Langer Fires 64 in Senior Open Championship; Rails Against Possible Ban on Long Putters

Bernhard Langer got off to a rousing start in the Senior Open Championship. The German fired a 6-under 64 to take the opening-round lead in the $2 million major, which began Thursday in Scotland on the Alisa Course at Turnberry.

The 54-year-old member of the World Golf Hall of Fame carded six birdies and 12 pars on a warm, sunny day with not much wind. Langer hit 11 of 14 fairways, 14 greens in regulation and needed only 23 putts en route to his fine effort.

"I was very pleased with the way I played," Langer said. "Played smart. Hit some good drives, good iron shots and sank a few putts. Maybe left a couple of putts out there as well."

Langer also weighed in on the R&A's discussions about banning the long putter, a club he's used to great effect. "I don't understand that they've been used for 20, 30 years and only now they say 'we think they're illegal,' " he said. "So for three decades nobody won a major with one. And now because three have, they're illegal? I'm sorry, don't accept that argument whatsoever. It doesn't make sense."

He also believes a ban will cheapen the victories of the players who've used a "broomstick" en route to victories, including such major champions as 2011 PGA winner Keegan Bradley and last week's winner in the Open Championship, Ernie Els. "I guess they just want to ride the 'traditional' thing, whatever that is," said Langer.

"I think it does devalue their wins, because it takes a lot of practice. It's not like, oh take the long-putter and it automatically goes into the hole. That's baloney. In many ways it's actually harder to use because you have a longer thing to move and you have to be more precise."

Mark McNulty is a stroke back after a five-birdie 65. Michael Allen, Dick Mast, David Frost, Tom Lehman, David Frost, Jay Don Blake and Chien Soon Lu carded 4-under 66s, while three-time Senior Open champion Tom Watson started with a 69.

Allen was pleased to have such balmy weather on the seaside links. "I played beautiful on the front nine, made a few mistakes in the middle, then had a great finish," said Allen. "Out here in a short-sleeved shirt in Scotland playing this wonderful course is as good as it gets."

Michael Allen, Dick Mast, David Frost, Tom Lehman and Chien Soon Lu carded 4-under 66s, while three-time Senior Open champion Tom Watson started with a 69.

Watson was paired with Aussie great Greg Norman and the Champions Tour's hottest player, England's Roger Chapman, who both posted 2-over 72s. The 53-year-old Chapman logged victories in the 2012 Senior PGA Championship and Senior U.S. Open.

"The course is there for the taking on such a beautiful day and Bernhard did that. He's that good of a player and he's in good form," Watson told reporters. "He and his caddie Terry really work out how the course should be played. That's why he's so successful."

Also shooting 72 was Fred Couples, who's making his debut in the Senior Open Championship, and Mark Calcavecchia, the 1989 British Open winner at Royal Troon.

Defending champion Russ Cochran withdrew last week.

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