Langers Eye for Detail an Asset

By Associated PressSeptember 12, 2004, 4:00 pm
04 Ryder CupCaddies and players like to tell about the time in the 1991 Ryder Cup match at Kiawah Island when Bernhard Langer asked partner Colin Montgomerie to step off the yardage from a sprinkler head to the front of the green.
 
Monty told him it was 183 yards.

'Was that from the front of the sprinkler or the back?' Langer replied.
 
Or so the story goes.
 
'No, it's not true,' Langer said with a smile. 'That was a good joke from Colin or his caddie, and they just announced it to someone else and it spread. A sprinkler head is this big. Nobody is good enough to hit the ball within 6 inches.
 
'The Germans might be precise,' he added. 'But not that precise.'
 
The story was easy to believe, though. Langer is a nut when it comes to detail, and that might be the greatest strength he brings as European captain of the 35th Ryder Cup matches at Oakland Hills.
 
Langer leaves nothing to chance.
 
He can fill a yardage book with so many notes that there is no room left to write. He often carried some 20 clubs during a practice round, trying to decide which were the best fit for that course under various conditions. Unable to overpower a course, he compensated with strategy.
 
It led to 16 consecutive years of winning, including two Masters and two European tour money titles.
 
'I'm very tactical,' Langer said. 'I like to think I'm one of the guys who thinks himself around the course very smartly. That's always been one of my strengths.'
 
Langer is only the second continental European to be captain. The other was Seve Ballesteros of Spain in 1997, and no one will ever mistake the two. Ballesteros was full of passion and flair. Langer goes about his business methodically, and he is not easily ruffled.
 
'Bernhard will bring his professionalism to the job,' Lee Westwood said. 'You know every angle will be covered.'
 
Langer played on his 10th Ryder Cup team two years ago at The Belfry and he never lost a match -- 2-0-1 in team matches with Colin Montgomerie, then a solid victory in singles over Hal Sutton, his opposing captain at Oakland Hills.
 
He has been so steady for so long that Langer wasn't sure whether to accept the European captaincy because he thought he was still good enough to make the team. Indeed, he was tied for the lead at one point Sunday in the Masters but was unable to keep up with Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els and tied for fourth.
 
Still, his captaincy already has been filled with questions.
 
Langer was passed over as a captain's pick in 1999 when Mark James took Andrew Coltart, who had never played in a Ryder Cup and then was benched until Sunday. Some believe that inspired Langer to move away from the old guard, especially when he named Joakim Haeggman and Anders Forsbrand of Sweden, and later Thomas Bjorn of Denmark, as his assistant captains.
 
Asked the difference between Langer and previous captains, Darren Clarke hardly offered a ringing endorsement.
 
'Bernhard's from Germany,' he said. 'He'll have his own ideas. He keeps a lot close to his chest. I'm sure he'll be a very good captain, very thorough.'
 
The British press grilled Langer for not coming to the British Open when he didn't qualify, feeling he was missing an opportunity to see which players were in form. Langer said it was still early in the selection process, and the last thing a player needed was to see Langer following along, creating distractions.
 
Then he chose to take his oldest daughter to college during the first few rounds of the BMW International Open in Germany, the final qualifying tournament for the Ryder Cup. Again, Langer stuck to his decision by saying it was important for a father to be with his daughter as she began a life of independence.
 
A strong Christian who married an American and lives in Boca Raton, Fla., Langer brings a quiet confidence as captain, but also a competitiveness that doesn't always get its due.
 
'Bernhard's record speaks for itself,' Clarke said. 'He's a double major champion.'
 
He had a 21-15-6 record in his 10 Ryder Cups, and he beat Sutton twice in singles at The Belfry -- 4 and 3 in 2002, 5 and 4 in 1985.
 
Still, mention Langer and the Ryder Cup and what comes to mind is missing a 6-foot par putt on the final hole of the final match, which cost Europe the cup at Kiawah in 1991. It remains one of the most compelling images in Ryder Cup history, Langer leaning back and letting out a guttural cry when the putt turned away.
 
'I sometimes see that famous photo of me in the moment afterward. There is so much disappointment for my team in my face,' Langer said. 'When I look back, I feel the shivers all over again.'
 
What followed is a testament to Langer. The very next week, he won the German Masters in a playoff.
 
'That's the mark of a great champion and a great person,' Stewart Cink said.
 
Langer is no stranger to hard times.
 
He nearly died as a child after suffering from fever cramps. He earned $1 a round as a caddie on the nine-hole course near his house in Germany, turned pro when he was 18 and won the first of his 66 international titles a year later. Langer was the first player to be No. 1 when the world ranking made its debut in 1986.
 
His roots in golf speak volumes about the player he became.
 
The other caddies called him 'Eagle Eye' because he never lost a ball, even in grass that covered his knees. Langer would simply pick the spot where the ball landed and walk a straight line, taking small steps until he found it.
 
He always had an eye for detail.
 
Related Links:
  • European Ryder Cup Team

  • U.S. Ryder Cup Team

  • Full Coverage - 35th Ryder Cup

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