German-born Langer has kept a home in the United States for a number of years now. He lives in South Florida with American wife Vikki and their four children ' all of whom are typical suburban kids with typical American tastes. He is intensely religious and a regular attendee at the PGA Tours weekly Bible-study classes. In 1985 he won the first of his two Masters and three days later he was converted after he was persuaded to go to the religious chats by Bobby Clampett.
Sounds like millions of Americans, doesnt it?
Anyway, Captain Langer has been surprising even himself with his good play this year in America. He teed it up in the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and finished eighth. He was en route to a similar finish in the FBR Classic at Phoenix when he hit a roadblock in the final round and shot a 76.
Come to think of it, maybe he really is doing the Americans a big favor. Thank goodness he is just captain. His play the first two tournaments of the year has been pretty impressive indeed ' this guy would be sticky if he were playing in the Cup instead of just riding around in the cart spouting European exhortations.
That situation, of course, has already come up, been batted around, and put to bed. Langer was asked late last year if he unequivocally, totally ruled out the possibility of playing. And he refused to say no.
This evoked quite an outburst from Nick Faldo ' one of the men in the final running for the captaincy. Faldo wondered when Langer would set a deadline for deciding ' would it be after the European shirts had been selected? Langer, within the last month, made the announcement that he would be the captain and not a player. Presumably, that was good enough for Faldo.
Whew! Up went a collective sigh from the Americans. Langer has performed brilliantly in the past for Europe. Langers 10 Ryder Cups trails only Faldos 11. A tested, steady hand like Langer would no doubt be a valuable addition to the European squad.
He announced his decision in Phoenix a couple of weeks ago.
That's exactly what I have announced, yes, said Langer. I made up my mind that I would not play, no matter what. It's so much work and so much effort that goes into the Cup, so much of a personal touch as well, and I've thought already a lot and I don't want to give that up. So I'm going to be a captain, yes.
So even in the remote event that he leads the European Ryder Cup standings, he will not play. He had been saying that it would be rare possibility, indeed, if he were to consider it. Now he has slammed the door altogether.
But the captaincy hasnt affected his play this year, it seems.
I've put a lot of work into it over the off season and the winter, worked very hard on my swing with my coach (David Leadbetter), Langer said. And then playing a new ball, as well, which seems to give me a little more distance, and a new driver, so I'm hitting it out there a little bit further, which makes it easier.
He is popping his driver out there 285 yards, which is good for 41st on the tour. And his adjusted scoring average is 28th. He actually has averaged 68.00, which is seventh in actual figures, but adjustments are made for the relative ease of the Hope courses.
Langer is 46 now, but he says this rejuvenation has hit a lot of players. The guys playing well in their 40s, they're good players, they've been out here a long time, they have a lot of experience, he explained.
The only difference now compared to 30 or 50 years ago is we do realize with the equipment and staying fit that you can expand your career. A lot of guys are looking forward to the Champions Tour, as well, so they're taking better care of themselves. They're exercising, eating better, looking out for themselves more and that's why they can compete longer.
Langer will spend much more time playing the U.S. tour this year because his children are of an age, he believes, that he needs to be near them. That means, of course, he will be in closer contact to the demonstrative U.S. fans. But thats OK, he says. He even had a good time with the rowdy Phoenix fans on the famous par-3 16th.
It's an unbelievable atmosphere, Langer said with a smile. It's just surrounded by people and all they want to do is yell and scream. It's fun when you hit a good shot. It's not so much fun when you don't hit the green.
Someone suggested that the crowd at No. 16 may be good for the game. I don't know if it's good for the game, said Langer, but it's certainly good for this tournament to get a lot of people to come out here, and they seem to enjoy themselves.
Langer is in the field at this weeks Buick Invitational near San Diego. Darren Clarke, Lee Westwood, Thomas Bjorn, Sergio Garcia, Fredrik Jacobsen, Jose Maria Olazabel, Jesper Parnevik, Mathias Gronberg a lot of European players will also be there, within eye-catching distance of their captain. Langer will pay close attention, of course. But he also will be concentrating on his own game. Ryder Cup or not, this guy can play!
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