ACE Group Classic: Round 1
Scenes from the first round of tournament.
ACE Group Classic: Bernhard Langer
He leads after the first round.
ACE Group Classic: Bob Tway
Bernhard Langer had a heavy sweater on, and forgotten a lighter one when he arrived at TwinEagles Club on Friday. So he called his wife to pick up the forgotten one.
Langer said he was too hot in the other one, and he was right. Just before his wife arrived with the other sweater, Langer holed out a 7-iron from 141 yards for eagle on the par-4 10th. That jump-started a 7-under 29 on the back nine on the way to a 10-under 62, and a three-shot lead at the ACE Group Classic.
"That's why I changed (after) the 10th hole, because I was way too hot in this thing, and I would have been too cold without one.
"I'd rather be hot than cold."
Langer was indeed hot. After his eagle, he nearly repeated the feat on the par-4 11th, hitting a 7-iron three inches from the cup. He parred the next hole, but two-putted for birdie on the par-5 13th, sank a 7-footer for birdie on No. 14, a 10-footer on No. 15, and a 15-footer on No. 16.
That left him needing an eagle and a birdie to equal the magical 59. And it wasn't out of the question. Langer, 55, had eagled the par-5 17th all three rounds last year.
"So I was thinking even though it's wet and the course is playing much longer, if I really hit a great tee shot down there, might get there with a 3-wood, but I slightly mis-hit my tee shot, and that was just about 10 yards too far away to go for it."
Langer laid up, then didn't hit his approach well, and had a long birdie putt that he missed. He had another lengthy birdie try on No. 18 that he ran past the hole.
"I had to finish eagle-birdie there, and that's not an easy task," he said.
Langer did seem to make everything else a pretty easy task. He hit 12 of 14 fairways, 16 of 18 greens, and had 25 putts. The 62 was his eighth straight score in the 60s on the tour, and ninth consecutive subpar round in Naples.
Bob Tway, the 1986 PGA Championship winner, is in second after a 65. Tom Pernice Jr., who was second in Boca Raton last week, shot a 66, as did Jay Don Blake and John Huston. Tway, Blake and Huston all had eagles in their rounds.
Langer's three-shot lead is the most in the first round since Dale Douglass led by four in 1991.
Tway, who spent the offseason working hard on his short game, had an eagle and four straight birdies on Nos. 3-7 on his back nine. Tway made a 15-footer for the eagle, added a birdie from 15 feet, then birdied from a foot, 10 feet, and 40 feet. He also birdied No. 9.
"I think it does relax you a little bit sometimes when you're on a roll like that ... I don't really know, If I had the answer, I'd do it more often," he said with a chuckle.
Pernice had a similar stretch, birdieing five straight — Nos. 2-6 — and had the lead most of the early part of the day.
"It helps when you're hitting the ball well and you're putting well," Pernice said of his strong play. "I feel good about my game right now."
Despite starting off with four pars, Langer still was feeling good because of the way he was playing. He just missed a couple of putts, as had playing partners Kenny Perry and Mark O'Meara, but Langer finally sank one on No. 5.
"OK, the lid is off, let's go," Langer told them.
Then Langer all but left everyone in the dust, at least as far as the first round goes. In 2011 when Langer won at The Quarry, he was tied for the first-round lead. On the tour, Langer has either held or shared the first-round lead 12 times, and gone on to win five of them.
"Three shots is nothing," he said of his lead. "I'd like to have a three-shot lead with two holes to play, then it would be a lot. But we still have 36 to play, and especially with the weather coming in, or wind ... the wind will kick up, which makes this course generally higher, but it gives the other guys the chance to maybe sneak closer if they have a great day."
And get hot.