Bernhard Langer waited much of Fridaymorning for the soupy fog on the Sammamish Plateau to finally lift.He spent the evening waiting for someone to make a charge up theleaderboard.
In between, Langer put himself in position for a secondconsecutive major championship.
Langer overcame a shaky front nine with an eagle and birdie onthe inward half to take the lead at 3 under in the second round ofthe U.S. Senior Open as many of the other contenders simply triedto stay close entering the weekend.
After a fog delay of more than two hours brought play to a haltjust before 8 a.m., Langer shot a 2-under 68 making a number of keyputts on the back nine when his round easily could have slippedaway.
"You never quite know. It's the type of golf course that anyhole can get to you," said Langer, coming off a victory last weekin the Senior British Open at Carnoustie. "You just got to becareful and hit good shots."
Langer was careful, not to mention a little fortunate with theputter Friday. He's the only player with two rounds in the 60s onthe par-70 layout at Sahalee Country Club, and will take a two-shotlead into the third round.
If successful this week, Langer would be the first player on theChampions Tour to win consecutive majors since Tom Watson in 2003in the Senior British Open and Tradition.
But Watson didn't win those titles in back-to-back weeks witheight time zones in between.
"This is a big enough event to pick yourself up and getmotivated and get moving," Langer said. "I don't have a lot ofproblems with that."
While Langer managed to tame the ball-hawking tree limbs ofSahalee, others were far less successful. Only four playersfinished the second round under par, with another four sitting ateven. First-round leader Bruce Vaughan gave back all of his 66 fromThursday before he made the turn. He shot 82.
Little known J.R. Roth had a 66, the best round of the day. Hecurled in a 25-foot bender on the 18th to finish at 1 under for thetournament. John Cook (68) and Tommy Armour III (68) also were 1under.
"I think the way USGA sets up the golf course it really is goodfor me, because I'm just one of those guys that grinds it out,"said Roth, playing in his first USGA event in 35 years.
Hometown favorite Fred Couples and Watson led the group at evenpar. Constantly trying to stretch out his always stiff back,Couples sent a wave of roars echoing between the cedars and firs ofSahalee when he dropped in a tricky 35-foot bender on the par-3ninth that got Couples back to 1 under. A pair of bogeys early inhis back nine pushed Couples to 1 over, but a birdie at No. 16 andpars on the last two holes left Couples right where he started.
"I didn't realize last year that they shot so many under,wherever they played," Couples said about Fred Funk's winningscore of 20 under last year at Crooked Stick. "But I think thatkind of killed us here because there may not be anyone under parwhen the tournament is over; it's that hard."
After a bogey at No. 1 and birdie at No. 2, Watson made 14straight pars before a bogey at the 17th when his tee shot imbeddedin the bank near the water hazard in front of the green. Watsontook a drop, but chunked his chip and made bogey.
He rebounded with a birdie on the uphill par-4 18th, thesecond-toughest hole on the course.
Scott Simpson and Tom Kite were 1 over, four shots back.
They're all still chasing Langer.
He was 1 over on the front nine after missing a short par putton the ninth, then jump-started his round with an eagle on the longpar 5 11th hole, sinking a 40-foot putt for the first eagle on thehole this week. Langer made long par saving putts on Nos. 12 and15, then birdied the par-3 17th, knocking a 6 iron to six feet.Langer delicately two-putted on the 18th to finish his round.
"I hit it straight and made some putts. It's always the same,isn't it?" Langer said. "Just different venues, differentconditions, but it's always same idea, hit it where you're lookingand try and play smart."
While scores were generally closer to par than Thursday's firstround when just eight players broke par, low scores were stilltough to find. Larry Mize was 3 under on his round with two holesto play before a double bogey on his 17th hole. Roberts seemedpoised to join Langer at 3 under before a double bogey at the 15th.Cook also made a pair of bogeys on his final three holes.
"Here there's no mystery, you just have to put the ball in thefairway and then you have to hit quality iron shots with the righttrajectory and distance," Cook said. "Otherwise, you might aswell just pack up and go, because it will eat you alive."
The second round had barely started when fog brought play to ahalt. The low cloud deck engulfed the course and made it nearlyimpossible to see the end of the driving range. Play was stopped at7:48 a.m. and the delay of 2 hours, 12 minutes pushed the afternoonstarting times back. The final groups finished just after 9 p.m.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times