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Jim Colbert has a round for the ages

He shoots a 66, one better than his age, and trails Bernhard Langer by one at Newport Beach

March 07, 2009|James Wagner

Welcome to the Champions Tour, or more appropriately the 50-and-over tour, where a man approaching his 70s can claim a little triumph.

Well, until a golfer 16 years younger steals it away.

Jim Colbert, who turns 68 on Monday, hobbled through a five-under-par 66 Friday in the first round of the Toshiba Classic at the Newport Beach Country Club. That was good for a share of second place, one shot behind Bernhard Langer.

Despite continuing a 20-year streak of never bending down to survey his putts because of his hurting knees, Colbert managed eight birdies and an eagle.

It was enough to make Colbert deadpan this to a complimenting fan on his final hole: "I was good enough to make myself nervous."

What do you mean?

"I could tell I was alive," said the man who said he's nearly three inches shorter than he once was thanks to three knee surgeries and has avoided a needed hip operation. "My insides were turning a little bit."

Colbert joked that he'd skip the locker room to avoid the teasing that comes with shooting better than his age.

"He's going to get a lot of static, so he probably won't hang around much," noted Bob Gilder, who also finished one stroke off the lead in the day's comfortable weather. Argentine Eduardo Romero, 54, also shares second place.

But after that final hole and plenty of golfers still playing behind him, Colbert knew he had two more days ahead of him. And maintaining a lead is for the younger folk, like 51-year old Langer.

Langer, the German who has won two Masters titles and numerous European Tour events, yawned through the first nine holes, settling for one under par.

Suddenly, however, the defending champion's true form emerged and the chatter was about him. Langer's three birdies and an eagle on the back nine shot him into first place with a six-under 65.

The only trouble was a couple of pesky short putts.

After dropping the ball to within five feet of the pin on the par-five 18th hole on his second shot, Langer missed the putt for eagle that would have given him a two-stroke cushion.

Immediately after speaking to reporters, Langer could be found on the putting greens nibbling on a burger with his son and caddie, Stefan, and rehashing those missed short putts, including a three-footer for par on No. 8.

"Heck, I'm not complaining. I shot six under and am in the lead," Langer said. "What else can you ask for?"


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