The Langer legacy

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The German's U.S. Senior Open win elevates him to top position as the all-time winner on the Champions Tour. M. James Ward explains the magical journey Bernhard Langer has experienced and how his rise to the top may remain in place for quite some time.
Posted on
July 6, 2023
M. James Ward in
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Throughout a golfer's career at the highest levels of professional golf there will be a range of ebbs and flows. Being able to handle the ups and downs is part of the life for any elite golfer.

During a career there can be trying moments. Ones not so easily placed into the rear-view mirror  that can leave lasting scar tissue damage.

At the 1991 Ryder Cup played at The Ocean Course on Kiawah Island the result of the matches boiled down to the final match between Hale Irwin and Bernhard Langer. Langer needed to make a six-foot putt on the final hole to keep the Ryder Cup in European possession. A miss would mean the USA taking back the prized possession.

Langer barely missed the putt to the right. Given the extraordinary weight of the matches a situation resulting in failure could have devastated just about any other golfer. Not so for the talented German player.

The very next week Langer won an event in Europe and in less than two years would claim his second green jacket with a win at The Masters.

If any element is within Langer it is resilience.

This past week he extended his record with a 12th major senior championship in winning the U.S. Senior Open in Wisconsin. The win also marked his ascension to the number one position on the Champions Tour with a total of 46 victories -- surpassing the long-time mark of 45 wins by Irwin. In addition, Langer pushed his previous record as the oldest winner on the senior circuit to 65 years 10 months and 5 days.

Failure has never held him back.

During various times in his earlier years, he was afflicted with the dreaded yips. There would be times when nervous twitching of the hands would cause his putter to behave erratically. The condition is not one unique to Langer. Others have had similar situations happen. The great Ben Hogan often could not start the sequence in getting the putter back from the ball in his later years when competing.

To keep his career moving forward Langer opted to go with the long putter. The usage clearly provided a spark and provided the impetus for the most successful record in senior golf.

The European Ryder Cup team after the 1989 match. From left. Back row: Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Mark James, Tony Jacklin (captain), Jose-Maria Canizares, Gordon Brand Jnr, Ronan Rafferty and Jose-Maria Olazabal. Front row: Christy O'Connor Jnr, Howard Clark, Bernhard Langer, Ian Woosnam and Sam Torrance. (Barry Batchelor/PA Wire)

The long putter also created controversy among a few of his peers who believe Langer was bracing the club against his body which had been outlawed by the governing bodies. The evidence against Langer was never supported and no action has ever been taken.

Langer's prime playing years happened during the rise of various European players in the 1980s and 1990s. Unlike his fellow peers such as Seve Ballesteros, Nick Falso, Ian Woosnam, Sandy Lyle and Jose Maria Olazabal, Langer never received the accolades and attention of the others.

His tenacity and desire to remain competitive have been front and center througout his march to the top of the senior ranks.

Like the Energizer bunny -- Langer just keeps going and going.


Epic failures in golf​

Langer was able to get beyond his missed putt at Kiawah to forge the most successful senior golf record. But not all failures sparked a revival. Three of the most noted breakdowns are illuminated below.

-Doug Sanders short miss on the 18th green at the 1970 Open Championship


-Scott Hoch's missed winning putt on the first playoff hole at the 1989 Masters


-Greg Norman's monumental collapse at the 1996 Masters


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About M. James Ward

A GWAA and MGWA member, the 66-year-old from the USA has covered golf in all facets since 1980, notably the major championships and other high level events. He has played over 2,000 courses globally and has competed in USGA Championships.

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