Champions Tour: TPC course strikes back at the end of 3M Championship
BLAINE — Everyone was sweating to the oldies at the hot, sticky TPC venue in Blaine on Sunday. And an impressive workout it was, too, as the game’s elders, the Champions Tour golfers, tore up the course all afternoon.
But it was on No. 18, with the 3M title on the line, that the course finally bit back. As a result, there were enough spills and chills on that final hole to last, well, until next year when they’ll do it all over again.
First some background: There were a half-dozen guys in contention, relatively speaking, for most of the day. But we all knew that two of the best golfers on any tour, Kenny Perry and Bernard Langer, were going be the ones to settle this.
Perry, who began the final round in first place, led Langer by five strokes after eight holes. He still was up by three when, after his tee shot on 13, he stopped to do an interview with the Golf Channel. It was nothing, really, just typical happy, chatty nonsense.
Perry nodded and smiled throughout. Then he raced to catch up with his group. And after that he was never quite the same. At least, not until the 18th hole. After making five birdies over the first 12 holes, Perry went into neutral -- par, par, par, par, par ... A case of Golfus Interruptus?
“No, I don’t think so,” Perry said. “Those were just two tough holes that followed.”
That was a gentleman’s response. I shudder to think of what crotchety Colin Montgomerie might have said under similar circumstances. Colin likely would have damned everyone, including the lemonade vendors.
Langer, meanwhile, motored along in top gear. Langer is having what would be considered an unbelievable season for anybody, never mind a fellow who is old enough to get into the movies at a $2 discount. At 56, he is being mentioned prominently as a possible Ryder Cup participant. And there isn’t an older guy anywhere who isn’t rooting for him to make it.
In fact, a lot of us hope Langer not only makes the European team but also wins his matches -- as long as the U.S. wins the cup.
After 17 holes Sunday, Perry and Langer were tied at 22-under. Perry was in par mode. Langer was charging. Then the much-abused golf course extracted a bit of revenge. Langer hit a lovely tee shot. But ...
“On 18, I hit a good tee shot but the ball ended up on a bit of a mound where the sprinkler head was,” Langer recalled. “My feet were a lot lower than the ball.”
Yes, it was a small measure of revenge for the golf course after a day of abuse. As a result of the awkward lie, Langer’s second shot barely cleared the water and landed in the long spinach just off the green. Yuck. He hacked it out and two-putted for par. A bit later, Perry sent his second shot on 18 over the green and under the grandstand.
His hand likely still was a bit sore.
Two holes earlier, his ball had landed in a fairway divot. Perry dropped his club and winced in pain after whacking it out. But he wound up making a four on 18. The highlight was his dramatic 15-birdie putt to best the machine-like Langer.
“It’s hard to be disappointed when you shoot nine-under,” Langer said.
“That guy, what he does is incredible,” said Perry.
But Perry is pretty darn good himself. Overall, five guys ended up better at least 20-under for the tournament. Perry and Langer can beat up any course. But an awful lot of second- and third-tier players also went low, low, low.
“Every year,” Perry said of the 3M venue. “It’s 20-plus seems like every year. I told Paul Goydos on the first tee, he had shot five-under and he was about in 13th place. I said, ‘How does it feel to shoot-five under and be in 13th place?’ I said, ‘You’ll get the cleats run up your back if you don’t keep making birdies down here on this deal.’ ‘’
Perhaps they need to bring in some aluminum trees or something to toughen up the place. Or maybe they should scatter beehives around the greens. This course has the reputation of being a pushover. Occasionally, however, it will strike back the way it did to Bernard Langer on No. 18. And then things become much more interesting.
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