Bernhard Langer: St Andrews is perfect stage for history bid

Bernhard Langer acknowledges the crowd during the 2005 Open Championship  in St  Andrews. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty
Bernhard Langer acknowledges the crowd during the 2005 Open Championship in St Andrews. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty
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He has admitted that the Open Championship was the one that got away but age has not withered his determination and Bernhard Langer has worked hard to ensure there would be no such profligacy on the seniors tour.

The former world No 1, who grabbed two Masters titles in a successful career that has proved the perfect springboard for even more glory among the legends of the game, has already won three Senior Open trophies and is hoping to make history at the end of July.

Currently tied with Tom Watson and Gary Player with a trio of triumphs each, another successful championships would see him edge ahead of those other golfing greats in the honour roll.

The fact he will have the chance to do it at the home of golf is an opportunity that is not lost on the 60-year-old German.

Runner up in two Open Championships, the second, in 1984, was to Seve Ballesteros on the historic Old Course, while he mustered a fifth place finish there in 2005, when Tiger Woods won the Claret Jug.

“Yeah, [The Open] is the one that probably got away from me. I felt I had the game to win and I got myself into contention many times, not just once or twice. St Andrews, in 1984 was one of those times, when I seem to remember that I outplayed Seve tee to green, but he outputted me, and in the end, he was two shots better than Tom Watson and I, who shared second.

“You know, it was fun being part of that. It wasn’t fun missing a lot of the putts that I feel I

could have made or should have made. But that’s golf. There’s 14 different clubs and you’ve got to be in command of all 14 of them and not just 13.

“There were a number of chances where I, with a little bit better putting or a couple of different breaks, or just better golf, I could have been The Open champion, but it never happened.”

He bade farewell to the tournament in 2015, fittingly at St Andrews, and despite confessing that his love for the course was a slow burner, he could not think of a better place to take his bow.

Which is why he is delighted that he will again have to chance to tackle the iconic fairways and greens of the Road hole and the Burn and the Dyke before heading over the Swilcan Bridge and through the Valley of Sin, when the Senior Open gets underway on 26 July.

It is the the first time the Senior Open will have been held there and Langer says there is no better stage. “I think we’re all really excited to be coming back to St Andrews. It’s a phenomenal golf course. Just the possibility of maybe winning my fourth Senior Open Championship is just a thrill. But whatever the outcome may be, it’s just great to be there and to be playing on that fantastic golf course.

“When I first played it, I actually didn’t like it at all. But you know, I was only 18 and I had never really seen a lot of links golf before. I didn’t like the idea of standing on some of the tees and looking over a sand dune and not really knowing what’s out there, or when I thought I hit a good tee shot and it ended up in one of the pot bunkers and I didn’t really appreciate the way the greens were designed.

“The more I played it, the more I loved it, because I can see what the architect had in mind and how great the course plays. It doesn’t matter which way the wind blows, whether the wind is right to left or left to right, or into us or downwind, it’s a challenge. It’s the design that made it that way.

“It really came to be that I fell in love with the golf course, which is very unusual, because most courses I like right away, but I didn’t like St Andrews the first time I played it, but now I love it.”

Having failed to top the pile there in the past, Langer is in a rich seam of form, confident that he has corrected the putting issues that affected his game earlier in the season. Victory at Insperity, in Houston, kick-started a fine stretch and the most successful golfer on the Champions Tour, with 10 major wins in total, two more than Jack Nicklaus and four more than both Watson and Player, says his game has developed since the days of narrowly missing out in 
the oldest Major.

“There is certain parts of my game that are actually better. I’m probably a better driver of the ball than I was in my younger days… and the short game’s been psretty consistent. As you mature you learn still more about the technique of how to play the game, the swing should become more repeatable, more steady.

“In the younger days, it was change and change and more change, so the last 10, 15 years, I’ve arrived where I feel I don’t have to make that many changes anymore.”