PITTSBURGH (AP) — Bernhard Langer gave away a four-shot lead in the final round of Senior Players Championship and wondered where his game had gone.
"It was like, 'This is not Bernhard Langer,'" he said, laughing. "Usually I'm a bit more steady."
No matter. The two-time Masters champion regained his composure — and more importantly his putting stroke — to edge Jeff Sluman on the second hole of a playoff for his third victory of the year and third major title on the Champions Tour.
Langer made a 35-foot birdie putt on the par-3 17th to tie Sluman at 15 under, then birdied the par-5 18th on the second hole of sudden death after a brilliant pitch from the rough to 5 feet. The 56-year-old German thrust his arms skyward in triumph after one of the more trying of his 21 career victories on the 50-and-over circuit.
"It comes in all shades I guess," Langer said after an even-par 70.
Sluman had a bogey-free 65 to match Langer's four-round total of 15-under 265, but narrowly missed a birdie putt on the first playoff hole that would have won it. The 1988 PGA champion covered his face in his hands after the ball stayed out.
"I'm not going to hit a better putt than that," Sluman said. "It just didn't go in."
It never seems to for Sluman, at least in playoffs. The 56-year-old American is 1-9 in his professional career when pushed to extra holes.
"If I'm in another playoff, bet on the other guy," Sluman said.
Russ Cochran, who trailed by seven shots early in the final round, had a 67 to finish third at 14 under. Defending champion Kenny Perry tied Langer for the lead heading into the back nine, but faded badly over the closing holes. Perry's 69 left him two shots out of the playoff.
"I wanted to shoot somewhere 65 or better, didn't happen," Perry said.
Langer nearly missed out on the playoff himself. He fought a balky putter much of the day before dropping one from across the green on 17, a putt Perry called "impossible." The typically reserved Langer hardly seemed to believe it, pumping his fist after the ball dropped into the cup.
Sluman, finishing out his round one group ahead, heard the roar and knew the unlikely lead he'd somehow forged was gone.