ENCOMPASS CHAMPIONSHIP: Another Langer-Frost duel begins

A 3-hour 28-minute rain delay disrupted the return of the Champions Tour to Chicago on Friday, but it didn’t interrupt the season-long duel of the circuit’s two top players.

Bernhard Langer, the season money leader and No. 2 in the season-long battle for the coveted Charles Schwab Cup, posted a 5-under-par 67 at North Shore Country Club in Glenview to share the first-round lead with Duffy Waldorf and Craig Stadler.

Meanwhile, David Frost, the Schwab Cup leader and No. 2 on the money list — $50,084 behind Langer though playing one less event, is just one stroke back at 68. He’s in a tie for third with, among others, long-time Burr Ridge resident Jeff Sluman and Gary Hallberg, who grew up in Barrington.

Frost was in the clubhouse before storms and lightning halted play at 12:22 p.m. Waldorf had one hole to go and Langer two. Waldorf returned to the course and made bogey on his final hole to be the first in at 5-under.

“Obviously I would have liked to have finished (before the delay),’’ said Waldorf. “It would have been a big difference. Usually when you’re playing well you definitely want to keep playing. When we warmed up the wind was blowing like 25 miles an hour on the range, and we’re thinking, `What’s going to happen?’’’

Langer wasn’t as concerned.

“Even though it was a fairly long break, the good thing is we knew we were only going to play two more holes, so it was only three full swings,’’ said Langer. He parred in to match Waldorf. Stadler took an opposite route to the top of the leaderboard. He played most of his holes after the delay and finished just before darkness halted play.

Sluman, paired with Brian Urlacher in the two-man team event that concludes with Saturday’s (TODAY) second round, was on the 14th tee when play was stopped because of the bad weather. He and Urlacher spent a good portion of the delay talking to the media, during which Urlacher said he had no plans after his retirement from the Bears but had no intention of playing again.

Urlacher said he’s been playing plenty of golf since his retirement announcement. It showed when he rolled in a 40-foot par putt on the second hole, but he four-putted two holes later.

“I still get into trouble a lot, but I enjoy (golf),’’ he said. “I have more time to practice now, so I should get better.’’

“He’s got a lot of ability because he can turn his body really quick and he has great hands,’’ said Sluman. “If he keeps playing, he’ll be a mid to low 70s shooter.’’

Sluman parred on his first hole after the delay and made birdie on the second, but he couldn’t get another one and settled for a spot one stroke off the lead.

Because of the lengthy delay some players couldn’t complete the first round. Those who didn’t will finish it prior to the start of Round 2.

“The course took the water very well,’’ said Langer after eight-tenths of an inch of rain softened the course. “I was surprised because it drained so well.’’

The team event ends on Saturday. Only the 81 professionals will play on Sunday when the $1.8 purse is distributed. The champion will receive $270,000.