Langer’s Major Streak Slowed by Saturday Swoon July 1, 2017 | PEABODY, Mass. By Dave Shedloski

A 38 on the outward nine made it difficult for Bernhard Langer to make up groun in the third round of the U.S. Senior Open. (USGA/Jeff Haynes)

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It should have been no surprise that Bernhard Langer put himself in ideal position after 36 holes of the U.S. Senior Open. Having won the first two senior majors of the year and a record nine overall, Langer liked where he stood through two rounds, just three behind co-leaders Kenny Perry and Kirk Triplett.

“I’m in a good place,” he agreed as the sun was setting on Friday at Salem Country Club.

He couldn’t say the same thing after Saturday’s round. Surprisingly, Langer struggled for much of the day, and only a late rally allowed him to salvage a 2-over 72. But the damage was still immense. His 6-under 204 total leaves him nine strokes behind Triplett, who fired a 66 for a 15-under 195 aggregate score, a new 54-hole record.

Though he dropped back only a couple of places from joint fourth to a tie for sixth, his performance Saturday marked the first time since 2009 that his 54-hole position was worse than his 36-hole standing in the Senior Open.

“Yeah, disappointed that I didn’t get it going today,” said the 2010 Senior Open champion from Germany, who turns 60 in August. “It was really difficult with the gusty winds. It was tough. Just one minute it’s blowing 25. The next minute, it was blowing 5 or 10. So, it’s just difficult. I just couldn’t adjust.”

Langer, whose precision game has served him well, including two Masters titles, got off to a rocky start when he missed a 10-foot birdie putt at the first and then stumbled to three straight bogeys. Yet another bogey at No. 7 left him eight back of Triplett and Perry, but he birdied Nos. 9, 14 and 16 against just one more bogey to remain on the leader board.

He struggled despite hitting 12 of 14 fairways, usually a recipe for success. But Langer missed six greens and needed 31 putts.

“The greens were a little bit slower, a little bit more wiggly because of the rain, I guess, than we had yesterday,” he said. “Left a couple putts short and just got off to a bad start, 3 over after four, I think, and just shook me up a little bit. Don't know when I've been 3 over par for a few holes. It's been a while, thank goodness. But eventually, got into my rhythm again and started playing a lot better the last, whatever, 10, 12 holes.”

Langer has only finished outside the top 6 twice in 10 starts on the PGA Tour Champions this year. He’s headed for another such finish this week, which would be his seventh top 10 in 10 U.S. Senior Open starts.

Of course, he came for a lot more.

Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer and a frequent contributor to USGA websites.

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