Bernhard Langer: Mr Longevity… German superstar says he’s still improving at 58

By Grant Winter

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One of the hallmarks of Bernhard Langer’s remarkable career which has spanned 43 years with 81 individual victories has been his attention to detail. When playing alongside him in the Ryder Cup, Colin Montgomerie revealed that when  giving him a yardage Langer had responded: “Is that to the front of the sprinkler head or the back?”

Enough said. Langer is German precision personified. But there are other reasons for his success, and now that he is approaching 60 – he turned 58 on August 28 – it’s his longevity as well.

His extreme competitiveness shows no signs of abating. “I still feel and always felt like I can improve,” he insists.

“People say: ‘You are over 50, how are young going to get better?’ Well, I can get better just by creating a better technique and knowing what to do in different circumstances.”

“Then again, if you win on a regular basis and you are used to being up on a leaderboard, which has been the case with me all these years, then you expect to be up there. It’s a mental thing and it’s no surprise to be in contention and you can handle it fairly well.

“That has been the case for me the last six, seven years. I know it is going to be harder for me because some of the guys can outdrive me but it is not how far, it’s how many. A lot of it is putting and local knowledge.”

And it was “local knowledge” that helped him win this year’s Seniors Players Championship, one of the Senior Majors, at Belmont Country Club by six shots with a 19-under-par 265 return.

Almost every player in the field had never played Belmont before, so three weeks away from the championship Langer turned to a friend of his, club professional Dave Lane, for help. Lane went to Belmont, spent 30 minutes putting on each green figuring out its secrets, and then passed on the information to Langer along with a yardage book.

So, come tournament time, Langer had an advantage with this ‘local knowledge”, even though it was second hand.

The result was that not only did he join Arnold Palmer as only the second player in the tournament’s history to defend the Senior Players Championship, but he kept up his record of winning every year on the Champions Tour since he joined the 50-and-over circuit in 2007.

Langer speaks warmly of the years between 1980 and 1994 when, in a five-man group that included himself, there were nine European winners of the Masters. The others were Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam, Sandy Lyle and Seve Ballesteros while Jose Maria Olazabal triumphed in 1999.

The German credits Ballesteros for helping him believe that he could succeed at the highest level. “Seve kept winning Majors and I had beaten Seve on a number of occasions on the European Tour every year. So I knew that I could beat him and I thought: ‘He is winning Majors, I’m not. If he can, I can.’ That gave me the confidence that I could.”

And he proved that by donning the Green Jacket both in 1985 and 1993. It was in 1985 that he became a committed Chistian, and he remains one to this day. As it turned out, both his Masters victories came on Easter Sunday. If precision,  attention to detail, mental strength and – yes – “local knowledge” – have have all contributed to his outstanding career, he also lists his strong faith as a factor .

Langer has had his struggles with the yips over the years, but today he uses a long putter and he remains an outspoken critic of the ban on the anchored putting stroke which comes into effect early in 2016.

“I’ve tried to voice my opinion but I think there are one or two people with their mind set on pushing this through. It makes no sense to me, sorry. I think the ban only happened because two guys won Major Championships with a long putter. But it is very simple. If the long putter was such an advantage, why isn’t everybody using it.

“Why are only 10 to 14 percent of players using it. Every player on Tour would go to the long putter if they think they could win with it.

“Obviously they can’t and they don’t feel that way. Who is using the big-headed driver and graphite shafts, who is playing with hybrid clubs? Everyone, because it is an advantage.”

Bernhard Langer won’t be getting his way with his long putter next year. But he’ll find an alternative. And he’ll be turning 59. But as he says, that’s not old. So don’t expect to see him disappearing from the scene.  After all, he’s golf’s Mr Longevity. He’ll be around alright.

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