Langer (knee) expects to return to playoffs

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RICHMOND, Va. - Bernhard Langer expects to play this week in the Dominion Charity Classic after missing the PGA Tour Champions' playoff opener last week because of a left knee injury.

The 59-year-old German star played nine-hole  practice rounds Monday and Tuesday to prepare for the event that starts Friday at The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course. He re-aggravated the injury at home doing routine spinning.

''It's better. It's right now good enough to hit balls and play,'' Langer said Wednesday. ''I haven't gone more than nine holes, so we'll find out how it feels after tomorrow because tomorrow's 18, no carts. I hate carts anyways, but when you're hurting like this, it would be a help. Looking forward to it and, hopefully, I'll be getting better every day.

He pulled out last week in California before the start of the PowerShares QQQ Championship.

''It wasn't much fun,'' Langer said. ''Just going from one doctor to another and resting, icing, doing this and doing that. Nice thing was I had my wife and my daughter with me, so that was a little bit of a distraction, had some nice dinners together.''

Langer leads the 50-and-over tour with four victories and has wrapped up the season money title with $2,697,459. He tops the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs standings, 1,038,941 points ahead of second-place Colin Montgomerie.

The playoff field was cut from 72 to 54 for the event, and Tom Lehman dropped out because of an elbow injury. The top 36 after the week will qualify for the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship next week in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Each dollar earned in the first two events is worth two points - first place is worth $305,000 and 610,000 points this week - and is added to the regular-season total. At the Charles Schwab Championship, points will be reset so that the top five only have to win to capture the Charles Schwab Cup.

The James River Course was designed by William S. Flynn in 1928, renovated by Rees Jones in 1992, and later restored by Lester George.

''I think it's a phenomenal golf course, really in great shape, very traditional,'' Langer said. ''You pretty much see what you get, there's no trickery to it. Got to keep it out of the rough, the rough is very punishing. It's that Bermuda grass and may only be 2, 2 1/2, 3 inches long, but that ball sits right down and you can't make decent contact. Get these knuckleballs coming out with no spin, so you don't know how far they're going to carry or how far they're going to run, so there's a premium on driving the ball well, hitting the fairways.''

Tom Pernice Jr. won the playoff opener Sunday at Sherwood.