European Ryder Cup Team Captain Bernhard Langer
Bernhard Langer - The Ultimate Professional
August 19, 2004
Bernhard Langer's ability to turn adversity into triumph has never been in question. Time and time again, the 45 year old German (46 on Aug 27) has silenced his detractors by displaying the courage and nerve which have characterised his play over four decades during which time he has won 66 tournaments worldwide including 42 on The European Tour International Schedule.
The son of a German refugee who escaped from a Russian prisoner of war train bound for Siberia, Langer reached the highest echelons of the game the hard way. Dedication has been his by-word for the best part of the 27 years he has played professional golf.
No-one ever dares questions Langer's mental fortitude. As a youngster he was disadvantaged by the fact that golf was a minority sport in his country. So much so that while The Ryder Cup held the rest of Europe in its thrall on television, the young Bernhard had to trawl bookstores in his home town of Anhausen in search of a golf magazine to find out who had won!
During his spectacular career, Langer has been forced to combat the dreaded putting 'yips' on more than one occasion. Every time he has found the cure and emerged stronger than ever. Five of his 42 European Tour victories have been achieved in tandem with the long broomhandle putter which he mastered with painstaking diligence.
However it is in the thick of Ryder Cup battle that Langer will be forever remembered. Two Masters Tournament victories notwithstanding, his singles confrontation with Hale Irwin must go down in the annals of the contest as one of the most dramatic moments in sport.
The Ryder Cup of 1991 at Kiawah Island hinged on the final singles match on the course, in which Langer trailed Irwin for much of the contest. Ultimately, the German's epic fightback reached a dramatic conclusion as he stood over a six foot par putt on the last green, knowing that to hole it would retain the trophy for Europe, but to miss meant a first US success since 1983.
The ball stayed out and Langer's contorted face and physique displayed the raw pain and emotion of the occasion, even though he had actually secured a half point. A lesser man might have been tempted to throw himself into the frothy ocean close by. Not Langer. He is made of sterner stuff.
Instead, he swallowed his disappointment, and that of The European Team, and flew directly to his native Germany, where he not only played sublimely, but went on to capture the Linde German Masters (a tournament he co-promotes) after a play-off.
Langer has made ten appearances in The Ryder Cup, just one behind Nick Faldo's record. He has played on five winning teams ? in 1985, 1987, 1995, 1997 and 2002 ? and his individual contribution is exceptional. From a total of 42 ties, Langer has won 21, halved six and lost 15.
The Ryder Cup has played a prominent role in the life of this remarkable character, who made his European Tour breakthrough in 1980, four years after joining the Tour through the Monday pre-qualifying route. He captured the Dunlop (later to become the British) Masters at St Pierre, Chepstow, to begin a golfing journey of success which has barely paused for breath.
He won twice in 1981 to head the qualification table for The 1981 Ryder Cup at Walton Heath in Surrey, England. It was the first of nine occasions in which Langer qualified automatically for the Matches by his own sterling efforts on the golf course. Only once, in 1989, did he require the Captain's consent when Tony Jacklin offered him a wild card for the contest at The De Vere Belfry.
Langer made his Ryder Cup debut in the company of Spain's Manuel Pinero in the top foursomes match in 1981. The same combination was sent out again by Captain John Jacobs in the following morning's fourballs, and they recorded a 2 and 1 victory over the redoubtable pairing of Ray Floyd and Hale Irwin. The Langer legend had begun in earnest.
Adversity has always been viewed as a mere inconvenience to a single-minded individual, who swallowed the disappointment of missing The 1999 Ryder Cup by bouncing back more keenly then ever to secure a place in The European Team for The 34th Ryder Cup Matches at The De Vere Belfry.
The subsequent postponement following the terrorist attacks on the United States did nothing to dull his competitive edge and his personal haul of three and a half points out of four re-emphasised his value to the European cause. Coincidentally, the player he dispatched so convincingly in the singles last September by a 4 and 3 margin was none other than Hal Sutton, his United States counterpart for The Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills next autumn.
An Honorary Member of The European Tour, Langer was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame last year, shortly before claiming his 42nd title on The European Tour when he tied with Colin Montgomerie for the Volvo Masters Andalucia at Valderrama in Spain in November, 2002, following a superb final round of 67.
The United States has played a prominent part in Langer's rich and varied life. He married Vikki, an American girl, in 1984 and they live with their family, Jackie, Stefan, Christina and Jason, in Boca Raton in Florida. He is a Green Card Holder in the United States - but there is no more passionate or committed European than Bernard Langer when The Ryder Cup is on the line.
"It is an honour for me to Captain the U.S. Ryder Cup Team against the European Team led by Bernhard Langer, who is someone I'm proud to call a friend as well as a respected golf opponent.
"Bernhard is one of the ultimate competitors in golf, possessing all the intangibles of what it takes to produce teamwork in The Ryder Cup Matches. His dedication to a task and his strong work ethic will make it all the more challenging for our Team to reclaim The Ryder Cup.
"I've played with Bernhard many times over the years, including two Ryder Cup singles matches that he won?so I owe him one! And I expect to solicit the help of the 12 best American players to get a little revenge at Oakland Hills in 2004 for the beatings he gave me in 1985 and 2002! Seriously though, Ashley and I look forward to spending a memorable journey with Bernhard and Vikki over the next 14 months."
"I think he was the obvious choice because of his connections in America and he has an American wife. He will bring to the captaincy all the qualities he has shown on The European Tour ? gritty determination to get the job done and leaving no stone unturned in his search for perfection."
"I thought it would be him. That was the whisper and he is probably the best man anyway. He is highly rated by the players and he is still playing with them. He is very methodical. He will leave no stone unturned and will cover all the angles. It's good that he is from the continent and I wonder who his vice-captain is going to be, maybe someone from the UK. I am not really disappointed, I won't have to make any speeches now."