Sports

Bernhard Langer stays hot with a 63 at Newport Beach

SportsToshiba CorporationMitsubishi Electric CorporationGolf Channel (tv network)Charles Schwab

To many, the fantastic weather slated for Newport Beach this weekend isn't much of a surprise. The same could be said of the Toshiba Classic's first-round leader.

That would be Bernhard Langer. The two-time Masters champion, who won the Toshiba in 2008, is the hottest golfer on the Champions Tour. He shot an eight-under-par 63 Friday at Newport Beach Country Club and takes a two-shot lead into Saturday's second round.

It was Langer's 12th consecutive sub-par round and 19th in his last 20 rounds going back to October. And that one round he didn't go under, he was at par.

"What happened there?" Langer said facetiously of the even-par round. "That's very disappointing."

Langer, last year's Champions Tour money leader and the top player in the season-long Charles Schwab Cup race, began this year with a win in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship in Hawaii. He then finished tied for seventh and tied for second in his next two events. A three-week break hardly slowed him down in his first round at Newport Beach.

His bogey-free round featured four birdies on the front (Nos. 1, 2, 7, 9) and four on the back (10, 15, 16, 18).

"The weather? I don't know what it's going to be like, but so far it's been tremendous," the 56-year-old German said. "Keep it up."

Langer said he was happy with just about every club in his bag. He was also pleased with his stamina. He said he struggled with fatigue earlier in the week during pro-am play because of jet lag after his flight from Florida.

His longest birdie putt came on the 390-yard, par-four second hole, where he drained it from 16 feet.

"I hit pretty much every green," Langer said. "I putted pretty solid too. The poa annua greens are not easy to putt."

Fred Couples is one of three tied for second at 65, with Chien Soon Lu and Jeff Hart.

Couples, who won the Toshiba in 2010, collected seven birdies, four on the front. But his bogey on the par-four 16th hole proved costly.

Lu went bogey-free with six birdies, and Hart also bogeyed No. 16 to go with seven birdies.

Hart's 65 was his best start in 45 career events on the Champions Tour.

Duffy Waldorf, Scott Simpson, Michael Allen, Kirk Triplett and Kenny Perry are tied for fifth at 66.

Langer showed he was hot right from the start with birdies on his first two holes. By the time he reached the par-five 18th the Golf Channel started replaying highlights from his 2008 win at Newport Beach.

While on the Champions Tour, for golfers 50 years and older, Langer has won six titles in the 17 times he has had the first-round lead.

"It always helps when you play a course well or win there," Langer said. "It certainly doesn't do any harm. I won here in 2008. I've had other good finishes here. I think I know how to play the golf course, and I think it's just a matter of executing."

sports@latimes.com

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