Staked to a three-shot lead after fan favorite Fred Couples shot a triple bogey on No. 2, Langer cruised to a three-shot victory at Sahalee CC.
SAMMAMISH — A guy from the gallery might have said it best.
“That guy’s a machine,” the fan said of Bernhard Langer.
He is also the U.S. Senior Open champion.
Langer was staked to a three-shot lead after fan favorite Fred Couples shot a triple bogey on the second hole, and that was all the edge he needed.
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The steady German shot a bogey-free round 67 for a three-shot victory at Sahalee Country Club on Sunday. Langer never wavered, not even when Seattle native Couples made two late birdies to close the gap to two and ignite a crowd of 31,444.
It was Langer’s second major victory in two weeks after finishing off his Senior British Open victory in Scotland last Sunday.
“It still has to sink in,” said Langer, who didn’t have a three-putt the entire tournament. “It’s hard to believe I won two back-to-back majors with an eight-hour time change in between. I probably played some of my best golf these last two weeks from tee to green, as well as on the green.”
Langer, the only player to shoot in the 60s all four days, finished at 8-under 272. Olin Browne was third, six shots back, after a 65 that was tied for the best round of the tournament.
But Sunday was all about Couples and Langer, two former Masters champions. There was never a doubt that the winner would come from the final group after the two began play five shots ahead of their nearest pursuers.
It all started so perfectly for Couples. He made a short birdie putt on the first hole to ignite the crowd. Langer, meanwhile, hit his approach shot long and chipped 12 feet past. He made the lengthy par putt to lose just one shot, something Langer said was key for him.
“Freddie hit three perfect shots … and got the crowd all crazy — more wired up than before,” Langer said. “I was happy making par.”
Couples’ momentum came to an abrupt halt minutes later on the second hole, which was the easiest throughout the week. Langer hit a huge drive down the middle of the fairway while Couples was in the first cut of rough on the right side.
After initially deciding to go for the green with his second shot, Couples decided to play it safe and lay up in front of the pond protecting the green. He did that part just fine. But he chunked his wedge into the water, sent his next try over the green and into the rough, and took a triple-bogey 8 when he could not get up and down from there.
It took Couples six shots to get closer than Langer was in two shots. Langer missed his 15-foot eagle putt but left the hole with a three-shot lead.
“I thought I would have sent everyone home after that second hole, but they stayed around,” Couples said.
Langer said he was surprised when Couples’ shot landed in the pond, “but you know I’ve done it. I was three shots ahead at that point, but that’s nothing when you have 16 holes to go, and when you play against Fred Couples.”
The fans wouldn’t let Couples get down, but Langer answered every challenge. After Couples hit a great approach on the third hole, Langer matched Couples’ birdie by making a 30-foot putt that he said broke about 15 feet.
Langer birdied the long and difficult par-4 sixth hole to take a four-shot lead. Just when it seemed hopeless for Couples, the O’Dea High School graduate made birdies on Nos. 14 and 16 to narrow the gap to two. After both players parred the 17th hole, Couples hit his second shot on the 18th into the right rough, ending his last chance.
Although second on the scoreboard, there was no doubt who was first in the fans’ hearts.
“It was a lot of fun to be here, I can tell you that much,” Couples said, while lobbying for this tournament to return to the Northwest. “The fans were great. I’m kind of an emotional guy. I’m not really an emotional player. But I can hear them (the fans), and it was fun.”
Couples will be back in the Northwest in the final week of August for the Boeing Classic at the TPC at Snoqualmie Ridge and he is already looking forward to that.
“That’s my next goal is to come up and try to win the Boeing Championship,” he said. “If the same amount of people come out it will be a great time.”