Langer Maintains Lead Through 54 Holes at SentryWorld

By David Shefter, USGA

| Jul 01, 2023 | Stevens Point, Wis.

Langer Maintains Lead Through 54 Holes at SentryWorld

Could the USGA, SentryWorld, NBC and Wisconsin golf fans ask for a better leader board going into Sunday’s final round of the 43rd U.S. Senior Open?

Your 54-hole leader, 65-year-old Bernhard Langer, is a two-time Masters champion looking to become the oldest winner of the championship by eight years. The owner of 45 PGA Tour Champions titles, including 11 senior majors, carded a second consecutive, 3-under-par 68 in Saturday’s third round for a three-day total of 6-under 207.

Two and three shots behind, respectively, are 56-year-old Wisconsin natives and fan favorites Jerry Kelly and Steve Stricker. Paired together on Saturday, they each shot 68s on the 7,011-yard layout designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. and that has undergone two renovations since opening 41 years ago.

They each delighted the fans who were 10-deep around the first tee on what was a beautiful first day of July , punctuating the round with final-hole birdies – Kelly from 25 feet and Stricker from 15 feet. Kelly, a two-time U.S. Senior Open runner-up, posted 4-under 209 to get into Sunday’s final pairing with Langer.

“Talk about energy,” said Kelly, the winner of two senior majors and 11 PGA Tour Champions titles. “What a great reception. What a great show-up for all the people from Wisconsin and all over. They've been nothing but fantastic. It definitely sends chills up the back of your spine.”

Stricker, the 2019 champion seeking a third consecutive senior major in 2023, sits at 210. But never count him out. A year ago at Saucon Valley Country Club, he shot a final-round 65 to fall just one stroke shy of champion Padraig Harrington.

Two other major champions are five back at 1-under 212. Two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen (2001 and 2004) and Y.E. Yang, nicknamed “Tiger Killer” for his rally to defeat Woods in the 2009 PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club, shot 71 and 69, respectively, in Round 3. Yang is the only player to beat Woods in a major when Tiger held the 54-hole lead/co-lead.

Only those five players are in red figures.

Two more – former club professional Rob Labritz and two-time senior major champion Alex Cejka – are at even-par 213.

But the man everyone will be chasing on Sunday will be Langer, who hopes to surpass five-time USGA champion Hale Irwin as the winningest player in PGA Tour Champions history. A victory would be No. 46 for Langer, which would also make him – by eight years – the oldest U.S. Senior Open champion. Allen Doyle was just shy of his 58th birthday when he successfully defended his title in 2006 at Praire Dunes Country Club in Hutchison, Kan. Langer, one of the fittest players on the 50-and-over circuit, turns 66 in 56 days, and he’d dearly love to add a second Senior Open title to the one he claimed 13 years ago at Sahalee Country Club in suburban Seattle, edging out hometown favorite Fred Couples.

“It’s going to be difficult,” said Langer about facing a Wisconsin crowd rooting for Kelly and Stricker. “I remember playing against Fred Couples in Seattle … and if there were 30,000 people, every one of them [was] cheering for Fred, and the only one for me was my caddie, who was my son at the time.

“It was like a Ryder Cup match in America. It's going to be similar tomorrow I take it. Hopefully the crowd will be somewhat fair and still appreciate good golf shots. I understand. They want their hometown boy to win. I've been there myself.” 

Wisconsin natives Jerry Kelly (right) and Steve Stricker had matching 68s on Saturday at SentryWorld to stay two and three strokes back, respectively, of 54-hole leader Bernhard Langer . (USGA/James Gilbert)

Wisconsin natives Jerry Kelly (right) and Steve Stricker had matching 68s while paired together on Saturday at SentryWorld to stay two and three strokes back, respectively, of 54-hole leader Bernhard Langer. (USGA/James Gilbert)

He opened Saturday’s round with consecutive birdies, bogeyed the fourth due to a poor drive and then birdied the par-5 fifth, reaching the 514-yard hole in two shots. He then made 11 consecutive pars before stuffing his approach to 5 feet on No. 17.

The loudest cheers were for the third-to-last pairing of the day. Thousands were there to greet Kelly and Stricker on the first tee and roars went up for every birdie the two Madison residents made, punctuated by their 18th hole exploits.

Kelly stayed out of the rough, hitting 13 of 14 fairways, and found half the greens (9 of 18) in Round 3. That was a recipe for success as he registered five birdies against two bogeys. One was a 35-foot birdie on the par-5 10th.

Stricker, who won a Wisconsin state high school title at SentryWorld 39 years ago, got to 4 under par before a bad drive on 13 led to a bogey, and he three-putted No. 15 before getting good looks at birdie on Nos. 16-18, converting just the one on the final hole.

