Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Champions Tour player Esteban Toledo watches to the ball during his follow through as he tees off at the 1st hole of the second round of the Greater Gwinnett Championship at TPC - Sugarloaf in Duluth Saturday. Toledo leads the pack by one heading into round three today.
DULUTH -- Esteban Toledo says he replays his runner-up finish in the 2002 Buick Open over and over again.
The self-taught golfer from Mexico began that day just one stroke behind Tiger Woods and, playing in the then-No. 1 golfer in the world's group, matched Woods until halfway through the back nine when three straight birdies ended Toledo's chances of taking down Woods.
"I kind of learned a lot from him," Toledo said. "He doesn't know how to lose."
A professional since 1986, Toledo is still chasing that win.
"Tomorrow is going to be the greatest challenge in golf for me," Toledo said after carding a 2-under 70 and taking the lead into the final round of the Greater Gwinnett Championship. "I am looking forward for tomorrow.
"I am a fighter, I am boxer. I like the challenge. I go out there to win and play the best I can. I know if I go out there and play the best I can, I know I can win."
This is just the second time Toledo leads heading into the final hole of a PGA Tour event of any kind, the other coming on the Web.com Tour, something even Toledo doesn't remember.
Woods may be missing from Toledo's final group today, but there are still winners. Bernhard Langer, a two-time Masters champions and 17-time winner on the Champions Tour, is one shot back of Toledo after firing a 6-under par Saturday, matching Jeff Sluman for the day's lowest round. Langer came to TPC Sugarloaf smarting from a poor finish last Sunday in Augusta, where he was in contention until the back nine.
"It was a tough finish for me on Sunday and very difficult Sunday and Monday night to re-play the tape (in my head) of what I did and the tough breaks I got. I really didn't play that bad of golf," the native of Germany said. "It was fun being in contention, and I took a lot away from that tournament. That last nine I was very aggressive and I paid the price."
Though Langer compares Sugarloaf to Augusta, with its length, tall trees and hills, he said it's not as long and allows for lower scoring. He also putted well Saturday, making two birdies from outside of 15 feet.
"I played very solid the second round, I got off to a good start birdieing Nos. 1 and 3 and I had a good back nine, made some putts," Langer said.
Roger Chapman rounds out the final threesome as one of four players at 4-under par. Chapman, along with Tom Pernice Jr., shot 4-under par to climb up the leaderboard and join Mark Calcavecchia and Langer and 5-under. In all, 10 players are within four strokes of the lead entering the final round of the inaugural Champions Tour event in Gwinnett.
It's the first time for Gwinnett and the first Champions Tour season for the 50-year-old Toledo. But Toledo wants the most elusive of firsts.
"It's going to be exciting for me tomorrow. I am going to try everything I can. I am not afraid to win," Toledo said. "I am excited to win. I prepared myself to win. It's not going to be that easy. I will win one of these weeks. Hopefully it is tomorrow."