TOM Watson and Colin Montgomerie both said so. On the evidence of his record-breaking 13-shot victory in the Senior Open Championship, Bernhard Langer would be worth one of Paul McGinley’s wild cards for the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in September.
It is an unlikely scenario, of course. McGinley has European Tour players bursting a gut to either make his team automatically or secure one of those three picks. He is unlikely to be influenced by one performance, though it was easy to see why Watson, the US captain for the upcoming match in Perthshire, and Montgomerie, the winning 2010 skipper at Celtic Manor, were both gushing about Langer’s effort. It will go down in the folklore of the ancient game.
Eight shots ahead at the start of the final day, the 56-year-old German had increased his cushion to 14 by the turn and only had that chiselled away by the smallest of margins due to Montgomerie finishing birdie-birdie to claim second spot. A closing 67 for an 18-under-par total of 266 saw Langer home by a resounding margin.
On a course playing so fiercely – a wind gusting up to more than 20mph made the test even more demanding for the final circuit – it was an astonishing performance and one that had the golfing statisticians beavering away as it unfolded. Their conclusions?
For starters, it demolished the previous biggest winning margin in this event – a seven-shot success recorded by Bob Charles at Turnberry in 1989. It also clipped a shot off the Champions Tour record that was set by Hale Irwin in winning the 1997 Senior PGA Championship.
In addition, it was also two shots better than the European Senior Tour record, which had been set by Thailand’s Boonchu Ruangkit on home soil in 2010.
It was probably the most impressive display since Tiger Woods romped to his 15-shot victory in the 2000 US Open at Pebble Beach. Hence Watson and Montgomerie, without any prompting whatsoever, throwing Langer’s name into the Ryder Cup mix, even though the last of his ten playing appearances in the biennial bout – he also captained a winning team in 2004 – was 12 years ago.
“I’d certainly be saying to Paul this guy is playing so well that he might be worth a pick,” confessed Watson after being one of those left in Langer’s wake. “The way he is hitting it just now, Gleneagles is a course that could be played by Bernhard.”
Concurring, Montgomerie added: “I hope Paul McGinley is looking at this, both in terms of the way he is playing and the confidence of the guy. You want experience on the first tee in a Ryder Cup and no-one apart from Tom Watson has more experience in the game right now than him [Langer].”
For the unthinkable to happen – Langer blowing the title – it was going to either take a storming start by someone in the chasing pack or the leader collapsing early on. Neither occurred. Among the pursuers, Watson started with a double-bogey 6; Bob Tway took three to get out of a bunker at the third to run up a 7 there.
Langer started impeccably. Most players found the opening few holes tricky, but he made them look ridiculously easy. He birdied both the second and third, hitting approaches to 12 feet and six feet respectively.
In giving one of those back by missing a short par putt at the fourth, he dropped only his fourth shot of the week. Birdies at the sixth and seventh, though, increased his lead to 13, which then became 14 after Rick Gibson, his playing partner, bogeyed the ninth. When Langer took 5 at the 11th, it was the first time that two bogeys had gone down on the same card all week. Was he getting sloppy all of a sudden? Of course not. In went a 20-foot birdie putt at the par-3 12th and, fittingly, he finished with one more birdie.
“This was very unusual,” admitted Langer. “It was a fun walk today and I enjoyed my whole week. My driver was really good all week and my long putting had been, too, until today – when you have such a big lead it is hard to stay focused. I’ve not had the opportunity to play the last nine holes with a 14-shot lead – it doesn’t get any better than that in golf.”
Having found himself two over for the day after just three holes, Montgomerie, a two-times Senior major winner this year, was delighted to cover the next 15 in four-under without any further spillage. “I’m very pleased with my day’s work,” said the Scot, whose closing 69 clinched second spot by three shots from American Tom Pernice Jnr (70), England’s Barry Lane (72) and Canadian Gibson (75).
Watson finished joint-tenth on two-over.