Germany’s Bernhard Langer continued his scintillating start to The Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex, firing a five under par second round of 66 take a record-breaking seven shot advantage into the weekend at Royal Porthcawl.
Langer followed his opening round of 65 with another dominant display in Wales to move to 11 under par for the Championship, equalling the lowest 36 hole mark in the history of The Senior Open, set by American Fred Funk at Sunningdale in 2009.
His seven stroke advantage over England’s Chris Williams and Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie also set a new record for the biggest lead at the halfway mark of The Senior Open Championship, beating Noboru Sugai’s four shot cushion at Royal County Down in 2002.
The two-time Masters Champion dropped a shot on the opening hole when he pulled his four iron tee shot into the rough and then overshot the green, but that was his only bogey of the day as he went on to extend his two shot overnight lead in Wales’ first Senior Major Championship.
Langer posted a hat-trick of birdies from the fourth hole to reach the turn in 33, then added further gains on the 11th, 12th and the 18th hole, where he shaved the hole with a ten foot eagle putt.
“I played very smart, very aggressive, then very smart and I was fortunate to some extent, but I have played very well the last two days,” said the former World Number One.
“It wasn’t the kind of start I wanted today, but from that point on, I settled down and I played some really good golf. I missed a couple of opportunities earlier on, but then I started to play a little better as well and brought it home to the clubhouse with six under par from that point on, which I'm very pleased with overall.”
Having won The Senior Open Championship in 2010, Langer took a two shot lead to the 72nd hole at Royal Birkdale last year but eventually lost in a play-off to Mark Wiebe. However, he appears determined not to let anyone get close to him this time round.
“I don't need more inspiration,” said the 56 year old. “I always want to win and do well. But yeah, that one hurt. It still hurts when I think about it. I try not to think about it.
“It was a little uncharacteristic, and certainly one that there was no excuse for. If you put me in that situation 100 times, I think I would win 98 or 99 times. But that one time I didn't. So it hurt, and it hurt for a while, and it's one of those things I'll never forget, but that's part of life. If you want to win some, you have got to lose some in the process because you're putting yourself in that situation.”
Williams eagled the 11th hole en route to a round of 70 to move to four under par and will join Langer in the final group on Saturday. He shares second place with Montgomerie, who teed off his second round adjacent to the 18th green where Langer was tapping in for his round of 66.
That meant Montgomerie found himself a daunting 12 shots back as he walked down the first fairway and it soon became a massive 14 shot deficit when bogeyed the opening two holes.
However, the 2010 European Ryder Cup captain, who is bidding to for a clean sweep of the Senior Majors, roared back with a birdie on the third hole before reeling off five in a row from the fifth hole to reach the turn in 33. He picked up another shot on the 13th hole, and although he bogeyed the difficult 16th hole, the Scot got up and down from a bunker for a birdie on the last to sign for a five under par round of 66, joining Williams on four under par.
“Bernhard’s not coming back, so you’ve got to get there and put pressure on him and you fight and you go with him,” said the eight-time European Number One. “But all credit to him, to shoot 65, 66 is very, very good.
“I shot 66 and I’m seven behind, so you can't not give all credit to him. He is 56 years old and he has a methodical, clinical approach, which is his normal. Same as his football team really, isn't it? But we'll do our best over the weekend. Believe me, I'll be doing my utmost to try and make this as interesting as possible.”
Montgomerie’s playing partner, US Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson, also carded a round of 66, finishing with an eagle three on the 18th hole to add to birdies on the ninth, 12th and 13th holes.
The 64 year old, who is chasing a record fourth Senior Open victory, is nine shots off the pace on two under par in a share of fifth position with compatriot Bob Tway, with Spaniard Pedro Linhart fourth on three under par following a round of 69.
Another Spaniard, Miguel Angel Jiménez, who is making his debut in The Senior Open Championship, moved up the leaderboard to tied 12th position with an eventful two under par 69, which was bookended by eagles on the first and 18th holes, but also included a double bogey on the par five sixth hole.