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Age hasn't lowered expectations of Champions Tour regular Bernhard Langer

Bernhard Langer, 53, has won at least one tournament every year since joining the Champions Tour in 2007. That includes last year’s Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am at TPC Tampa Bay.

Getty Images (2010)

Bernhard Langer, 53, has won at least one tournament every year since joining the Champions Tour in 2007. That includes last year’s Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am at TPC Tampa Bay.

LUTZ

Bernhard Langer is 53 years old. He looks 33.

The native of Germany has been a professional golfer since he was 15 and shows no signs of slowing down. He joined the Champions Tour in 2007 and has won at least one tournament every year since.

Last year, Langer added the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am at TPC Tampa Bay to his list of Champions Tour wins. In fact, in 2010, he had five tour wins, including the Senior Open Championship. This year, he already has won the ACE Group Classic in Naples.

Langer has 14 wins on the Champions Tour. He had three during his PGA Tour career, including the 1985 and 1993 Masters. In addition, there were 58 international wins.

And there are likely more wins to come before he puts his clubs away, which is at least a few years down the road.

"I have very high expectations,'' said Langer, who was in town on Tuesday for an Outback Pro-Am golf outing. "Whatever I do, I want to do it well. To do that, I need to prepare appropriately. I need to outwork my competition. Why am I going to be better than the other 140 guys? I'm not as tall. I'm not as strong. I don't have more talent. I'm not a lot of things other guys might be. I have to make up for it somehow.''

Langer is getting ready for a long stretch of golf. He will play next week in Mississippi on the Champions Tour then the Masters, here at the Outback and the Legends of Golf in Georgia.

His schedule has been cut down from about 32 tournaments per year during his PGA/European Tour prime to about 24 this year. While he remains a force on the course, he is more relaxed off it.

"It's more fun, but there are guys out here who are very competitive,'' Langer said. "This is the world tour of over-50s. They're not just coming out here to have a couple of beers and whack it around. Nobody likes finishing last. But we are having a lot of fun off the golf course.''

'No fun whatsoever'

The first Official World Golf Rankings came out 25 years ago, and Langer was No. 1. But there were times before and after when Langer struggled with his putting.

It is unofficially called the "yips,'' and it causes golfers to miss short putts. Langer said he has suffered from it three times. The last time was in the late 1980s and early '90s.

It had him thinking about quitting the game.

"By then, I had been out on tour for 23 years,'' Langer said. "I was No. 1 before. So to go from one of the best to one of the worst because of putting hurts that much more. It was no fun whatsoever.

"I remember being up in Flint, Mich., and being so devastated. I had like 42 putts. I outplayed most guys from tee to green, but I missed the cut by three shots because of all the putts I took.

"I got on my knees and started praying: 'Lord, if you want me to do something else, I'm ready. Just tell me what it is.' I handed it in. I was going to give it up. That was not easy. But I felt I needed to persevere.''

Langer worked through it. The highlight came in 1993, when he won his second Masters.

An exclusive club

Langer gets to play at Augusta for many more years. As a past Masters champion, he has his own locker and attends the past champions dinner. He has no plans of giving that up.

"I'm going to play a few more years for sure,'' Langer said. "There may come a time when I'm hitting fairway woods into the par 4s or I'm not making the cut anymore, and then it will be time to quit. It's fun playing there, but it's no fun if I'm shooting in the 80s.''

He missed the cut last year. It's getting harder for Langer to compete on a course that has been lengthened since he won. Langer realizes the stars have to be aligned for him to compete.

"I would have to play flawlessly. I'd have to putt my brains out," Langer said. "I'm hitting 3- or 4-irons into some greens, and the young guys are hitting 7- or 8-irons. It's a big difference.''

Defending champion

At last year's Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am, Langer sank a birdie putt on the 18th hole of the second round to take a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara. They were set to duel in the final round. But after one hole, play was suspended for good due to rain.

Langer won the championship with a 36-hole score of 9-under 133.

"It was a shame that we didn't get to play three rounds,'' Langer said. "But it did work to my advantage."

Rodney Page can be reached at rpage@sptimes.com.

.Fast facts

Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am

What: Champions Tour, 54-hole event with no cut. April 15-16, play features one amateur with one pro in a better-ball format. The low 16 pro-am teams playApril 17.

When/where: April 15-17; TPC Tampa Bay, Lutz

Purse: $1.7 million ($255,000 winner's share)

Field: 78 players

Defending champ: Bernhard Langer

Notable pros: Tom Watson, Mark Calcavecchia, Hale Irwin, Peter Jacobsen, Nick Price, Corey Pavin, Craig Stadler

Notable celebrities: Michael J. Fox, Craig T. Nelson, John O'Hurley, Vince Gill, Stone Phillips

Contact: (813) 265-4653 or outbackproam.com

Age hasn't lowered expectations of Champions Tour regular Bernhard Langer 03/23/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 23, 2011 8:56pm]

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