The Edmond Sun

Sports

July 9, 2014

Langer ready for challenge

EDMOND — Bernhard Langer is ready for the challenge presented by the Oak Tree National golf course in his quest for yet another championship on U.S. soil.

The answer is Yes!

“If our futball (I know you call it soccer) team is ready to challenge for the World Cup, can I do any less? But they don’t have to play at Oak Tree,” he added.

When told that Colin Montgomerie had compared him to the German team and their performance in the World Cup, he laughed and replied, “I don’t think so. I grew up playing soccer besides golf. Almost everybody in Germany enjoys soccer. I watch as much as I can. I missed the first few games because it was always at 12, three, when we play tournament golf.”

But yesterday I was able to see the whole game and it was certainly a thrill for me and very big surprise the way we won.”

Langer is a solid favorite to capture the 35th annual U.S. Senior Open and has credentials to back up that role.

The native of Germany is playing in his seventh U.S. Senior Open and won the event in 2010 at Sahalee. Only halfway through the current tour year, he already has three wins, three runner-up finishes and 11 top 10s in 12 events.

How does he assess his game?

“Well, the whole game has been pretty solid. I’m hitting it pretty decent from tee to green and the putter is maybe a little bit better this year, just a fraction than in previous years. It shows in the scores.

“I’m feeling healthy, had no major injuries. You know, I’m pacing myself. I don’t practice a whole lot when I’m home but work pretty hard when I get out. I’m still hungry and still willing to give it 100 percent.”

Another challenge thrown at Langer was the victory by countryman Martin Kaymer, who won the U.S. Open a couple weeks ago at Pinehurst. Both are Players champions as well.

Have they talked?

“Yes, we have texted back and forth a number of times and I was first of all thrilled for him. What a performance that was. It was very difficult to win a major and to win it by, what, eight or nine shots? It’s just amazing. He played so solid and so well. I’m just very, very proud of him. He’s a great young man besides being an accomplished golfer now.

“But it’s good to see that it happens to good people, and, you know, hopefully it helps German golf a little bit, as well. We need, you know, some young guys that do well on the world scene to encourage younger people to pick up the game,” he added.

Langer does not agree that he is getting better with age.

“Yeah, at times I feel I’m better than ever, but, you know, I have had very good years when I was in my 20s and 30s and 40s, so it’s difficult to say and it’s difficult to compare. But I still feel — as a golfer — because it’s so technical and so mental, that you actually can get better because you have had more time to practice the swing and groove the swing and the certain technique and fine-tune it.

“Secondly, you’re still learning about yourself and the mental part of the game and what shots you can probably pull off, what shots you can’t pull off, and how to, you know, just to play the game in general. So I believe this is a very unique sport where you can still maintain a very high level. Whether I’m better or just five percent worse or 10, who knows? But, you know, on certain golf courses that are not 7,600 yards long, I think I can still compete with the very best.”

Should he be so heavily favored to win the Senior Open?

“I’m not sure if I’m ‘THE’ favorite, but I’m probably one of the favorites. There are a lot of good players here in the field. I think the most important club this week is probably the driver. You have to drive it in the fairway. If you miss the greens — or if you miss the fairways, you’re going to have a very difficult time out of Bermuda rough to control the ball and even get the distance you need.

“Every green is perched up with lots of runoffs and deep bunkers. So if you can’t come from the fairway where you hit the ball high with spin, coming out of the rough is going to be very, very hard. So whoever drives the ball well this week is going to be up there. Obviously you’re still going to have to make some putts and make decent iron shots and chip and pitch and have some bunker game and all that. Everybody will miss a few shots.

“But I would think it’s the hardest course I have ever played or one of the hardest courses the way it’s set up right now. It’s just extremely demanding. And if the wind blows on top of that, it’s going to make it even harder. And you know it’s going to be hot,” he laughed.

Langer currently has 92 career wins and only four golfers in history have cracked the 100 mark. Is that one of his goals?

“Well, what keeps me motivated is that I love to compete. I love to play competitive golf and enjoy when the adrenaline is going through my body, just be in contention and have the opportunity to win tournaments. My goals are to, yeah, have fun, because I know I only have so many years left. I’m going to be 57 here next month, and we all know the clock is ticking.

“If nothing drastically happens, even then I only have a few years left in competitive golf. So I want to enjoy myself. Obviously it’s more fun when you play well. I’d like to win a few more tournaments, maybe get to 100 in my career. I’m at 92 right now. Yeah, one of the goals this year was to keep the yellow jersey on my caddie all year.”

What was more impressive or maybe more surprising: Beating Brazil by 6 or Kaymer winning by 8?

“They are both incredible achievements. Neither one was expected, I think. If you had put money anywhere on those two results, you would have gotten incredible odds, and I think that tells it all,” he replied.

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