Bernhard Langer: I almost felt sorry for Monty at Royal Porthcawl
They should talk about Bernhard Langer’s demolition job at the Senior Open three years ago in the same reverential tones that greet Tiger Woods’ obscene display at Pebble Beach at the start of the millennium.
Royal Porthcawl witnessed a massacre in 2014. To borrow the famous old phrase, it was the German first and the rest nowhere.
How he did it – how Langer put together a record-shattering 13-shot victory at a venerable old links scorched by the sun and buffeted by the wind – still has his competitors shaking their heads in wonder.
Now, as he prepares to revisit the scene of one of his most remarkable triumph with the Glamorgan coast course preparing again to welcome the best of the over 50s in July, Langer explains his remarkable display and why he thinks Royal Porthcawl could host the biggest tournament of them all…
Tom Watson – who knows a thing or two about Opens – said your performance at Royal Porthcawl was four of the best rounds he’d ever seen
Everything came together for me. I drove the ball extremely well for the conditions we had, with the firm fairways, the ball was bouncing a lot, and with the wind we had too.
I drove it great. I putted well and made a number of longish putts and didn’t three putt very often.
Combined with a decent iron game, it allowed me to move myself ahead of the field and, in the end, it was a wonderful march down the last few holes with a very, very comfortable lead.
You won by a record 13 shots and Monty keeps telling us he won the other tournament…
I was almost going to feel sorry for Monty. He played some really good golf himself and, if I hadn’t been there, he would have won the Championship.
It’s just one of those silly weeks that happens every once in a while where everything comes together.
You’re in the zone with your swing, you’re thinking clearly, you feel good about everything and you are making the right putts when necessary.
I have been fortunate enough in my career to have that a few times, going back all the way to the Under-25 World Championship in 1979 that I won by 17 shots.
I had a couple of other ones but it is very, very difficult to do nowadays because the competition is so good – no matter what Tour you play and where in the world you play. There’s always competition and it’s difficult to distance yourself from the field.
You’re showing no signs of slowing down…
I still love the game of golf and I love competition. I know what I need to be rested and to be focused. My kids have grown up now, a few of them have left home already so it’s a little quieter at home and you just learn what is good for yourself.
The key now is to stay healthy. I am able to swing the club the way I want to and, obviously, I always work on my short game to have the touch that is necessary to produce low rounds.
Is it possible for you to repeat what you did three years ago?
That’s going to be extremely unlikely. That kind of form only happens once in a blue moon. I would be thrilled to be in the hunt for the Championship coming down the last nine holes and hopefully win the trophy. But I doubt anyone is going to win by that margin.
If you had to identify one part of your game that shone in 2014 – that was better that week – what would it be?
I would probably say it was my driving. My tee shots were extremely precise and fairly long – taking the firm fairways that we had. I avoided pretty much all the pot bunkers. I don’t recall hitting it into one.
I was very lucky once or twice. I remember on 18 I was trying to lay up short of the pot bunkers, which I think were 320 yards away. I hit 3-wood downwind, knowing the ball would run a lot, and it went so far it went right between them and 15 yards past them.
Those are the kind of lucky bounces you need to distance yourself. To avoid those bunkers was key because, most of the time, you will lose a full shot.
Did you three putt at all that week?
I don’t think I had many. That was another thing that stood out – how good my approach putting was. Most of my long putts were very close and, whenever they weren’t, I was able to coax in a six to 10-footer or something like that.
You can have some long putts, when you play the conditions we had – with wind and firmness.
Last time your caddie came down early to find a route round the course. Will he be doing the same again?
I don’t have to tell him to do that. He’s pretty determined and one of the hardest working caddies you will ever find anywhere. He usually gets there a day or two before me anyway and does his homework. That’s just the way he prepares.
I always thought I prepared pretty diligently until I ran into Terry Holt, but he is a step ahead of me.
How long have you been with him?
Ten years now.
Do you think the course suits a European golfer, with the touch that’s needed?
We used to say that but I would like to think all these guys on the Senior and Champions Tour have been around all over the place.
We’ve adapted to different conditions and played many links courses throughout our careers. I am not sure I have a major advantage on many of them.
There may be the odd one that hasn’t played much links golf but most of the champions that are part of this tournament would have been experiencing a lot of that themselves.
Forgetting the tented village and all that, as a test of golf is Royal Porthcawl good enough to stage the Open?
I think it is, yes. It’s always tough when you play links golf because the wind usually blows and the course is definitely hard enough.
They could set it up really difficult. If you let the rough grow – if they got a bit of rain – and make the fairways narrow, the course is long enough and they could even add a tee here or there if they needed to.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the course itself is definitely a championship golf course.
An Open Championship course?
Does the desire get any less these days or do you look at new challenges?
I haven’t lost the desire. I can’t speak for my colleagues, but the guys that are still competing at our age all have that fire in their belly. They are true champions. They are people who like to win, otherwise they wouldn’t be around. They wouldn’t still be here competing.
Many Americans have to fly across the pond – the time change and the hardships of travelling – and they look forward to it because they love to compete and test themselves against the best in the world. They love links golf.
Do you like to challenge yourself against the new boys that are turning 50 and think they are going to beat you?
I have been very blessed to play at a very high level for a number of years. Every year, there’s at least a handful – if not a dozen – of new guys that come out and they must believe they can win and beat us older guys.
Sooner or later, it’s going to happen more and more because time doesn’t stop. So far, I’ve held my own and the young guys that come out here – some of them think it’s going to be quite easy and they’re going to win three/four or five times a year.
They find it a lot harder. There’s a lot of great players on this tour and a lot of guys that can get the ball around and into the hole. It’s not easy to win anything and it’s certainly not easy to win multiple times.