CHAMPIONS
What I Learned: Senior Open Champion Bernhard Langer May 3, 2011 By Evan Rothman

Bernhard Langer had plenty to celebrate last August when he claimed the U.S. Senior Open title at Sahalee C.C. in suburban Seattle a week after winning the Senior British Open in Scotland. (John Mummert/USGA)

Bernhard Langer displayed consistency and mental fortitude in winning the 2010 U.S. Senior Open title last August at Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish, Wash., holding off local favorite Fred Couples by three strokes. A week earlier, Langer had claimed the Senior British Open title. Freelance writer Evan Rothman talked with the German star about what he learned from that pressure-packed victory in the Pacific Northwest. 

Winning the U.S. Senior Open is very high up there among my accomplishments. I only won two majors on the regular tour, and that was my second senior major. And to win it back-to-back [the week after winning the Senior British Open at Carnoustie], that’s not easily done.

Sahalee was a fantastic golf course with a very tough but fair setup. That’s what major championships are all about.

I felt I was capable of winning anywhere on any golf course if I played to my best. Last year at Sahalee was very close to my best—even though (after flying 20 hours through eight time zones) I was suffering with jet lag a bit.

You don’t overcome jet lag; you just deal with it. You have an inner body clock that ticks away. You just try to adjust to the new time as quickly as possible by forcing yourself to go to sleep and forcing yourself to get up even though you don’t feel like it.

So much of maintaining focus comes down to experience and managing your thought process under those circumstances. You take experience and put it into practice. Doing that at Sahalee meant a lot.

My son, Stefan, can only caddie for me two or three times a year at most. To have him on the bag at one of the most meaningful victories in my career, in that environment, with that phenomenal crowd all cheering for Freddie, to come through that and share it with him—and my daughter—was very special.

I’m a very competitive person. Whether it’s ping-pong, tennis or cards, I’m going to try to beat you. I always want to do the best I can, especially when it comes to my job.

The lessons of golf—honesty, integrity, not wishing bad things on anyone, to be of a good character—that can play a part in every aspect of life.

I tell juniors to focus on the fundamentals and to practice with a purpose. Hitting 500 balls a day by itself doesn’t make you better.