CARY, N.C. – As close as both Bernhard Langer and Colin Montgomerie sat in the Champions Tour Schwab Cup standings, one behind the other respectively, so too did their Pro-Am groups (10A, 10B) at Prestonwood Country Club on Thursday.
Though neither players’ team finished in the top-three on the day, both World Golf Hall of Fame members were focused on getting a feel for how the course would play when they teed off in the 2014 SAS Championship together on Friday.
A winner at Prestonwood in 2012, Langer was more familiar with the course and would hold a slight advantage in shooting for his sixth title of the season and fourth win in his last eight starts on the Champions Tour.
His consistent play this season has put him in the position of being the only player on the Tour to finish in the top 10 in all five major championships, while also finishing T8 at the Masters.
Langer talked about the psychological advantage that may exist for him after winning the SAS on a course that could be deceptive to a still relative newcomer like Montgomerie who would be playing in his second consecutive Championship in Cary.
“I think it helps because before I won here I was asking my caddie what’s the reason I haven’t done that well here, and so we just looked at it and tried to find out why,” Langer said.
“It’s sometimes difficult to come up with why because you just either don’t play good or don’t putt well or whatever. We came to the conclusion that it’s a course where you have to drive the ball very well because if you hit it in the Bermuda rough, it’s very difficult to control the distance and the spin. So you need to drive it well and you’ve got to do everything well really from that point on. But if you drive it poorly, you’re going to struggle around here.”
Earlier this year, Montgomerie won both the Senior PGA Championship and U.S Senior Open and played exceptionally well to position himself close enough to Langer to make a serious run at the Cup.
However, sitting 633 points behind the German, the Scotsman must win at least one of the Tour’s next three events, which includes the SAS, to go along with a win at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship in order to have any chance at accruing enough points to claim the top spot.
“So delighted that I’ve got these last four events to play in and looking forward to the challenge of it really,” Montgomerie said.
“Trying to be diplomatic here, but yeah, I’ve got a lot to do to catch Bernhard. It will be difficult to catch Bernhard without him playing. He’s unfortunately playing as well. I’m playing with him tomorrow which should be interesting. I’ve got to win at least two of these out of these next four. I think I’ve got to win two, which includes the last one because it’s double points, the Charles Schwab Cup. So if I can win one beforehand and then win the Charles Schwab Cup, I’ve got half a chance and that’s the goal, so we will see. If it starts here, all the better, so I look forward to it.”
Thus, as Langer and Montgomerie teed off during opening round play, adding another World Golf Hall of Famer in Englishman Sir Nick Faldo to the group to play alongside them would made it that much more interesting to watch as their quest for the Cup resumed.
Pro-Am Results – Thurs. A.M.
First Place Team – (48, won in scorecard playoff)
Professional: Gary Koch
Amateurs: Hu Odman, Walton Jeffress, Phillip Hamilton, Paul Stoner
Second Place Team (48)
Professional: John Cook
Amateurs: Ron Reed, Mark Merritt, Blair Campbell, Dave Eddy
Third Place Team (49)
Professional: Billy Andrade
Amateurs: Keith Erazmus, Bruce Altstaetter, Tim Brant, Robert Wilson
Men’s Long Drive Hole 7 – Brandon Fincher
Closest to the Pin Hole 8 – Gary Milner
Ladies’ Longest Drive Hole 12 – Kari Stoltz
Pro-Am Results – Thurs. P.M.
First Place Team (48)
Professional: Joe Daley
Amateurs: Gene Gsell, Jay Laramore, Jack David Colescott, Scott Zucker
Second Place Team (49, scorecard playoff)
Professional: Neal Lancaster
Amateurs: Jody Roach, Pete Jacoby, Todd Purser, Victor Smith
Third Place Team (49)
Professional: Kirk Triplett
Amateurs: Michael Ritchie, Richard Schroder, Terry Lessmann, Dennis Massengill
Men’s Long Drive Hole 7 – Jody Roach
Closest to the Pin Hole 8 – Dan Roache
Ladies’ Longest Drive Hole 12 – Lindsay Turner