Bernhard Langer says golf had 'wonderful product' without LIV Golf

Bernhard Langer has been there and done it in golf. His professional career has now spanned 50 years, during which time he won two majors, enjoyed a rich Ryder Cup history and played all over the world.

In his prime, the German would have been a prime candidate for something like the LIV Golf Invitational Series, which continues to cast a cloud over the circuits where Langer made his name.

Speaking at Gleneagles, where he is bidding to add to a remarkable record of four wins in the Senior Open Presented by Rolex, the 64-year-old German admitted that he didn’t know the ins and outs of the civil war that has broken out in his beloved game but he still offered some thoughts on it.

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“I’m not part of the board discussions on this side of the Atlantic or the other, so I really wasn’t involved,” said Langer. “I’m just reading what you guys write and what I hear from the media or colleagues.

Bernhard Langer speaks to media prior to The Senior Open Presented by Rolex at The King's Course at Gleneagles. Picture: Phil Inglis/Getty Images.Bernhard Langer speaks to media prior to The Senior Open Presented by Rolex at The King's Course at Gleneagles. Picture: Phil Inglis/Getty Images.
Bernhard Langer speaks to media prior to The Senior Open Presented by Rolex at The King's Course at Gleneagles. Picture: Phil Inglis/Getty Images.

“It is in a way concerning, in another way, some people might think it is exciting. I think some of my colleagues will make a lot more money in the future. That is the outcome.

“That is debatable whether that is great for the game or not. We can compare it with other sports where they have had something similar happen, but not in many.

“I think we had a wonderful product, a lot of history. I don’t think many of us would be complaining with the living we have made from this game so far. I mean, if you go back 40 or 50 years ago when Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer were playing, they certainly didn’t make that much money considering how good they were in the game, right?”

Five-time major winner Phil Mickelson and former world No 1 Dustin Johnson were the headliners in the inaugural $25 million LIV Golf event at Centurion Club near St Albans last month before being joined by Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed for the second one at Pumpkin Ridge in Oregon.

The next one takes place at Trump Bedminster later this month, with new Open champion Cameron Smith, former Masters champions Adam Scott, Bubba Watson and Hideki Matsuyama and European Ryder Cup captain Henrik Stenson all rumoured to be poised to sign up for Greg Norman’s Saudi-backed breakaway circuit.

“There are a lot of messages going out, this way and that way and there are a lot of arguments,” added Langer, who played in ten Ryder Cups before leading Europe to a thumping win at Oakland Hills in 2004.

“Bottom line is we are professionals, we do this for a living. If someone gets injured or hurt or has the yips, nobody takes care of them right. That is the other side of the argument, we are not employed by anyone.

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“We are independent contractors. And, if we don’t perform, we are gone and we are history and nobody cares about us. You might hear the argument from some of the players that they need to take care of their family.

“They might say, I’ve got to make the money while I can, while I’m hot, while I’m good, while I am healthy’, and that may only last three years.

“But then you have the whole other side where you say how can this be good for golf? How can this be good for the next generation? How can this be promoting the game? But I am just spectating, watching on and seeing where it goes. I was very happy with what we had before.”

The Senior Open is being played at Gleneagles for the first time, with the King’s Course being used instead of the PGA Centenary Course, where the Ryder Cup was played in 2014 then the Solheim Cup five years later.

“I think the last time I was here was 30 years ago,” said Langer of playing in the Bell’s Scottish Open at the Perthshire venue. “I walked around yesterday and a lot of the holes have been lengthened dramatically.

“For senior golf it seems pretty long. There are some carries of 255 over bunkers, for some of us it’s a challenge. I know there are probably 30 or 40 guys who don’t worry about that, but there are probably 40 or 50 guys who struggle getting there.”

Langer landed his first title triumph in the event at Carnoustie in 2010, then added two wins at Royal Porthcawl in 2014 and 2017 before coming out on top once more at Royal Lytham in 2019.

“It always was a great event and I’ve always enjoyed playing in Scotland,” said Langer. “Scotland and Ireland the people just know the game, everyone seems to play it, the butcher, the baker, anybody has a golf bag, in the house or the back yard somewhere. They are very knowledgeable and it is just fun playing in front of them, it is a great atmosphere and a wonderful experience.”

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The two-time Masters champion had made the cut 63 times in 63 major appearances before seeing that run come to an end with an early exit in the recent US Senior Open, won by Padraig Harrington. Having won this season, though, he’s here to get in the mix.

“Absolutely,” he declared. “I’m hoping not to be just a number out there. I’m hoping to be in contention, to have a chance to win - that is just my nature. When the time comes when I am playing for 50th or 80th spot every week, then it is time to hang it up. The game is okay. Putting hasn’t been great, so working on that, but everything else is pretty decent.”

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