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:
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  • Full Coverage - 35th Ryder Cup

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    Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

    The Monday morning headline will be …

    REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

    RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

    MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

    JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.



    Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

    HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

    LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

    BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

    COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.



    Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

    HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

    LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

    BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

    COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.



    What will be the winning score?

    HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

    LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

    BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

    COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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    Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

    Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

    Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

    This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

    While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

    Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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    McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

    Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

    “It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

    “Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

    He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.  

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    Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

    A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

    Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

    Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

    And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”