Triplett wins ACE Group Classic for his third Champions Tour title

NAPLES, Fla. — Even though he has beaten Bernhard Langer twice down the stretch for Champions Tour titles, Kirk Triplett isn’t ready to say he’s the German star’s nemesis.

“No,” Triplett said. “We’re just going to say the sample size is still very small.”

The 51-year-old Triplett won the ACE Group Classic on Sunday for his third Champions Tour title, holing a 6-foot par putt on the final hole for a one-stroke victory.

Triplett shot a 6-under 66 to finish at 16-under 200 on TwinEagles’ Talon Course. He won the 50-and-over tour’s Pebble Beach event the last two years after winning three times on the PGA Tour.

“I’ve never won out here on this side of the world,” Triplett said. “I’m a West Coast guy through and through, so to win on this Bermuda grass is, I think, a little bit of a minor miracle for me.”

Langer, the defending champion, Duffy Waldorf and Olin Browne tied for second. Playing in the final threesome, Triplett, Langer and Waldorf were tied for the lead with a hole to play.

In Triplett’s last win at Pebble Beach, he also was paired with Langer, who has owned this event the last three years, winning in 2011 and 2013 and finishing second behind Kenny Perry in 2012.

“He’s awesome to play with,” Triplett said. “I’m telling you, you know the guy, he’s such a great competitor and he’s such a nice man. We were joking last week, ‘If you shot one shot worse than Bernhard every day all year, what would you finish on the money list?’ Somebody goes, ‘Second, right?’ because it just feels that way sometimes.”

On the par-4 18th, Waldorf drove into a bunker and wound up with a bogey for a 66.

“I hit a bad drive,” he said. “So I mean, it was a bad drive. The pin was in a tough spot. I laid up fine, but I spun my wedge a lot and just didn’t — I didn’t hit it close enough to have a chance for par.”

Admittedly using the wrong club, Langer’s second shot sailed left, and his 12-footer for par curled around the cup for bogey and a 67.

Triplett’s second shot from a divot landed about 25 feet from the pin. His birdie putt went past the hole and he made the 6-footer for the victory.

“You want to make birdies but you don’t want to make bogeys and you’re thinking to yourself, ‘4s not going to lose this probably,’ ” Triplett said. “I mean, it might. If it does, if it loses the 18th hole, you look the guy in the eye, shake his hand and say, ‘Well done, sir.’ “It wasn’t the best (putt) I made all day, but it was good enough.”

Langer has finished in the top 10 in 40 of the last 48 tournaments he’s played in. The German star won the season-opening event in Hawaii last month for his 19th Champions Tour title.

Waldorf, coming off a playoff loss to Michael Allen last week in Boca Raton in the Allianz Championship, almost holed out on the par-3 16th.

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