Bernhard Langer ready to use experience to capture his fifth Senior Open title, third at Royal Porthcawl Golf Club
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The Senior Open Championship presented by Rolex returns to Royal Porthcawl Golf Club this week for the third time in its history.
The last two times, in 2014 and 2017, it was won by Bernhard Langer.
Langer is about a month away from turning 66, which in his case means absolutely nothing. No one has earned the right to scoff at his age more than Langer. The German has added two victories this season to become the all-time winningest player in PGA TOUR Champions history, and one of those victories was a major – the U.S. Senior Open. With that he extended his record for senior majors to 12. Four of those have been Senior Open Championships.
High winds and rain are expected this week at Royal Porthcawl. Still, it would be a shock if Langer isn’t near the top of the leaderboard.
“Obviously I had a pretty good game plan when I won here the last two times we played,” Langer said. “It must have worked otherwise I wouldn't have won, but the game plan by itself is not everything. You have to execute and hit the proper shots and make some putts.
“But I feel pretty good about my game. Been playing well the last month or so and look forward to hopefully getting a little bit better weather and see what happens out there.”
The course has added some teeth since the last time The Senior Open Championships were here, though – in the form of several new bunkers.
“They have added some bunkers that really are in play like the one on No. 1, for instance, is right where you probably want to land the ball, so you can't land it there anymore,” Langer said. “You have to kind of work between the two bunkers now and there's a few other ones that were moved around, either closer or further back so they are all in play depending on the wind conditions.
“I think they are fairly good changes overall. Makes the course a little bit tougher still. The greens are very severe. You've got a lot of very undulating, tough greens and you've got to be in control of your distance and place the ball as close to the hole as possible or below the hole. Otherwise you're going to have a few three- or four-putts around here.”
Langer isn’t prone to such putting mishaps, but his putter has been a bit off in 2023. He ranks 28th in putting average on PGA TOUR Champions; he was sixth last year and normally ranks within the top 10.
Bernhard Langers secures record 46th victory on PGA TOUR Champions at U.S. Senior Open
Langer will be prepared if the conditions are difficult. His years of links experience mean he’ll know exactly what needs to be done.
“The one element that drives the scores up no matter where you play [is wind], and when you have this much wind on an exposed piece of land, it's just flat, so the wind here seems to be much heavier and taking control of the golf ball far more than we are used to with a warm wind if that makes any sense,” Langer said. “So you really have to a pay attention and hit the right shape of shot because if you're a little off here, you'll be off a lot, not just a little, so ball-striking is very important and missing the greens or missing it in the right places where you don't get penalized immensely and still can play on to hopefully avoid double-bogeys and triple-bogeys. You've got to stay out of the bunker, stay out of the gorse, keep it on the grass.”
Langer ranks second in driving accuracy this season, hitting just over 80% of fairways. He ranks just 57th in driving distance but keeping the ball in play is what helped him win the U.S. Senior Open just four weeks ago. He’s used to sacrificing distance for accuracy.
And there is no substitute for experience, which Langer has in abundance.
“I probably have far more experience than most guys that are playing in the field,” Langer said. “The reason being is I turned pro when I was 15 and I've been playing on TOUR since I was 18, so I've been playing a lot more tournaments than most of these guys even though they are similar age. Secondly, if you win tournaments, it breeds confidence and confidence breeds winning, so it helps to have good experiences, positive experiences. If you've been a playing pro for 25, 30 years and you've just been kind of mediocre, it's hard to believe that you can win, I imagine, because you have not won anything yet or not a lot.
“That's why I believe Tiger Woods was so dominant as well. He was used to winning and expected to win every time he teed it up and it made winning easier because that's basically all he ever did to a large percentage.”