Langer wins inaugural Greater Gwinnett Championship

Photo: Courtesy of Greater Gwinnett Championship — A strong weekend gave Bernhard Langer his 18th career Champions Tour title at the Greater Gwinnett Championship at TPC at Sugarloaf on Sunday afternoon.

Photo: Courtesy of Greater Gwinnett Championship — A strong weekend gave Bernhard Langer his 18th career Champions Tour title at the Greater Gwinnett Championship at TPC at Sugarloaf on Sunday afternoon.

DULUTH — Tied for 29th after Friday’s opening round 1-over 73 in the inaugural Greater Gwinnett Championship at the TPC at Sugarloaf, Bernhard Langer had some ground to make up in the final two rounds.

So the two-time Masters champion went to work during the weekend and concluded it with a final round 5-under 67 on Sunday to capture another Champions Tour title.

Langer had carded a 6-under 66 on Saturday to move to within one shot of the lead held by Esteban Toledo heading into Sunday’s closing round of the 54-hole tournament.

The 55-year-old continued that solid play on a cool and windy Sunday with the 67 to finish at 10-under 206 and take the title by three shots over Tom Lehman and Tom Pernice Jr.

Langer’s win marked his 18th career Champions Tour title, the fifth year of multiple wins during his six full years. He has at least one win during all seven of his years on the Tour.

“When I first set foot here at Sugarloaf, I really enjoyed the golf course,” said Langer. “This is an amazing, good golf course and it reminded me of Augusta (National Golf Club). Similar type of grass and tough greens and it is in very good shape. So I just enjoyed playing golf here. You have to think and position your shots. If you’re in the right position, you can play aggressive. If you miss, you’re going to get punished. I like those kind of golf courses.”

Langer, who has won or finished in the top three in five of the six Champions Tour tournaments entered in 2013, also increased his lead to 309 points over David Frost in the Charles Schwab Cup standings with the victory.

Lehman fired a 5-under 67 on Sunday to move into the runner-up spot at 7-under 209 along with Pernice Jr., who shot 2-under 70 in the final round.

Lehman started the day tied for 10th at 2-under after consecutive rounds of 71, but moved up the leaderboard during the day.

“It was a tough day, windy, breezy, kind of a gusty wind that stayed in the same direction,” said Lehman, who is the two-time defending Charles Schwab Cup champion. “I played very well yesterday and putted tremendously. Today was a big improvement (on my putting from Saturday). Andrew, my caddie, gave me a nice little putting tip last night having to do with my pre-shot routine and it made a big difference with the short ones. “

Pernice Jr. was tied for second with Toledo, Roger Chapman and Mark Calcavecchia at 5 under after 36 holes before finishing with the 70 on Sunday.

Chien Soon Li carded a 3-under 69 on Sunday and finished alone in fourth at 5-under 211.

Langer still trailed Toledo by a stroke after four holes, but made the turn heading to the second nine at 7-under and a one-stroke lead over Toledo.

That’s when Langer made his move and Toledo began to falter.

First, Langer chipped in from just off the green at the par-four No. 10 for birdie to go to 8 under.

Then Toledo hit consecutive tee shots into the water at the par-3, 11th hole and par-4, 12th hole to drop four shots and fall back to 2 under.

Toledo eventually finished at 3-over 75 on Sunday and 3-under 213 for the tournament, still good enough for a seventh-place tie.

Meanwhile, Pernice Jr. also hit into the water at No. 12 and eventually took double bogey to drop to 4 under.

That left the door wide open for Langer, who played steady down the stretch and finished the second nine in 3-under.

Lehman and Pernice Jr., playing in separate groups ahead of Langer, did keep the pressure on over the final nine holes.

Lehman birdied No. 17 and No. 18 to pull to within two shots of the lead at one point.

Pernice Jr. holed out from the 15th fairway for eagle and got to within two shots of Langer.

But birdies at Nos. 10, 16 and 18 sealed the deal for Langer.

NOTES: Kathy Evans was named the Champions Tour’s Volunteer of the Tournament following this year’s inaugural event. Evans received a Champions Tour Waterford crystal gift and will now become a finalist for the Champions Tour’s Volunteer of the Year award at the conclusion of the 2013 season. Evans, who lives in Social Circle with her husband, Mike, has been involved with many of the Atlanta area golf tournaments throughout the years, including the former BellSouth and AT&T Classic that was previously held at TPC Sugarloaf. ... Next stop on the Champions Tour will be in Savannah at the Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf tournament. Interestingly, Langer and Lehman will be playing partners in the tournament that begins on Friday at The Club at Savannah Harbor. ... Craig Stadler withdrew on No. 7, his 16th hole on Sunday with a foot injury. Also, Joe Daley was disqualified following his final round on Sunday after signing an incorrect scorecard. All told, there were four withdrawals before or during the tournament (Olin Browne, D.A. Weibring, Tommy Armour III and Stadler) and two disqualifications (Gene Jones and Daley). ... TPC at Sugarloaf proved to be a tough test for the players. The GGC saw only 20 players finish at even par or better for the 54-hole tournament and saw the highest overall scoring average for a tournament in five years. A total of 29 players shot 72 or better during Sunday’s final round.