Bernhard Langer already is one of the most celebrated PGA Tour Champions players in history.
He won the Charles Schwab Cup for the sixth time, at the age of 64 no less, last year, and has 42 career victories, three behind Hale Irwin.
Last year, Langer shot his age for the first time, on his birthday too, and a few months later, beat it by a stroke.
Friday, he matched it again in the first round of the Chubb Classic presented by SERVPRO, with an 8-under 64 that featured five straight birdies on the back nine to lead by two over 2021 runner-up Robert Karlsson and Tim Petrovic, a Calusa Pines Golf Club member.
“Three times,” Langer said of shooting or beating his age. “I should remember that stuff, right? Too caught up in the moment.”
Langer’s moment started on No. 11 and continued through No. 15, but he was hoping it was coming based on how he had been putting.
Bernhard Langer (GER) reacts after finishing the first round of the Chubb Classic, Friday, Feb. 18, 2022, at Tiburón Golf Club at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort in Naples, Fla.Langer finished the round -8.
“Tee-to-green was extremely solid,” he said. “Then first few holes I couldn’t make a putt, but I was patient. Just waited for my turn and finally got on a nice roll where I made, I don’t know, four, five in a row. Some from nice distance. Nothing extremely long, but still 15-footers, it’s always good to see them drop.
“So I made my share today and kept the ball in play. Was never really in trouble, which was good. The only kind of save I had was on 17 when I hit driver, 2-hybrid a little short, chipped it a little long, but I made about a 12-footer for par.”
Langer made a 4-footer on the par-5 18th to finish off the 64.
Retief Goosen, Paul Stankowski, and Thongchai Jaidee are tied for fourth after 67s.
Another Calusa Pines Golf Club member, Rocco Mediate, is tied for seventh after a 68 along with Scott Dunlap, Doug Barron, Jerry Kelly, Steve Flesch, and Paul Broadhurst.
They’re all following a familiar face.
In addition to all of his accomplishments overall on the tour, Langer also is the only three-time champion in Naples, and has won seven times in the state of Florida, where he lives.
Langer just kept focused and stayed patient after those early putts didn’t fall.
“It’s frustrating, but I didn’t do it on purpose, so you just keep trying and trying,” he said. “Sometimes you get on a run like I did today when you’ve made nothing for an hour and then everything goes in.”
Karlsson, 52, didn’t come anywhere close to shooting his age. But he pulled off quite a shot to keep a good round going.
After birdieing Nos. 13, 14, and 15 to get to 6 under, his round almost went haywire on the par-4 16th.
“I hit it way right,” said Karlsson, who was in the trees. “When I was hitting that shot I was like, ‘This could be a 6 quite easily or a 7,’ because I had no way out. I tried to hit it low underneath but I had to miss the cart path and it bounced in the sandy bank, get through the palm trees and stop it before the water. So it wasn’t very pretty.”
Karlsson said he had a free drop, but basically nowhere to drop it to.
“I hit a great shot under the branches, over the water, and stopped it on the green and holed it from 25 foot,” he said. “I’ve played golf for 30 yards but I don’t think I’ve made five pars better than that one.”
Karlsson missed the last portion of 2021 with back issues.
Karlsson has played three rounds of 18 holes since the Charles Schwab Championship when he withdrew prior to the final round. He ended up with what he called Schmorl’s node, fluid coming out of a disc in his back. He termed it similar to a stress fracture without an actual fracture.
“So whatever was in the scorecard today I was going to be OK with,” said Karlsson, who said he was pain-free. “Only played three rounds of 18 holes since Phoenix, so it was a bit like that today. There was some really, really good stuff and there was some awful stuff. So have a bit of work to do.”
So does Langer, if he wants to shoot his age again.
“It’s just fun shooting your age,” he said. “It was really fun doing it the first time on my actual birthday. It’s still special because it’s not easy to do.
“Hopefully it gets easier as we get older, but we’ll find out. The future will show.”
Greg Hardwig is a sports reporter for the Naples Daily News and The News-Press. Follow him on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter: @NDN_Ghardwig, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Support local journalism with this special subscription offer at https://cm.naplesnews.com/specialoffer/