Colorado Springs, Colo. - U.S. Senior Open rookie Bernhard Langer might be a relative newcomer on the 50-and-over circuit, but the two-time Masters champion is starting to get a decades-old feeling.
Which could spell trouble for his fellow competitors when the Senior Open commences Thursday at The Broadmoor.
"It’s the same feeling as I had back then," said the soft-spoken German. "If I played my game and
|Bernhard Langer worked alone on the course Tuesday, taking copious notes and conferring with his caddie. (John Mummert/USGA)
played well, I can win any tournament. It doesn’t matter where."
That sentiment could be backed up by Langer’s intense preparation Tuesday on the East Course. Slated to play with amateur David Rasley, Walter Robertson and Steve Veriato in the day’s practice round, Langer stayed back after the first hole to meticulously chart yardages and shots. He played alone the rest of the way, seemingly lost in concentration. On No. 16, he paced off his steps from edges of the green. From the 17th fairway, after a lengthy conversation with his caddie, he stuck his approach shot to within 2 feet of the flagstick.
Langer is no slouch. He registered 58 international victories in his "regular" professional career,
including Masters titles in 1985 and ’93, and was a stalwart for the European Ryder Cup team.
Since turning 50 last August, he’s returned to his dominating form, taking his first Champions Tour title in Houston by eight shots while posting a 54-hole-record score of 191 (25 under par) that included a first-round 62.
In 2008, he collected a pair of wins over a three-week stretch in March, finished second at the Senior PGA Championship at Oak Hill, thanks to a final-round 76, and is currently tops in Charles Schwab Cup points and on the money list.
"I wanted to come in and compete, and wanted to dominate on this tour," said Langer at the 3M Championship in Minnesota before leaving for the Senior British Open at Royal Troon, where he finished fourth. "It’s gone pretty well, about what I expected."
While Langer has never seen the par-70 Broadmoor layout, just the chance to add to his major championship victory total excites the normally low-key German.
"It’s a major so you know it will be very important," he said. "Anytime you’re on the [Champions] Tour and in competition for majors that’s always what you work for."
Langer did not have a stellar U.S. Open record, recording just two top-10 finishes (T8 in 1986 and T4 in ’87) and missing nine cuts in 20 starts.
But as he heads into this year’s championship he knows what to expect and knows what he needs to do.
"You know when you come into the Open you are going to have to drive the ball very well and think your way around the course," said Langer. "It’s going to be one of the toughest setups of the year. When we played in the (Senior) PGA last month it was probably the toughest we played all year so it should be similar.
"You know you’re going to have to hit good iron shots and get up and down with your short game for pars. That’s the case no matter how long the course is."
With The Broadmoor’s setup being the longest in Senior Open history (7,253 yards at 6,000 feet above sea level), Langer knows he’s in for a challenge.
"The shorter courses have been a benefit to me, especially since I was never the biggest hitter around."
But he feels his 11 months of momentum stretched over two seasons will help him battle the elements, the course setup and his fellow Senior Open competitors.
"We are all about the same age, mainly everybody from age 50-60 so that helps a great deal. I think it helps you mentally to think you can win.
"Now I’m in the top 30 in driving and before I turned 50, I was near the bottom. On some courses it’s hard to compete."
Along with eight top-10s on the Champions Tour, Langer also tied for 15th at The Players Championship and shot 74-77 at the Masters to miss the cut. Last year, he barely missed a PGA Tour win at age 49, losing in a playoff at the Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, to Rory Sabbatini.
"I’m very excited about playing in the Senior Open," Langer said "I [had] never been to The Broadmoor before, but I heard it’s a wonderful course and a fine area. It is something I’m excited to do. It will be my first Senior Open, so it should be memorable and fun.
"When you have a good game, you can compete on any course; it doesn’t matter where."
To celebrate the occasion, he is bringing wife Vikki and four kids from their Florida home, and they plan to take a family vacation in Colorado after the championship.
But first Langer would like to give his family a little extra reason to celebrate, and maybe a shiny USGA trophy to add to their vacation luggage.
Art Stricklin is a golf freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on www.ussenioropen.com. Ken Klavon of the USGA contributed.