Faxon (0), $30,000 71-69-66—206

Loren Roberts (0), $28,000 68-72-67—207

Roger Chapman (0), $23,200 67-71-70—208

John Cook (0), $23,200 69-71-68—208

Mark McNulty (0), $23,200 76-67-65—208

Esteban Toledo (0), $23,200 69-72-67—208

Willie Wood (0), $23,200 71-70-67—208

Hale Irwin (0), $18,500 69-69-71—209

Larry Nelson (0), $18,500 70-68-71—209

John Riegger (0), $18,500 71-69-69—209

Tom Watson (0), $18,500 70-69-70—209

Michael Allen (0), $15,750 73-68-69—210

Nick Price (0), $15,750 73-67-70—210

Olin Browne (0), $14,250 72-67-72—211

Joe Daley (0), $14,250 71-70-70—211

Kohki Idoki (0), $14,250 70-70-71—211

Corey Pavin (0), $14,250 70-67-74—211

Kenny Perry (0), $12,500 72-68-72—212

Mike Reid (0), $12,500 72-69-71—212

Curtis Strange (0), $12,500 70-71-71—212

M. Calcavecchia (0), $11,500 75-74-64—213

Craig Stadler (0), $11,000 69-66-79—214

Tom Kite (0), $10,750 71-74-71—216

Mark Wiebe (0), $10,500 71-72-75—218

Ben Crenshaw (0), $10,250 76-76-75—227

 

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