Langer sets European standard

  • By: Mark Garrod, Press Association Sport Golf Correspondent
  • Last Updated: February 20 2013, 15:13 GMT

It should come as no surprise to anybody that the first European winner in America this year is not Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald, Justin Rose or Lee Westwood, but Bernhard Langer.

Bernhard Langer: Still going strong

He will be 56 in August, but the former Ryder Cup captain continues to reap a rich harvest on the Champions Tour in the States and has now earned more money there - nearly £7million - than he did on the regular circuit.

Sunday's victory at the Ace Group Classic in Florida, which followed an opening round of 62, may not have attracted many headlines, but it added another £155,000 to the German's coffers and meant he has now won in seven consecutive seasons as a senior.

Whatever you think of the cash on offer in an old man's sport - Langer's prize was comfortably more than Darren Fichardt received for winning the Africa Open or Jiyai Shin at the Australian Women's Open, while you had to finish in the top three at the Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles to beat it - Langer's long career is a truly remarkable one.

Seventeen titles in total means the twice US Masters winner stands 14th on the all-time Champions Tour list and while Hale Irwin's 45 victories could be one of those records that is never beaten - Lee Trevino is next with 29 - Langer could certainly become the most successful non-American.

In terms of victories he has only Gary Player (19), Bruce Crampton (20), Chi Chi Rodriguez (22) and Bob Charles (23) ahead of him, while in the money stakes he already leads the way.

And this, of course, is a golfer who has had to overcome attacks of putting "yips" on numerous occasions over the years.

If the anchoring of long putters is to be banned, do not rule out Langer finding another way to remain successful. But even if he doesn't then he can still reflect on an amazing success story.

After his Czech-born father escaped from a Russian prisoner of war train bound for Siberia and settled in Bavaria Langer left school at 14 to pursue golf as a profession and by the age of 28 was the sport's first official world number one - albeit for only three weeks before Seve Ballesteros took over.

They were the main reasons for the growth of golf in their respective countries and after Ballesteros died two years ago Langer wrote of the part the Spaniard played in his early career.

"In 1980 I had still to win my first event. I was struggling with the putter and was on the putting green at Sunningdale. It was the European Open," he said.

"Seve came over and said 'Let me try that putter'. He hit one or two putts and said 'Terrible. It's too light and not enough loft'.

"So I walked into the pro shop 50 yards away. I didn't see anything I liked, but the pro had a bag of used clubs. I rummaged through it and saw one he told me belonged to an old lady who didn't play any more.

"He wanted £5 for it. I paid him and off I went. In the following three weeks I went third, second and then won my first big tournament.

"I was a nobody and the great Seve Ballesteros was willing to help me. It was some of the greatest advice I ever had."

Thirty three years on Langer has started his latest Champions Tour season third, second and now first. Ballesteros is no longer with us, but Langer keeps rolling along.

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