For Bernhard Langer, winning the Senior PGA Championship after several close calls would cap off a decade of dominance on the over-50 circuit. Vijay Singh is playing the event for the first time in his fifth year of eligibility and still wants to compete on the PGA Tour.
Singh used his power to move ahead of Langer on Saturday at rain-softened Trump National, but Langer used his guile to stay close, setting up a duel for the title between the Hall of Famers.
The 54-year-old Singh made three more birdies on par 5s to shoot a 4-under 67 at President Donald Trump’s course on the shores of the Potomac River. He had a 15-under 201 total, playing the par 5s in 10 under.
“He played phenomenal,” Langer said. “It was fun to watch some of the shots that he hit.”
The 59-year-old Langer shot 70, ending a run of seven straight rounds in the 60s, and was one shot back. He’s seeking his ninth senior major, which would break Jack Nicklaus’ record. He tied Nicklaus last week with a final-round 64 to win the Regions Tradition by five shots. The Senior PGA is the only senior major he hasn’t won.
“I’ve had some tremendous rounds on Sundays, this year especially. My lowest rounds came on Sundays this year. So that’s encouraging,” Langer said. “Hoping to pull another one tomorrow, but it doesn’t happen all the time.”
Singh, who’s averaging 291 yards off the tee to lead the field in driving distance, routinely outdrove Langer by 30 yards and hit his approach shots closer. His putter kept him from pulling further away. He missed three birdie putts inside 10 feet and a par putt inside 3 feet.
Langer missed seven greens in regulation after missing just three greens the first two days, but he scrambled well, getting up and down all but one time. He two-putted for birdie on the par-5 18th, his only birdie on the back nine, to remain within one shot of Singh.
On the 304-yard ninth, Langer laid up with a hybrid and hit a wedge to 12 feet, pumping his fist when the birdie putt dropped. Singh drove the green and two-putted for birdie. On the 11, Langer’s approach found a hazard right of the green, but it was playable, and he got up and down for par while Singh missed a short birdie putt.
Billy Andrade made three birdies on the back nine to shoot 69 and was three shots back. Bob Estes shot 67 and was alone in fourth, five shots behind.
Singh had missed seven cuts in 11 starts this year on the PGA Tour and was considering spending more time on the PGA Tour Champions before he tied for 16th at The Players Championship. Now, he’s not sure. He believes he was held back mostly by a foot injury and playing in cold weather.
“It’s difficult for me to move from the regular tour and come and feel the same excitement on the senior tour,” Singh said. “For some reason I have not got adjusted to that yet. This is a good week for me. It’s hopefully going to get my blood flowing again and hopefully it’s going to make up my mind.”
Singh and Langer are friendly but not close, and both are known for being quiet and businesslike on the golf course. There wasn’t much chatter in the final threesome of Singh, Langer and Scott McCarron, who shot 73 to fall six shots behind.
“We’ll talk every once in a while,” Langer said. “He told me about his foot issues, because I saw him hobbling down the hills. And I told him about my knee issues that I had a few months ago. And, you know, that’s a common talk on this tour, what is hurting today and what was hurting last week.”
Singh doesn’t expect to intimidate Langer, even with his distance advantage.
“He’s got a little different game. He hits the ball very straight,” Singh said. “It seems like he doesn’t make a mistake. He’s got a game plan and he’s a pretty hard competitor to break.”