Bernhard Langer still believes he can become the oldest Masters Tournament champion.
Langer is now 59. The oldest winner is Jack Nicklaus at age 46.
Langer, who won green jackets in 1985 and 1993, made a spirited run last year at another one. After rounds of 72-73-70, he sat just two shots off Jordan Spieth’s 54-hole lead. No one his age has ever been that close to the 54-hole lead.
A final-round 79 dropped Langer into a tie for 24th place.
“I went into the final round wanting to have a shot at winning – not a fifth- or eighth-place finish,” said Langer. “At my age I might not have many more chances.”
To that hopeful end, he adjusted his game plan and went with a more attacking approach. The result was a bogey-par-double bogey start that led to 4-over-par 40 on the front nine.
“I got stung right away on No. 1 with a bad break,” Langer said.
On his approach shot to the par-4 third hole, he went for the left flag, which he said he normally doesn’t do. His ball rolled down the hill in front of the green and led to the double bogey.
Because of his age, Langer is one of the shorter hitters off the tee in the Masters. He said last year he was 30 yards behind the normal pro in the Masters and 40 to 50 behind the bombers.
“The golf course is very long and tough for me; I have to hit a lot more club,” he said. “But it takes more than length, as we know. You’ve also got to be smart, which you’ve got to be to win a major anyway.”
He said he was helped by the windy conditions in the first three rounds last year, which dried out the fairways and gave his tee shots more roll. He also said the wind direction in those rounds made the longer holes play downwind. The wind died down and shifted directions slightly in the final round, he said.
Langer believes it’s only a matter of time before a senior golfer wins a major championship.
“Yeah, I believe it’s going to happen at some point. Maybe not the Masters. It could be the British Open,” said Langer, citing Hall of Fame members Vijay Singh, Davis Love III and Fred Couples as other possible candidates.
All three of those players, who are younger than Langer, have joined him on the Champions Tour. Yet as the new blood from the PGA Tour continues to transition to the Champions Tour, Langer keeps winning. He has 30 victories, second on the all-time list to Hale Irwin’s 45.
“It’s always satisfying to do well and give it your best,” Langer said. “When you’ve won before, you want to keep winning. The last 10 years I’ve done well on the Champions Tour. There is only room for 80 players (in a tournament), but they’re all very good players.”
Three-time major champion Nick Price, 60, is amazed at what Langer has done since joining the 50-over crowd full-time in 2008.
“I don’t know where he gets that motivation at that age. And he turned pro at 15,” Price said. “He’s got just an iron will, that guy. He just practices and works out harder than all of us out there with bellies. He’s still slim and trim. He looks like he’s still 25. Good on him. I couldn’t have done it, no way. I got to about 55 and I said, ‘I think I’ve had enough of 4-footers. You know what, those 4-footers are troubling me in my sleep.”
Langer listed two reasons why he’s still playing and racking up the victories.
“First of all, I love the game of golf,” Langer said. “It’s something I enjoy doing. I’d rather do it well instead of not. I enjoy playing at a high level and being in contention to win.
“I’m a very competitive person,” Langer added. “I’ve never had a problem with motivation.”