Like the surf crashing to shore just a few feet away from the 18th green, Bernhard Langer came roaring into the final hole of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai on a five birdie-streak, and with an easy two-putt sealed a second consecutive day at 8-under 64 to take home the Makau trophy Sunday.
“I’m very pleased to win at the first event of the Champions Tour season,” Langer said. “I started playing fantastic on the finals six holes. I think I could have birdied the 18 but played away from the flag knowing I had the lead.”
Langer used the birdie spree to run away from a crowded leaderboard, including clubhouse leader Jeff Sluman (-19) and fellow hall of famer and final group member Fred Couples (-19). Sluman finished the day with a 65 and Couples — looking for his 10th Champions win and second in a row — had a 67.
Langer’s three-stroke victory is the largest winning margin at Hualalai since Hale Irwin won by five stokes in 2007. The 22-under-par 194 is also the best 54-hole score on the Champions Tour since Rocco Mediate shot 22-under at the inaugural Shaw Charity Classic last summer.
The win also breaks an unfortunate streak for the World Golf Hall of Fame member. Langer had finished in the top 10 in each of his last 11 tournaments, but failed to record a victory.
“It is good to have a ‘W’ again after the last four or five months last year when I couldn’t do it despite playing great golf,” Langer said.
Langer played his 19th victory on the Champions Tour bogey free on the final 45 holes and recorded just a single bogey the whole tournament.
The 56-year-old German joins the short list of two-time winners at Hualalai, and it comes at an appropriate time. Langer will soak in the win while celebrating his 30th wedding anniversary today with his wife Vikki on the Four Seasons property before heading home.
Sluman put together a nice front-nine 31, but slowed down on his way in. However, Sluman was not discouraged by the runner-up finish — his best result at the season-opening event — and credited Langer for the excellent performance.
“Frankly it is a great way to start the year,” Sluman said. “You come into the first tournament not knowing what you have, having not played competitively for over two months. When you shoot 19-under you have to do some things right. I hit one good iron shot after another, hit some good putts, but today it was not quite enough.
“When I get on the plane tonight, I can know I played one heck of a tournament and I can take a lot of this the next tournament knowing I’m swinging pretty well.”
Couples remained at the front of the pack all weekend, but was stung by poor performances on the par-5s. Couples did no better than a par on both of Hualalai’s par-5s on the back-nine Sunday.
Jay Don Blake, Russ Cochran, Brad Faxon, Mediate and Kirk Triplett thrived on the long holes, each going 10-under for the week. Langer was 9-under for the tournament on the par-5s.
First-round leader Mediate rebounded from a mediocre second round, shooting 5-under 67, good enough for fifth.
Defending and two-time champion John Cook (-8) finished tied for 19th., while reigning senior circuit Player of the Year Kenny Perry (-4) finished towards the bottom of the leader board, tied for 34th.
NOTES: Mark O’Meara was the only player in the field to make three eagles. Bernhard Langer’s 21 birdies were the most by a player in the field, one more than Jeff Sluman. Langer also made the fewest bogeys with just one and played his last 45 holes of the tournament without a bogey. … Langer earns 307 Charles Schwab Cup points and a check for $307,000. His career earnings in seven appearances at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai now total $991,500. … Jay Haas closed with a 65 today, his 27th straight sub-par round at Hualalai. Haas’ round which featured a chip-in eagle at the par-5 14th followed by a chip-in birdie at the par-4 15th, elevated him up into solo fourth, his seventh career top-10 finish in this event and third consecutive. It was also Haas’ best performance in this event since he was solo third in 2009. Haas’ seven career top-10s at Hualalai are T3 on the all-time list, two top-10s back of Tom Watson. … There were 23 rounds below 70 on Sunday, one less than on Saturday but three more than Friday. Last year, there were 46 total rounds in the 60s for the week. … The par-3 5th hole played as the toughest for the week (3.195), yielding just 10 total birdies. Just seven birdies were made at the par3 8th hole (3.130). The easiest hole for the week was the par-5 4th hole (4.276), giving up nine eagles and 73 birdies. … This year, there were 27 eagles and 560 birdies made. Last year, there were only 11 eagles and 469 birdies made.