NAPLES, Fla. – Bernhard Langer had a hard time choosing what kind of putter to use.
Once the 58-year-old German star made that decision, he made the rest look easy Friday, shooting a 10-under 62 to take a four-stroke lead in the PGA Tour Champions’ Chubb Classic.
Langer used an anchored stroke with a long putter for 17 years, but new golf rules forced him to adjust after Jan. 1. He said he has used 15 putters and four styles in the last month. Last week in the Allianz Championship in Boca Raton, he had two putters in his bag for a round.
“I need to weed through all the different ways and this can take weeks or even months,” Langer said.
Friday he chose the long putter.
“It was the right decision, I think,” he said.
That’s an understatement.
Langer made 11 birdies at TwinEagles, including five straight birdies on Nos. 3-7 and Nos. 14-18. He made a 35-footer on No. 9 and a 40-footer on No. 17.
Had he not missed 5- and 6-footers, he said his score could’ve even been better.
“I practiced with two different putters (Thursday) night and I practiced some more this morning before the round with two different putters,” he said. Then I can go either way, but I decided to go with a long one today and I was glad I did because I putted very well except those two short ones I missed.”
Warmer weather and a much gentler win than earlier in the week played a key in the fine round.
“I played a practice round Tuesday and it was blowing 23-25 mph and that was really difficult,” he said. “Today was 4-5 mph, sometimes nothing. If there is no wind, you can be more aggressive, you can shoot to your numbers more precisely.”
Langer went on to win the event in 2013 after also opening with a 62.
In the past seven years in Naples, Langer has two victories, two seconds, a tie for third and a tie for fourth. He was in contention last year before withdrawing to attend to a family matter.
“I don’t know exactly why, but we talked about it a few days ago when I was here,” he said. “Not sure what it is, I just feel comfortable here and generally, I’ve always had a decent start. If I look back the last eight or nine years on this tour, I had a pretty good start every year, starting in Hawaii and then playing Boca and coming here.”
Jay Haas was second. He had six birdies.
“It was not easy, but I never felt like I was going to make a bogey,” he said. “I didn’t expect 6 under to be leading, but maybe didn’t see 10 under, either.”
Jeff Maggert was third at 67, and Fred Couples was at 68 along with Kenny Perry Kevin Sutherland, Steve Lowery, Scott Hoch and Michael Allen.
Stephen Ames was 2-under after a 70, while fellow Canadian Rod Spittle had a 70 and was 1-under.