Bernhard Langer shot a 3-under 74 in rain and wind Friday at Royal Porthcawl to hold onto a share of the Senior British Open lead.
The 59-year-old German star was tied at 1 over with Americans Tom Lehman (72), Steve Flesch (71) and Billy Mayfair (72) and Argentina’s Mauricio Molina (73). American Clark Dennis (72) was 2 over.
“The first few holes were extremely tough,” Langer said. “I hit driver, 3-wood on 1 and couldn’t even reach the green, and three-putted. I didn’t hit a bad shot the first four holes and I was 2-over par the first three holes. It was that hard. It was blowing 25 (mph) with rain. It was just miserable.”
Periods of steady rain and wind gusting over 35 mph sent the scores soaring, with the average score of 78.515 second only in tournament history to the 80.118 in 2005 in the first round at Royal Aberdeen. The 36-hole cut came at 13 over, second since the tournament became a PGA Tour Champions event to the 15 over in 2005.
“Really worn out,” Langer said. “I probably shouldn’t even be here to tell you the truth. I probably should be in bed, but I hate to miss a major. And come this far to Wales on a great golf course, I’m just going to grind it through. But I won’t be able to do a lot of practicing, just because I don’t feel good, but that doesn’t mean I can’t play good this weekend, and I’ll give it my best shot.”
Langer has nine senior major titles, winning the Regions Tradition and Senior PGA Championship in consecutive weeks in May. He won by 13 strokes the last time the tournament was held on the south Wales course, finishing at 18 under in 2014. Langer also won the 2010 event at Carnoustie.
Flesch closed with two bogeys after playing the first 16 holes in 2 under with 14 pars and two birdies. He’s making his sixth tour start since turning 50 in May.
“You’ve got to drive it well out here, and that’s kind of how I played the first couple days,” Flesch said. “I just kind of steered clear of the bunkers out there and kept it in play and really scrambled today.”
Lehman had two birdies and three bogeys.
“I was hitting it solid, that’s the big thing,” Lehman said. “I was hitting it in the middle of the clubface most of the time and able to control the ball as much as I could and put it in the spots where I could make pars. That’s all I tried it do was make a bunch of pars and I made a bunch of pars.”
Tom Watson was tied for 20th at 7 over after a 77. The 67-year-old American has won the event three times after winning the British Open five times.
Fred Couples shot his second straight 75, leaving him tied for 29th at 8 over.
“It was brutal.” Couples said. “The first hole was rather comical and the second hole was even more comical, and then the rest of the holes, even when it stopped raining, were very difficult.”