SAMMAMISH, Wash. – Bernhard Langer waited much of Friday morning for the soupy fog on the Sammamish Plateau to finally lift. He spent the evening waiting for someone to make a charge up the leaderboard.
In between, Langer put himself in position for a second consecutive major championship.
Langer overcame a shaky front nine with an eagle and birdie on the inward half to take the lead at 3 under in the second round of the U.S. Senior Open as many of the other contenders simply tried to stay close entering the weekend.
After a fog delay of more than two hours brought play to a halt just before 8 a.m., Langer shot a 2-under 68, making a number of key putts on the back nine when his round easily could have slipped away.
“You never quite know. It’s the type of golf course that any hole can get to you,” said Langer, coming off a victory last week in the Senior British Open at Carnoustie. “You just got to be careful and hit good shots.”
Langer was careful, not to mention a little fortunate, with the putter. He’s the only player with two rounds in the 60s on the par-70 layout at Sahalee Country Club, and will take a two-shot lead into the third round.
If successful this week, Langer would be the first player on the Champions Tour to win consecutive majors since Tom Watson in 2003 in the Senior British Open and Tradition.
But Watson didn’t win those titles in back-to-back weeks with eight time zones in between.
“This is a big enough event to pick yourself up and get motivated and get moving,” Langer said. “I don’t have a lot of problems with that.”
While Langer managed to tame the ball-hawking tree limbs of Sahalee, others were far less successful. Only four players finished the second round under par, with another four sitting at even. First-round leader Bruce Vaughan gave back all of his 66 from Thursday before he made the turn. He shot 82.
Little-known J.R. Roth had a 66, the best round of the day. He curled in a 25-foot bender on the 18th to finish at 1 under for the tournament. John Cook (68) and Tommy Armour III (68) also were 1 under.
Hometown favorite Fred Couples and Watson led the group at even par. Couples sent a wave of roars echoing between the cedars and firs of Sahalee when he dropped in a tricky 35-foot bender on the par-3 ninth that got Couples back to 1 under. A pair of bogeys early in his back nine pushed Couples to 1 over, but a birdie at No. 16 and pars on the last two holes left Couples right where he started.
After a bogey at No. 1 and birdie at No. 2, Watson made 14 straight pars before a bogey at the 17th when his tee shot imbedded in the bank near the water hazard in front of the green. Watson took a drop, but chunked his chip and made bogey.
He rebounded with a birdie on the uphill par-4 18th.
While scores were generally closer to par than Thursday’s first round, when just eight players broke par, low scores were still tough to find. Larry Mize was 3 under on his round with two holes to play before a double bogey on his 17th hole. Roberts seemed poised to join Langer at 3 under before a double bogey at the 15th.
The second round had barely started when fog brought play to a halt. The low cloud deck engulfed the course and made it nearly impossible to see the end of the driving range. Play was stopped at 7:48 a.m. and the delay of 2 hours, 12 minutes pushed the afternoon starting times back. The final groups finished just after 9 p.m.