NAPLES, Fla. – Bernhard Langer shot a 6-under 66 on Saturday and leads the ACE Group Classic by four strokes heading into the final round.
Langer matched the tournament’s 36-hole record at 14-under 130. Mark O’Meara, Russ Cochran, Fred Funk and Mark Calcavecchia are tied for second.
The 53-year-old Langer has failed to win only once in 10 tournaments he’s either shared or been in the lead after two rounds. That was in the 2009 Toshiba Classic, when he was tied for the lead.
“I don’t have a different mindset, but I’d rather be in front than behind,” he said. “If you’re (in front) and make a mistake, you can make a mistake or two and still be in front. If you’re behind and you make a mistake, you’re further behind. So it’s easier that way, but you can’t sit back and say ‘I’m going to play safe.”’
Langer birdied his first three holes on his way to a 31 on the front nine. He bogeyed Nos. 10 and 11, but bounced back with birdies on Nos. 12, 14 and 15.
“If I had avoided these two bogeys, would have been great,” he said. “But they were silly bogeys. With a pitching wedge in my hand, I shouldn’t make bogey from the middle of the fairway.”
Funk and Calcavecchia will join Langer in the final group; the last 11 champions in tournament history have come out of the final pairing.
“He doesn’t beat himself, that’s probably the biggest thing,” Funk said of Langer. “He just goes out there and stays with the game plan. He has a game plan, and I don’t think he ever varies from it.”
O’Meara agreed, adding: “This guy is a tough as they come, and he’s proven that over the years. He’ll be a tough competitor tomorrow, and he’s not really going to back up, so we’re going to have to go low.”
Cochran and Langer shared the first-round lead with 64s.
David Frost and Nick Price are tied for sixth at 9 under.
Langer’s 14-under tied Tom Watson’s score after two rounds from 2002, although Watson failed to win. Jim Albus, in 1998, was the last to have a four-stroke lead in the event after two rounds, but he didn’t win either; Gil Morgan won that year.
Cochran, who started the day tied for the lead with Langer after a first-round 64, shot even par on the front with a par and a bogey. He had two birdies the rest of the way.
“You look at some of these scorecards today, I’m sure the birdies were flying,” Cochran said. “I kind of felt like I was running in place out there.”