Golf world gushes over Bernhard Langer's Masters performance
6 Min Read
Written by Bob McClellan @ChampionsTour
Every April the world is reminded of what the players on PGA TOUR Champions already know: Bernhard Langer is really good at golf.
Only this year it wasn’t in April. The global pandemic from COVID-19 pushed the Masters to November, and former two-time champion Langer made the cut. He became the oldest to do so, which he wouldn’t have had it been played at its normal time of year, well before the German’s 63rd birthday.
The accomplishment drew this bit of pithiness from the legend:
While Langer making the cut was big global news, it also wasn’t. He has made the cut at Augusta National four times in the past five years. Honestly it probably would have been bigger news if he hadn’t made the cut. The man knows his way around this course. It was his 26th made cut in 37 starts among the dogwoods and azaleas.
“I know how to play this golf course and just have to play my angles and rely on my short game,” Langer said after carding rounds of 68-73-71-71 to finish T29. “With me it's really all the putter. If I can make a few putts, I know I can shoot somewhere around par or even under, and that's usually good enough to hang in there. If my putter goes bad, then I'm struggling because I'm not going to hit the ball very close. Today I probably hit, I don't know, I'd have to count, but I think six hybrids and two 3-woods into par-4s. That's just not a lot of fun, but it is what it is.”
Langer played with Rory McIlroy in Saturday’s third round and Bryson DeChambeau in Sunday’s final round. It was a rare glimpse for him into today’s game.
“I got to experience the longest guys in the world right now, and it's quite amazing. Different game,” Langer said. “You know, normally I play my own game. I don't even worry about who I'm with and all that, but I was a little bit spectating here and there. I was in awe and just watching how they swing and how hard they hit it, and every once in a while I had to tell myself, ‘Go on, stop watching and play your game and focus on what you want to do.’
“But it is fun to watch and fascinating how they do it.”
McIlroy shot 5-under 67 on Saturday to beat Langer by four shots. But Langer’s 71 on Sunday bested DeChambeau by two.
The 31-year-old Irishman and the 27-year-old American both said there was a lot to learn from watching Langer do his yeoman’s work.
“I try to think about what scores I would shoot if I was hitting it where he hit it,” said McIlroy, who has won golf’s other three majors but has yet to don a green jacket. “Honestly it's like me playing an 8,500-yard golf course. That's what it's like. It's so impressive, just the way he methodically plots his way around and gets it up and down when he needs to. It's really cool to watch. And yeah, I wish in 30 years' time I'm back here doing the exact same thing.”
DeChambeau tried to attack Augusta National much the same way he had slain Winged Foot during the U.S. Open, by hitting his drives as far as he could and scrambling from wherever he wound up. But he ran into problems with his short game. In fact, he drove the par-4 third hole while playing with Langer but had to settle for a three-putt par, while Langer hit the green in two and one-putted for birdie.
“I was fortunate to hit three really good shots, made a great putt, and he drove the green, but it wasn't easy,” Langer said. “It was on the front right and the pin was front left. Usually that putt is lightning fast. I thought he hit a good putt, but it was 15, 18 feet short, so it was strange. Anyway, so he three-putted, yeah.”
DeChambeau had nothing but praise for his Champs Tour counterpart.
“He's an unbelievable iron player. He grinds over everything,” DeChambeau said. “Doesn't give up.
“His long-iron play is stellar still, and I think that's what makes him so amazing, and definitely I still look up to him. Even though I'm bombing it by him, he's still playing better than me. It doesn't matter. That's the cool part about the game of golf. You can shoot a score whatever way you want, and he's able to do it still at his age that way, which is pretty impressive.”
Langer's fellow PGA TOUR Champions competitors were not surprised, but that didn't leave them any less impressed.
"He knows where you need to be to make pars on holes that may be too long for him to have a realistic chance for birdie, like Nos. 5, 7, 11, 18, for example," Scott Parel said. "He knows how to be smartly aggressive on holes that give him birdie opportunities, but above all he's a fantastic putter. Led our Tour in putting this year. He seems to make every putt when it matters. He's amazing."
Added Steve Flesch: "Bernhard is amazing. He gets it done everywhere because he continues to work as hard as he did 30 years ago. Sure, physically he is in awesome shape for his age, but his mind is so strong that his discipline for planning and playing his game never wavers. That's his true strength. Damn is that annoying!" Brett Quigley said he continues to be impresssed with Langer inside and outside of the ropes.
Langer’s fitness level still is second to none, too. He played 26 holes on Friday to make the cut because the first round was suspended due to darkness. On the rain-soaked, hilly fairways of Augusta, it was no small feat.
Now he will get to return in less than 6 months and try to top his own record.
“This place has never played as long as it had this year,” Langer said. “I've never seen it as wet. I mean, even today I hit a 3-wood on the second hole, downwind. Went about this high, and it plugged. It actually came back. I saw my pitch mark, it had mud on it, and that usually doesn't happen to that extent. But they're working on it.
“.. I like the challenge of it being firm and fast. I think it's a harder course when it plays that way. It may play shorter, but I think it's harder. We'll see what next spring brings.
“It was a very unusual experience not having any patrons here or very few, and you didn't hear any big roars. I might have gotten one of the bigger roars yesterday when I made that 63-foot putt. There were about 12 people watching, so I got something out of them.”