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Bernhard Langer Masters

‘Under the circumstances, it was one of my best shots ever’

Not many have an affection for a golf course the way Bernhard Langer has with Augusta National. The two-time Masters champion reminisces with Steve Carroll
 

What do we love most about the Masters?

Is it the sight of those azaleas, the perfect blue water in Rae’s Creek or that year after year nothing ever seems to change?

You know that Augusta in April means that some things will always be the same – one certainty being that Bernhard Langer will bring his ‘A’ game.

This will be the German’s 35th journey down Magnolia Lane and, at 60, his love of competing for the green jacket seems undiminished.

Featuring in the second to last group only a couple of years ago, he has 12 top 20s at Augusta, and victories in the 1985 and 1993 Masters.

With a quarter of a century now having passed since Fred Couples helped him don golf’s most famous article of clothing for the second time, Langer sat down with NCG to talk about that win and why he adores Augusta National…

Bernhard Langer Masters

What is it about Augusta National that really seems to suit you?

I just loved the place when I first saw it but that doesn’t necessarily means it suits me.

What I did like, originally, was that the fairways were fairly wide so there wasn’t a premium on driving the ball like at the US Open.

There was more of a premium on second shots and around the greens. That suited me because at that time, in the 80s, I wasn’t the straightest driver in the game. So I liked that.

Plus I liked the options around the greens of using all sorts of clubs to chip with. You can use a 7-iron or a 5-iron or a lob wedge.

You can use all sorts of clubs around the greens. In the US Open, for instance, they usually have rough around the green and you just take a sand wedge or lob wedge and flop it out of there.

They don’t give you any options.

Why do you think you still perform so strongly there?

There’s a couple of reasons. One is I know the golf course very well. I know where I can hit it and where not, plus I hit the ball fairly straight and solid when I play well.

But it’s become a hard golf course for me. I’m hitting 3 and 4-irons, whereas these young guys are hitting 9 and 8-irons.

They are reaching par 5s. I am not reaching so I need to make up with a good wedge shot, or putt, to make birdie.

I start off with a deficit, in a sense, off the tee and I have to make it up by better course management, better execution or a better short game.

Bernhard Langer Masters

Did you prefer Augusta National pre or post the Tiger era?

Definitely the former for me.

Let me take you back to 1993. What are your strongest memories?

It was the score on Saturday. I remember it being really windy – gusty – and Augusta plays really hard when it’s gusty.

Fifteen and 20mph winds and it changes all the time. Among the tall pine trees the wind swirls this way and, 10 seconds later, it goes the other way.

You feel so uncomfortable standing over your second shot just not knowing ‘is this going to be the right club or not’?

You just have to hit these small pockets and I really executed well. I think I shot 69 that day and really moved away from the rest of the field.

I got a four-shot lead after Saturday, which sounds somewhat comfortable but nothing is comfortable at Augusta until you get on the 18th hole.

I was watching the highlights of Sunday and what struck me was the way you really went and grabbed the tournament. You weren’t defensive and were quite aggressive with your shots.

I felt I had to be. I was trying to play smart, aggressive, and even a little defensive at first because I had a four-shot lead.

If you shoot around par, or one or two under, you should win the tournament. But it’s never easy to do. Some other guys had a really good front nine and the gap became one stroke.

My lead diminished after 10 or 11 holes. I saw the leaderboard and said ‘you are not going to win it playing defensively. You really need to go out there and earn it and make some birdies’.

I played really well and eagled the 13th.

Bernhard Langer Masters

Did you see Dan Forsman hit his ball in the water at 12?

Yes. He was right in front of me. I was on the 11th green when he teed off on 12 next to me. I saw the ball go in the water, saw him drop and I knew he made a large number.

But he wasn’t the only one chasing me. I was paired with Chip Beck and he was fairly close to me. I think it was a couple of strokes at the time.

I remember he hit a fantastic second shot into 13. He hit a 3 or 4-wood in there to, I guess, about 15 feet or 20 feet, pin high , and he had an eagle putt.

I counteracted with a 3-iron inside of him on the same line. He missed his putt but I saw the break.

I made it. At one point it looked like I might lose a stroke to him but I actually gained it. That boosted my confidence.

That 3-iron looked a very difficult shot – off a sidehill lie – so to hit that under pressure was phenomenal…

It was one of my best shots, under the circumstances, ever.

It’s not easy to hit a clean 3-iron off a hanging lie when you have to carry over Rae’s Creek and not push it into it on the right, off a drawing lie.

You actually have to aim at the water and draw it away from it most of the time. I hit it as good as I could and exactly where I wanted to.

You effectively clinched the tournament on 15 when Beck laid up and you got the birdie…

I had the shorter tee shot and had to lay up. I didn’t have the chance to go for it. He took an enormous amount of time to discuss whether he should go for it or not.

He was sort of right on the edge. I think he had 242, which was a big distance to carry in those days. Now we hit 3-woods further than that. He decided to lay up.

He made par and I got it close and made birdie.

Bernhard Langer Masters

What’s your favourite thing about going back to Augusta?

There are lot of things. One would be the past Champions dinner, the other would be just playing the course because it is in such good shape all the time.

It’s just beautiful to putt on those greens and walk the fairways and the patrons are very knowledgeable. It’s everything.

Even the Champions’ lockers are pretty neat. We have our own locker and sit with some of the greats in the same room and have breakfast or lunch together.

Who do you sit next to?

The last few years it has been Larry Mize, who has become a very good friend of mine and Zach Johnson is often close to me – and Woosie as well.

On the opposite side would be Sandy Lyle or Fred Couples and Raymond Floyd. n Bernhard Langer is a brand ambassador of Mercedes-Benz – a global sponsor of the Masters.

Bernhard Langer’s Masters triumphs

1985

Bernhard Langer Masters

Two strokes back of Ray Floyd going into the final round, Curtis Strange looked to have one arm in the green jacket before crucial bogeys at 13 and 15 – finding the water on both occasions.

Bernhard Langer surged at the finish, picking up birdies on four of the last seven holes to record consecutive 68s on the weekend.

It was good enough to see him finish at six under and prevail by two shots over Floyd, Strange and Sunday playing partner Seve Ballesteros.

“Everybody’s dream as a professional golfer is to win majors,” Langer said. “It’s fantastic to win anything – any tournament – but the majors just elevate you to a different level.

“I was fortunate enough to win at Augusta. Even though I had putting issues throughout my career, I won on the most difficult greens, which makes no sense. But that’s what happened and I am very grateful for it.”

1993

While his first title eight years earlier came with a Sunday burst, Bernhard Langer led from the front in 1993.

Rounds of 68, 70 and 69 gave him a four-shot lead at the start of the final round but he had to fight off both Dan Forsman and playing partner Chip Beck.

Forsman clawed his way into the frame to trail by only a shot before finding the water twice at the 12th on his way to a quadruple bogey.

Beck, who was three behind at the 15th, then laid up as Langer – even par through the first 12 – eagled the 13th and birdied the 15th.

The American had to settle for the runner-up spot as Langer won by four.

Bernhard Langer is a brand ambassador of Mercedes-Benz – a global sponsor of The Masters. Pictures courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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