Bernhard Langer (1st) and Brandt Jobe (2nd) reflect on the third day of the Constellation Senior Players Championship. (Michael Ares / Baltimore Sun)
For more than four hours Saturday, Brandt Jobe was chasing history at the Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills. By the end of the third round of the Constellation Senior Players Championship, Jobe was simply chasing Bernhard Langer.
Through nine holes, Jobe seemed on the brink of breaking 60 when he made the turn at 29. Through 15 holes, the 51-year-old journeyman was 9-under for the day and was staring at the competitive course record of 63, set in the third round of the 2002 U.S. Senior Open by a fellow journeyman, Don Pooley, who went on to beat legend Tom Watson in a five-hole playoff.
It was not the thought of those two accomplishments as much as it was the pressure being applied by playing partner Langer — only the best 50-and-over golfer on the planet — that might have been too much for Jobe. In two holes late in the back nine, the outcome of the season's fourth major on the PGA Tour Champions might have swung toward the man who won the first two this year and the last three Senior Players Championships.
Bogeys by Jobe on the par-5 16th and par-3 17th to close what had the makings of a brilliant round opened what has become a familiar door for the 59-year-old German — the one leading to victory. In the course of those two holes, Langer went from two strokes down to one shot up going into Sunday's final round.
As is usually the case with players in the midst of dominating, Langer didn't seem that unsettled by the way Jobe played on the front nine.
"I knew there was still a lot of golf left," Langer said after the round. "That's the front nine Saturday. The tournament finishes on the back nine Sunday, so a lot of things can happen in this game. I've seen it all, or I think I've seen it all. You just play your own game and make the best of it. I knew if I would continue to play well, I could make some birdies and keep in touch or close the gap, and it turned out that I'm in front of him and not behind him."
While Jobe said after the round that he had no idea what the course record was and the thought of shooting 59 never crossed his mind, Langer's presence in the same final threesome did apply some pressure.
"When you're playing Bernhard, I'm trying to shoot as low as I can go because he's going to keep going," said Jobe, a former Asian Tour stalwart who last month won his first tournament on American soil in 19 years.
Langer, who completed his storm-interrupted second round early Saturday with a one-shot lead over former U.S. champion Corey Pavin and a two-shot lead over Jobe, is at 18-under 198 after a 6-under 66. Jobe, who stopped the bleeding with a downhill 8-footer for par on the par-4 18th to finish with a 7-under 65, is at 199.
"You want to continuously play well, make very few mistakes," said Langer, who is also trying to become the first men's professional to win the same major championship four years in a row since the legendary Walter Hagen won the PGA Championship from 1924 through 1927.
The one bad swing Langer made the whole day wound up not hurting him. On the 430-yard par-4 seventh, Langer pushed his drive "10 yards" right of the fairway. It clipped the trees and ricocheted back into the fairway, though some 250 yards from the cup and 100 yards behind Jobe's tee shot. Langer's approach landed 35 feet from the cup and he narrowly missed the birdie putt, the ball stopping one roll short.
"That's how he plays," said Jobe, who took the lead on that hole with a tap-in birdie."There's no give-up in him. It doesn't matter what the shot is."
There was no give-up in Jobe after he scuffed it around for bogey on the par-5 16th and hit his tee shot into the water on the par-3 17th, chipping close enough to secure a bogey. After driving into the deep rough on the final hole, and then hitting his approach short, Jobe made a tough, downhill putt to save par — and possibly keep him in the tournament from a mental standpoint.
"Luckily here on 18 I made a good putt to save myself," Jobe said. "It was two different sides, two different guys [at the start of the round and at the end]. I like the first guy better."
Asked about his approach in chasing Langer, Jobe said, "Well, I've played every round with him [at Caves Valley] and let me tell you what, he's playing really good. It's fun to watch. I'm going to have to play a very, very good round because I know he's going to go out and play well. So it will be fun, we'll see what happens."
It might turn into match play, given that no other player is within six shots of the lead.
Playing with them in the final threesome, Pavin briefly tied both Langer and Jobe for the lead after making birdies on three of the first four holes, but never could sustain that early momentum and eventually had 10 straight pars end with a double-bogey 6 on the final hole. It left Pavin at 12-under after a 1-under 71, tied with Scott McCarron, who shot 3-under 69.
Not that Langer is looking ahead to winning his 10th major championship on the PGA Tour Champions, adding it to a list that also includes the 1985 and 1993 Masters titles. At least not yet.
"There's a bunch of guys that are still in contention and I have a one-shot lead," Langer said. "If I had a seven-shot lead, I would expect to win, but a one-shot lead, that could be gone on the first hole, bogey and birdie or something like that. It means nothing. You've got 18 holes left and Brandt is playing well and I'm sure there are other guys that are up there playing well, too, so I still need to go low."