Round 3 notebook: ACE Group Classic

February 17, 2013

By Phil Stambaugh, Champions Tour staff

Bernhard Langer’s scrambling bogey 5 at the par-4 15th hole helped to preserve a one-stroke victory over Jay Don Blake at the ACE Group Classic. After Langer saved a bogey at No. 15, he then made three routine pars coming home to win for the second time in three years in Naples. Langer was seemingly in full control early in the final round after making two birdies in his first three holes to open up a four-stroke cushion. However, Langer’s double-bogey at the 4th hole and subsequent back-to-back bogeys at Nos. 9-10 dropped him into a three-way tie for the lead. Blake temporarily moved in front after a birdie at the par-5 13th hole but he played his final five holes in 1-over, missing a par putt from three feet at No. 16, to fall one stroke short. Langer made birdies at the 13th and 14th, but it was his bogey save at the par-4 15th that proved to be the difference. After hitting his approach shot with a wedge from the middle of the fairway into the water, Langer took a penalty drop and rifled a lob wedge to within five feet from the flag and converted the putt. Blake could apply no more pressure to Langer and when his 19-foot birdie putt grazed the last hole it allowed Langer to two-putt from 50 feet for a par on No. 18 for the victory. 

• Bernhard Langer won his 17th career victory on the Champions Tour, moving out of a tie with Jay Haas into solo 15th place on the all-time Champions Tour wins list.

• Langer has now won at least one event for the seventh straight year, the longest active streak on the Champions Tour.

• Langer won the ACE Group Classic for the second time in three years (2011), becoming the sixth player in the 26-year history of the event to win this event twice – Lee Trevino (1990-91), Mike Hill (1993-94), Hale Irwin (1997, 2002), Gil Morgan (1998, 2001), Loren Roberts (2006, 2009).

• Langer won his third event on the Champions Tour multiple times. He won the 3M Championship in both 2009 and 2012 and also won the Insperity Championship in 2007, 2008. On the PGA TOUR, Langer won the Masters in 1985 and 1993.

• Langer became the first player to win wire-to-wire on the Champions Tour since Olin Browne did so at the 2011 U.S. Senior Open. He also becomes the third player to win the ACE Group Classic in wire-to-wire fashion, joining Lee Trevino (1990) and Allen Doyle (1999). Langer also won the 2009 Triton Financial Classic and 2007 Insperity Championship in wire-to-wire fashion. 

• Langer won for the first time since last fall’s SAS Championship, ending a victory drought of four months and 10 days. He’s now won three times in his last 10 starts dating back to his victory last summer at the 3M Championship in Minnesota. 

• Langer has not finished outside of the top three in his first three starts in 2013 and has been among the top 10 in his last seven events, as well as in the top-10 in 17 of his last 18 tournaments dating back to late March of 2012.

• Langer earned 240 Charles Schwab Cup points to move into the lead in the season-long race with 517 points on the season. When he won the 2010 Charles Schwab Cup, Langer did not take over the lead in the season-long race until he won the Senior British Open in mid-July. 

• Langer’s check for $240,000 moved his 2013 earnings to $517,000 and upped his all-time Champions Tour career earnings to $10,559,127.

• Langer’s 12-under 204 total was the highest winning score at this event since 2009. Before today, each of the last two winners, including Langer at The Quarry in 2011, shot 20-under 196 scores for 54 holes. In 2009, Loren Roberts won the tournament at the TPC Treviso Bay with a 7-under 209 score.

• Langer’s final-round 72 matched the highest Sunday score by a winner in tournament history (Craig Stadler, 2004). He also became the first winner since Stadler to survive a double bogey.  His 62 on Friday was the best start by a winner in ACE Group Classic annals.

• Since winning last year’s Boeing Classic, Jay Don Blake has now finished second twice and both times he’s been a runner-up to Bernhard Langer. Langer claimed last year’s SAS Championship near Raleigh, N.C. by two strokes.

• Today marked the first time since Michael Allen’s victory at last year’s Encompass Insurance Pro-Am in Tampa that a winner on the Champions Tour shot a higher score each day.

• For the 13th straight year, the winner of the ACE Group Classic came from the final grouping. The last time it didn’t happen in Naples was 2000 when Lanny Wadkins fired a final-round 64 to rally from three strokes back to force a playoff that he eventually won.

• Open qualifier Jeff Freeman earned a spot into the field at the Toshiba Classic after recording a T7 at this year’s ACE Group Classic. The performance in Naples matched his career-best effort (T7-2012 Principal Charity Classic) on the Champions Tour. Freeman open qualified on Tuesday with a 70 at Old Corkscrew Golf Club.

• Mark Mouland and David Peoples both had runs of five birdies in a row Sunday, equaling the best birdie streak on the Champions Tour thus far in 2013. Bernhard Langer (Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai) and Rocco Mediate (Allianz Championship) made five straight birdies in each of the first two events this year and Tom Pernice, Jr. made five straight birdies in the opening round of the ACE Group Classic this year.  Mouland and Peoples were among six players who shot 68, the best rounds on Sunday.

• In his first appearance on the Champions Tour in more than a year (2011 AT&T Championship), Scott Hoch finished T20 at the ACE Group Classic . Hoch had been struggling with hand, wrist issues that kept him out of action throughout the 2012 season. 

• Rocco Mediate, last week’s winner at the Allianz Championship, birdied his last three holes to move up into a T5 this week at the ACE Group Classic. Mediate was T46 after he carded even-par 72 on Friday.  

• Defending champion Kenny Perry finished T10 at this year’s ACE Group Classic thanks to a final-round 69. On Tuesday next week in Nashville, Perry will undergo left knee surgery for a torn meniscus and will be out of action for approximately six weeks. He hopes to return to action on the Champions Tour at the inaugural Greater Gwinnett Championship near Atlanta in mid-April.

• Today’s field scoring average was 72.861 vs 73.300 on Saturday and 71.087 with preferred lies on Friday. The overall scoring average for this year’s event was 72.414 compared to 71.043 in 2012. There were 11 rounds in the 60s today compared to just 10 scores in the 60s on Saturday and 24 sub-70 rounds on Friday. Overall, there were 16 eagles and 760 birdies made this year compared to 26 eagles and 923 birdies made at the 2012 tournament.  

• Mark Calcavecchia withdrew after eight holes Sunday with a bad back. Calcavecchia was 11-over for the tournament at the time of the withdrawal.