ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – For many golfers, the links game is an acquired taste. They don’t celebrate upon watching a ball run out 100 yards. Any smile dissipates in a hurry when a seemingly perfect drive finds a pot bunker that was unseen from the tee.
That was how it was for Bernhard Langer when he first played the Old Course at St. Andrews in 1978, missing the cut at his second British Open.
“I was pretty green behind the ears, or whatever you call it,” Langer said Tuesday as he prepares to defend his Senior British Open title this week. “So, it took a little bit, and once I got around the second, the third, the fourth time, it started to grow on me. Then later, I really learned that it's a phenomenal design and it's a great test of golf. It doesn't matter which way the wind blows. It can be as tough downwind as it is into the wind or crosswind. I learned to love the golf course now and always enjoy coming back here.”
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After a T-24 finish at last week’s British Open, 60-year-old Bernhard Langer expresses an eagerness at St. Andrews’ Old Course to pick on players more his own age at this week’s Senior British Open.
Since that first misstep 40 years ago, Langer has compiled a solid record at St. Andrews. In six subsequent starts at the home of golf, he has finished runner-up (1984), T-48 (1990), T-24 (1995), T-11 (2000), T-5 (2005) and T-78 (2015).
Now he returns to St. Andrews as the defending champion in the Senior British Open (tee times). Langer, 60, of Germany, enters the week on the strength of a T-24 finish in last week’s British Open at Carnoustie, where he tied former major champions Stewart Cink, Phil Mickelson and Danny Willett at 1 under for the week.
“In my mind, they're both majors,” Langer said. “I prepared well, and I want to do well at both. If you play a week on links, it's good preparation for the following week when you play a links course again, even though the conditions may be a little bit different.”
Langer, Tom Lehman, Mark Calcavecchia and Sandy Lyle were able to use the British Open as preparation for this week at St. Andrews, but only Langer made the cut among the seniors. Add the fact that Langer, a two-time Masters champion, owns 37 victories since joining the Champions Tour in 2007 and he will be one of the favorites this week.
Of course, 60 may be the new 40 for some, but even the seemingly ageless Langer was tired after four competitive major-championship rounds at Carnoustie, which he acknowledged last week and again here Tuesday.
“I'm 60. I have lapses here and there, but I took yesterday off, pretty much,” Langer said. “I practiced a little on the short game, but nothing strenuous. Had my guy Norbert [Dehoust, a physical trainer] work on my body a little bit and got some relaxation and some stretching in. But I should be OK. I can look forward to a couple of weeks off after this, and I'm sure the adrenaline will keep me going.
“Just playing in the Senior Open and here at St. Andrews, that's enough to keep your juices flowing.”
Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: email@example.com; Twitter: @AlexMiceli