Bernhard Langer was a 23-year old skinny hopeful with two obscure European Tour victories when he showed up for the British Open at the Royal St. George’s three decades ago.
Langer will be playing his sixth, and maybe, last Open at the same venue this week as a fit 53-year-old with several feathers in his cup including two Master titles, 40 European Tour victories, three straight Champions Tour money titles, 14 Champions Tour wins and a bust at the World Golf Hall of Fame.
There is however one hole in Langer’s resume—he has never won a British Open, but went as far as No.2 in 1981 and four other top three finishes. He ranked fifth at the St. Andrews Open in 2005 at the age of 48.
“It is definitely disappointing that I didn’t win one because I always made it very clear that one of my goals was to win the Open Championship,” said Langer, who is from Germany. “Coming close on so many other occasions, finishing second to David Duval in 2001, I had quite a number of top -three finishes.
“But it is disappointing when you don’t get to that top spot.”
He does not however obsess over his losses in the Open Championships and enjoy a balanced life knowing that he has accomplished almost everything he set out to and failed to accomplish some of them.
“It was fun being in contention, and being one of those guys who had a chance to win,” he said.
While he believes his inexperience led to his loss in 1981, he believes he should have won at the Old Course in 1984 or at Royal St. George’s in 1985. He was beaten by two strokes by Steve Ballesteros and Tom Watson in 1984.
“I was paired with Seve on Sunday and I outplayed him from tee to green, probably by four shots, but he outputted me by six,” Langer said, chuckling. “As everyone remembers, Seve was quite a putter; he had a wonderful short game.”
He tied for the lead with David Graham in the final round in 1985.
“It was the one that got away,” Langer said, adding he had played well in the first round despite the afternoon’s extreme weather, and in the morning of the second to get into contention for the weekend.
If there is one game Langer remembers most, then it would be the Royal St. George’s Open in 1993 where he was paired with Greg Norman who won the event. Norman made history in the Open Championships when he got the lowest final round at 64 but what made it more memorable was the fact that he did it against the game’s best players including No. 1 Nick Faldo who shot 67 and finished second and world No. 2 Langer who shot 67 and finished third.
Nearly as memorable as the feat was Norman’s assessment of it: “I was in awe of myself,” Norman said, and few who saw it could really blame him.
“I told Greg, ‘You played some flawless golf,’ ” Langer recalled. “That was the best round of golf I’ve seen, ever, the best that I was part of or that I witnessed.
“He just never missed a shot. He hit perfect drives, he hit very good iron shots, he made some important putts. He just did everything very well on a very punishing golf course.”
He added, “It looked more like golf with a couple of friends for $20 or something, not like the final round of a major championship.”