Champions Tour Insider: All Langer needs is a major

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Bernhard Langer switched to a long putter over 10 years ago, and is currently leading the Champions Tour in the putts per round category.
May 20, 2009
Vartan Kupelian, PGATOUR.COM Contributor

BEACHWOOD, Ohio -- There's not much more Bernhard Langer could ask for from his Champions Tour campaign.

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Sure, he might have converted a putt here, another there, but he's not the kind to lament a miss or two. His history tells us that.

Langer is putting together a marvelous season. He's won twice, leads the Charles Schwab Cup points and money list, and is No. 1 in the all-around statistical ranking. His dominance is so complete that he's No. 1 in seven statistical categories, including scoring average (68.96).

So what's left?

That's easy.

A major championship somewhere along the line would be the exclamation point.

Langer, a two-time Masters champion now in his second full season on the Champions Tour, is still looking for his first Champions Tour major. He has played in six.

This week's 70 th Senior PGA Championship at Canterbury Golf Club is the first of five Champions Tour majors. Langer was runner-up last year at Oak Hill, 1 shot behind Jay Haas. Langer finished in the top seven of all five majors in 2008.

"I've had a very good start to the year," Langer said Wednesday at Canterbury. "Started off with a win in Hawaii and then had several chances to win again and didn't putt good enough to win again but I was still having lots of top-10 finishes."

He's had seven top-10s and won for the second time this year when he teamed with Tom Lehman, who was making his Champions Tour debut, to win the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf. Langer made a huge birdie putt on the first playoff hole to set up Lehman's winning putt on the second extra hole.

"Winning breeds winning," Mark O'Meara said. "You win one, you win two, you get a taste of it, it's a little bit easier to continue on that path. He knows how it's done. He's got the confidence to do it. He'll play well here this week."

Langer has six Champions Tour victories since his first, the 2007 Administaff Small Business Classic. World-wide, his victory total since 1974 is 68.

"He's stayed in very good physical shape," O'Meara said. "I look at him, I'm like, 'Man, the guy's body fat must be about 10 or 12 percent. He looks like he could be a track and field guy. He looks super-conditioned. He's still very highly competitive."

While Langer said he's trying to figure out some nuances of the Canterbury holes, including the massive 616-yard, par- 5 16th hole, there's no question his all-around excellence this season as reflected by the statistics is a good fit for a course that demands plenty from the golfers.

"I don't think length plays a huge part on this golf course," Langer said. "That's my personal opinion. It helps on some of the holes but it's not necessary. I think it's far more important to be precise."

Langer's golf game is all about precision.

"Very methodical in his game and his approach," O'Meara said.

That will come in handy at Canterbury, where a few yards will be the difference between success and failure.

"It's the type of golf course you really need to control your distance as well as the line," Langer said. "If you are a little off, it could be a disaster around here. The greens are so severe that if you're just three, four, five yards off in distance, it could mean a lot of strokes.

"If you can control your ball off the tee, you're going to have a much easier second shot into the green. And putting. Putting is half the game."

That's an intriguing analysis coming from Langer, a man who has endured his share of misery on the greens. It speaks to his strength of character that he doesn't shy away from discussions about putting. He's not afraid to say the 'Y' word.

A man who has gone through what Langer has -- four bouts with the yips, by his counts -- would be expected to avoid the subject. Not Langer, who has used the long broomhandle putter for a dozen years to combat the malady.

"I would rather putt with a short one, if I could," he said. "But I can't ... I just don't feel very comfortable with it. And I miss a lot of putts. So I just had to find a way to survive out here and make the best of it. And that seems to be the long putter right now." Champions Tour Insider notes:

• Canterbury was the site of the Senior Players Championship from 1983 to 1986. The winners: Miller Barber (1983), Arnold Palmer (1984-85) and Chi Chi Rodriguez (1986). Dave Stockton won the U.S. Senior Open at Canterbury in 1996.

• When Jay Don Blake tied for fourth last week at the Regions Charity Classic, it was his best finish anywhere since a third-place finish at the PGA TOUR's 2002 Sony Open in Hawaii. Larry Mize also tied for fourth last week, his best showing on the Champions Tour and best overall since a T2 at the 2001 Marconi Pennsylvania Classic.

• Langer was captain of the 2004 European Ryder Cup team which trounced the United States at Oakland Hills. European officials, based on the recommendation of 2010 captain Colin Montgomerie, have added a third captain's pick to the selection process.

"It's definitely an advantage," Langer said of three picks versus two. "I was trying to get that when I was captain. But they were playing hard ball with me and I think every captain would rather have three or four. I really wanted to take four guys and I could only take two ... So I think that's definitely good."

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