Langer excited to have some fun in Champions Tour debut

August 29, 2007
By Lauren Deason Editorial Coordinator

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- A quick glance at the bios of the juniors at the Wal-Mart First Tee Open at Pebble Beach this week reveals that many of these teens were born in the early 1990s. Most of the Champions Tour pros have socks older than that.

Langer at Pebble Beach
How he fared in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am
Year Position Score
1985 T7 286/-2
1986 T13 215/-1
1987 T3 280/-8
1988 T4 282/-6
1989 T12 283/-5
1990 CUT CUT
2001 CUT CUT

Yet Bernhard Langer, born two days and 50 years ago on August 27, 1957, has tapped into a fountain of youth and found an ability to hang in there with several generations of players behind him. Despite climbing over the hill this week, Langer nearly won on the PGA TOUR as recently as May 2007, when he and Jim Furyk lost to Rory Sabbatini in a three-man playoff at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.

As fellow World Golf Hall of Fame member Tom Watson put it, "[Langer]'s going to do very well out here. The way he has been able to compete in his later years on the PGA TOUR against the kids out there, it's apparent that he can really get the ball going. I suspect he will probably win quite a few times out here."

It's fitting that Langer decided to debut at the three-day tournament at Pebble Beach where each pro is paired with a junior golfer and two amateurs during the first two days, as Langer seems to relish his role as an elder gentleman and mentor. In the past few years, he's teamed up with son Stefan to win the Del-Webb Father-Son Challenge in 2005 and 2006; was paired with Marcel Siem -- 23 years his junior -- and won the 2006 World Golf Championships-Barbados World Cup for their native Germany; and captained the 2004 European team to victory at the Ryder Cup over the American squad.

"I actually like Pro Ams. I enjoy meeting people and playing golf with them and especially youngsters, when you see the excitement and the thrill they get of playing the game, their eyes go big and they just have a big smile on their face," said Langer.

But this week, he's also excited about rejoining his over-50 colleagues, many of whom were on the PGA TOUR when Langer won his three titles -- two in 1985 at the Masters Tournament and the Sea Pines Heritage Classic and captured a second major at Augusta National Golf Club at the '93 Masters.

He had an eye-opening experience on the European Tour playing with 18-year-old Tony Finau, whom Langer claimed drove the ball 340 yards and represents the more athletic, harder-working future golf superstars. Not quite as young and fit as he once was -- Langer joked he weighs five pounds more than he did 30 years ago and most of that is "the muscles which I used to have around my shoulders and arms, they kind of drooped to the midsection" -- he feels like the Champions Tour is calling his name.

"I've looked forward to (joining the Champions Tour) for quite some time. I've been on the regular tour for 32 years and enjoyed my time out there, but I'm looking forward to having some fun playing golf and being out with the same-aged guys as me instead of being outdriven 50 or 60 yards by these 20 year olds. Hopefully I can keep up with most of the guys [on the Champions Tour] and just enjoy the camaraderie that I hear is so prevalent out here."

There's just one thing about debuting this week -- the Anhausen, Germany native is No. 59 in FedExCup points and would have probably been eligible for the first three events in the PGA TOUR Playoffs. But family comes first for Langer, who opted to join his son on the European Tour last week at the Dutch Open, where the elder Langer finished third.

"They invited myself and my son to play; it was the first time my son ever participated in a European Tour event, and it might be the last one. It was a unique opportunity."

With his own tournament -- the Mercedes-Benz Championship on the European Tour in his Cologne, Germany -- conflicting with THE TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola, Langer decided it didn't make sense to try to win the inaugural FedExCup when he could only play in one event.

"When you look at it, I was going to miss the first one and the fourth one, and I'm going to have to take a week off anyways because I never play four in a row. I have four kids, I'm married, happily married and I want to keep it that way," Langer said with a laugh.

That decision may have been easy, but Langer now has several more choices to make. Obviously still competitive on the European Tour, where he has won 42 times, and on the PGA TOUR, Langer will now have to factor the Champions Tour and European Seniors Tour into his already full schedule as well.

"I have the luxury to choose between four tours next year, the two over here and the two in Europe, and that will not be the case much longer I suspect. So I will take all that in and see which tour is the biggest challenge for me or where I'm going to have the most fun, and then schedule my next year according to that.

"(I) probably will continue to play the U.S. Masters for sure, and maybe one or two other events, even though I plan a full schedule out here (on the Champions Tour). But at this point, I'm not quite certain what I'm going to do."

Expectations will be high on the Champions Tour for the shot-shaping, finesse player, but, unlike fellow rookies Mark O'Meara and Nick Price, Langer won't even be the biggest name in his pairing during the first two rounds at Pebble Beach.

On Friday, Langer will be paired with Heidi and Peter Ueberroth, famous for serving as the Major League Baseball commissioner from 1984-89, being a co-chairman of Pebble Beach Company and the current head of the United States Olympic Committee. Saturday's round finds Langer playing with Dina and Hollywood star Clint Eastwood.

Despite this celebrity-filled first two days and the laidback, fun-and-games approach on the Champions Tour, Langer isn't going to lose his competitive nature completely.

"A lot of people think it's going to be a pushover out here. I know better. I know these guys. I've played against them for many years. They are very, very good players. They are very competitive. Even though they seem to have a lot of fun out here, they still want to win, and I know they can play great golf.

"I'm very much aware that I need to play the best that I can. I need to bring my A-game if I want to win out here, and I hope to be competitive, and I hope to win and hope to be in contention on a regular basis. But that's only going to happen if I play well."