“It was good to finally get one in,” Stricker said of his 18th-hole birdie. “Jerry beat me to it really because I was thinking if I could make that putt, I would have been in the last group tomorrow, but Jerry beat me to it. Then I'm like, well, I've got to try to top him and get it in there. It was a good way to finish for us.”

What’s Next

Sunday’s final round will begin at 6:35 a.m. CDT with the last pairing of Langer and Kelly teeing off at 11:34 a.m. Peacock will stream from noon to 2 p.m. EDT, with NBC picking up the final three hours.

Y.E. Yang, the 2009 PGA champion, is among five players in red figures through 54 holes. He posted a 2-under 69 on Saturday. (USGA/James Gilbert)

Y.E. Yang, the 2009 PGA champion, is among five players in red figures through 54 holes. He posted a 2-under 69 on Saturday. (USGA/James Gilbert)


  • Rob Labritz, who spent 23 years as the director of golf at Glen Arbor Golf Club in Bedford Hills, N.Y., before joining the PGA Tour Champions last year, posted the lone bogey-free round of the championship on Saturday, a 5-under-par 66. It’s also the lowest round of the week, surpassing the 67 by Takashi Kanemoto on Friday.

  • Defending champion Padraig Harrington carded a 2-over 73 and is tied for 17th at 5-over 218.

  • Eighteen players who qualified for the U.S. Senior Open made the cut, including a pair of competitors who were first alternates from their sites: amateur Mark Strickland and Jeff Gove. Bob Sowards (2-over 144) was the lone qualifier in the top 10 through two rounds.

  • Mark Strickland, of San Diego, Calif., will take a two-shot lead over Christian Raynor, of Kennesaw, Ga., for low-amateur honors. The golf car salesman who played collegiately at Wake Forest, carded a 2-over 73 on Saturday. Raynor, a financial advisor who lost to 2023 U.S. Senior Open competitor Trip Kuehne in the quarterfinals of the 1994 U.S. Amateur, shot a 75.

  • Saturday’s scoring average was 73.1, with the 495-yard second hole playing the toughest (4.52). Both par 5s on the inward nine – Nos. 10 and 14 – tied for the easiest at 4.85.

  • Miguel Angel Martin registered the championship’s first hole-in-one during Friday’s second round. He aced the 155-yard, third hole with an 8-iron for the championship’s 21st recorded ace. The Spaniard missed the 36-hole cut by one stroke.


“I don't mind it. I [have] always said, I'd rather be in the lead than three behind because … I can make a mistake or two and still be in the lead. If you're three behind and you make a mistake or two, you're five behind, something like that. It can be a different mindset. Some people love to chase. I've been in both positions multiple times, and I'd rather be in front.” – Bernhard Langer on playing the final round with a lead

“When I was 50, I didn't know how bad the body falls apart once you turn 60.” – Langer

“You know he's going to be tough. He's smelling [PGA Tour Champions victory No.] 46 right now. I think he's over that. I'm tied [with Hale Irwin] and I'm getting my next one. Now he's looking at a USGA championship, I think he's past that focus. I really do. I don't see him letting up. I think there's a [low] score out there. If you can get to that front side and just keep going on the back, I think it's there.” – Jerry Kelly on trying to catch Langer

“I didn't really know what to expect coming here this week. They've really come out to support, and I've heard from other players that they've really enjoyed their time here. The people are so friendly. The setup that we have here is incredible, from staying right here at the hotel to our facilities inside the tennis center. To walk up there on No. 1, to have all those people there is pretty special for us. We don't get this kind of support like this very often. It's really a special week for Jerry and myself. On top of it, we're right in there with an opportunity to win. Add some excitement and interest for tomorrow, too.” – Steve Stricker

“I'm five off the lead, so going to have to do something special tomorrow. The German doesn't come back easy, that's for sure. Forecast is going to be the same, so it's going to have to be a low round.” – Retief Goosen

“I'm a total under-the-radar guy. I mean, nobody knows know Rob Labritz is, which is cool. I'm playing, again, out here [on the PGA Tour Champions] with these guys, these guys been doing this for years. It's a year and a half I've been out here, so I'm truly just trying to improve. I work out every day. Work on my game every day. I meditate every day.” – former club professional Rob Labritz after shooting 5-under 66 to get into contention at his second consecutive U.S. Senior Open

“All those guys up there, from Langer, Stricker, Kelly, Goosen, they're all experienced enough. It's not like we have somebody who just Monday qualified. So that's a little bit different scenario. They're all playing great golf at the moment. Maybe one will have a bad day, maybe two, but out of those four, five guys, all five have a bad day? It's very unlikely.” – Alex Cejka after 68 moved him to even par for the championship

“It's really important because as you know, there's only two Korean players, K.J. [Choi] and me, on the Champions Tour, so of course I would love to win it. If I do win it, it'll bring awareness, more attention to the Champions Tour. That would be something great.” – Y.E. Yang after shooting a 69 to move into red figures for the championship

David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org.