BELMONT, Mass. – For about 10 minutes on the front nine in the fourth round of the Senior Players Championship, Bernhard Langer was almost in trouble.
The defending champion three-putted on the third hole at the Belmont Country Club - his first bogey in 48 holes - and the eight-stroke lead he had to start the day was down to six. But he eagled the next hole, then coasted to a six-stroke victory in the third Champions Tour major of the year.
''I enjoy playing with a big lead. But you've still got to pay attention. It's not like it's over,'' said Langer, who claimed $405,000 and moved into second on the tour standings. ''You just never know what happens. This game is so amazing: It's brutally tough when things go bad, and enthralling and thrilling when things go right.''
A two-time Masters champion who won five times on the Champions Tour last year, Langer was winless this year before going wire-to-wire to earn his fifth major on the over-50 circuit. He is the first golfer since Arnold Palmer win in 1984 and '85 to successfully defend his title in the Senior Players.
''It was a magical week,'' Langer said. ''Obviously, to do something that Arnie did is amazing.''
Kirk Triplett shot 64 - a score that would have been good enough for a course record at the beginning of the week - to finish six strokes back at minus-13. Starting the day 10 strokes back, he birdied six of seven holes around the turn to win the only competitive battle: for second place.
''I thought: 'If I make six more birdies, Bernhard's going to be nervous,''' he joked. ''It's not the first time this guy's done this. ... Most of us didn't get out of the gate enough to stay with him.''
Senior tour points leader Colin Montgomerie shot 68 on Sunday to finish in a tie for third after spending the morning at Massachusetts General Hospital being checked out for chest pains. Doctors cleared him in time to get him back to the course for a 1:09 p.m. tee time despite a detour or two to get around a closed bridge downtown.
''I blame the British for building the roads,'' the 51-year-old Scotsman said. ''Bloody awful.''
Montgomerie earned 322 points in the Charles Schwab Cup standings and has 1,616 for the season - 172 more than Langer, who moved up to second. Russ Cochran (69) and Joe Durant (67) were also in the three-way tie for third.
''Best of luck to Bernhard,'' Montgomerie said. ''One day it will stop - hopefully sooner than later. But he's amazing, and all credit to him.''
Langer shot matching 65s in the first two rounds at the par-71, 6,812-yard course and then added a 67 on Saturday to open an eight-stroke lead over Cochran heading into the final round. A bogey on No. 3 might have opened the door, just a bit.
But Langer then put his second shot on the par-5 fourth hole about six feet from the pin, and knocked it in for an eagle. The 57-year-old German earned his 24th victory on the Champions Tour, tying him with Miller Barber for fourth all-time.
''Playing next to Bernhard, he's pretty solid,'' Cochran said. ''It just proves that if you want to win out here, you've got to do all things.''