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Langer leads way in first round

GOLF: Toshiba Classic defending champion birdies No. 18 to take a one-stroke lead into today’s second round.

March 06, 2009|By Steve Virgen

NEWPORT BEACH — Bernhard Langer was at it again Friday.

He was wowing the gallery as he took his swings at Newport Beach Country Club. He’s here defending his title in the Toshiba Classic. From the looks of the first round, he’s doing it quite well.

There hasn’t been a repeat winner at the Toshiba Classic. Langer is looking to change that. After all, he did say that records are meant to be broken, and that was said a month before the tournament began.

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Langer, a two-time Masters champ and a World Golf Hall of Famer, shot a six-under-par 65 to take the lead after the first round. He finished his round with a birdie on 18, that he thought should’ve been an eagle on the par-five hole.

He had a shot for eagle five feet from the cup that he missed, badly as he described it.

“Well, I’ll take a birdie on that hole most times,” Langer said. “When you hit to five feet, you want to get more out of it.

“I think I read it correctly. But when I marked the ball and had to get it cleaned, I saw I was sitting in a big hole. It was one like third of the ball was below the ground. I knew if I just hit to normally that it would just hit the front edge of that hole and jump either straight up or a little left or a little right. It came out left and missed the hole. Didn’t even touch the hole from that distance. That’s pretty bad.”

Langer’s birdie on 18 was one of five for his round. He eagled No. 15 to also help his cause.

His final birdie gave him a one-stroke lead ahead of a trio that featured Jim Colbert, the 1996 Toshiba Classic champion who will be 68 years old on Monday. Bob Gilder and Eduardo Romero are also one shot back.

Mark O’Meara, whose son, Sean, is a member of the UC Irvine men’s golf team, is four-under tied with Denis Watson. O’Meara, who grew up in Mission Viejo and played high school matches at Newport Beach Country Club, is seeking his first win on the Champions Tour after joining the 50-and-over tour two years ago.

Tom Watson, Andy Bean, Joey Sindelar, Tim Simpson and Gene Jones are three shots off the lead. John Cook, a part-time Corona del Mar resident, is one of 12 tied at two-under.

They’re all chasing the leader, Langer, the reigning Champion Tour Player of the Year who is off to a hot start in 2009. He won in Hawaii in his first event in January, and he finished third and tied for third at the Allianz Championship and The ACE Group Classic, respectively, last month.

Still, a one-stroke lead didn’t seem to be enough for Langer, especially when he had some regrets – a bogey on No. 8 and his wasted eagle on 18.

He certainly wasn’t content with a birdie on his last hole.

“I would like it to be a two-shot lead,” he said. “You don’t do that very often. Difficult read to get the ball onto the green. I’m not complaning. I shot six-under. What else can you ask for?”


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