By Tim Liotta
One More Round of Majors Battling 9 Irons With Hybrids
Ten years ago, on the morning of the final round of the 2014 Masters, Bernhard Langer, then 56 years old and already a two-time Masters champion, saw his future at Augusta National standing right next to him.
"I was hitting balls next to Rory McIlroy this morning and I hit a 4‑iron on to that green on the range and he was next to me and I saw his ball land right where my 4‑iron landed," Langer said. "And I said what club is that? And he said 6‑iron.
"So he's hitting two clubs less. And then he hits his drive probably 40 yards past me. He's got a 60 yard advantage on every hole. That's huge. He's hitting a 9‑iron when I'm hitting six clubs more, a 3‑iron, into the green.
"It's hard to compete when that goes on because a 9‑iron comes down like this and stops, and the 3‑iron hits and goes. And you've just got to be so precise here. And the targets are so small. You're seeing these big greens, but we've got to hit an area that's four‑by‑four.
"If you don't hit that, you just might as well put a three‑putt down or something like that."
Langer was speaking to the media after shooting a final-round, 3-under-par 69 to finish T6 - which happened to tie him with McIlroy that week - in the 78th renewal of the Masters. In 1998, Jack Nicklaus had finished T6 at the Masters in 1998 at age 58.
Two years later, Langer was back in the Augusta National press room after a third-round, 2-under-par 70 left him just two shots off Jordan Spieth's lead with 18 holes to play.
Question: What advantage do you have tomorrow?
"Oh, just a lot of knowledge," Langer said. "I was told today was my 113th competitive round on this golf course, plus probably, I don't know, 80 or 90 practice rounds, so I must be getting close to 200 rounds out here (laughing). So I know the place well."
Langer, who won his Masters in 1985 and 1993, would struggle in that year's final round, shooting a 7-over-par 79 for a T24 finish at age 58.
Gary Player's last top-25 finish at the Masters came in 1990 when he finished T24 at age 54. Arnold Palmer's last T25 finish at the Masters was a T24 in 1980 at the age 50.
Since 2016, in his seven appearances at Augusta National, Langer has made the cut three times, including a T29 in the November 2020 Masters when he set the record for the oldest player ever to make the cut at 63 years, 3 months, 14 days old.
Last year, 1992 Masters champion Fred Couples eclipsed Langer's mark, making the cut at age 63 years, 6 months, 6 days. He went on to finish T50 afterwhich he said, "I can't compete with Viktor Hovland or Jon Rahm or anybody, but I can compete with myself, and that's really why I come," Couples said at the time. "That's what I like to do is make the cut here at an older age."
At an older age, Langer has become a competitive marvel in the world of professional golf, winning 12 senior major championships and leading the PGA Tour Champions in money earnings 11 times.
In 2023, Langer won two tournaments, including the U.S. Senior Open for a 46th career tournament victory on THE PGA Tour Champions.
After his U.S. Senior Open victory, Langer knelt down next to the trophy, and had to ask for help getting up.
"I'm very human. I've got two bad knees, for those of you who don't know, and it hurts bending down and staying down," he said in the post-tournament press conference. "When I have dinner and I sit for an hour or something and get up, it's hard to get up. That's just been that way for a number of years.
"Reading putts is very difficult because I figure I'm bending down 200 times a day or for 18 holes at least. That's a lot of bending down. Then I read, if you go downhill, from a tee box you go down the hill, it's 20 times your body weight.
"So for easy math, if you're 200 pounds, that's 4,000 pounds on the knee joint when you walk downhill. Imagine how many times I've walked downhill in the last 50 years on TOUR.
"So the body's taken a beating, no doubt about it. I feel it just like everybody else.
"But I got good news. I have my mother that's going to be 100 on August 4th, so I think I have good genes. Hopefully I'll be around a few more years."
Long enough for, at 66 years old, at least two more major championship runs against the young guys. Langer announced earlier this week that he would be playing in his final Masters Tournament and his final U.S. Open.
When asked about his decision about the Masters, Langer responded: "I've been thinking about it for a year or two," Langer said earlier this week at the PGA Tour Champions event. "Every year I play I feel like my game is just too short to compete and I don't want to be just, you know, playing to be playing. I would love to compete, I'd love to be on the leaderboard or be in contention and that's very, very difficult now with my length, lack of length.
"I'm hitting 2-hybrids and 3-woods into par 4s where the other guys are hitting 9-irons and it's hard to compete against that.
"So I'm the oldest in the field I would think this year as well. I always said if I can't compete anymore against the young guys, then it's maybe time to say goodbye and I think this year's the right time. My son asked if he could caddie for me and I thought that was a great way to say farewell and goodbye."
His U.S. Senior Open has earned Langer in the 124th U.S. Open at Pinehurst in June.
"Yeah, that could be another farewell there, too," he said. "That's not going to
be a short course either at Pinehurst. Yeah, it will be interesting. Again, probably the last one
and a tough one, but it will be fun to be there one more time."