Bernhard Langer, the one-putt German, marched out of Georgia and into South Carolina last week, winning the Sea Pines Heritage Classic in the Spanish-moss kingdom of Hilton Head Island, seven days after his stirring victory in Augusta. If anyone thought the 27-year-old Langer would turn out to be a one-week wonder along the lines of another noted cross-hander—Orville Moody, the 1969 U.S. Open champion who never won again—consider what new Masters champion Langer did in the Heritage. He shot steady rounds of 68, 66, 69 and 70 to tie Bobby Wadkins at 273, then beat Wadkins, Lanny's hard-luck younger brother, on the first hole of sudden death. Once again Langer was maestro of the greens, hitting all the right notes, sinking all the short ones. He did not have a single three-putt, this following only one three-putt at the Masters. It's time to prepare a revised scouting report on Langer. Forget the good hit, no field. Ein guter Putter.
In fact, on Sunday Langer resembled the second coming of Bobby Locke, a South African and four-time British Open champion who terrorized Sam Snead and Ben Hogan in the 1950s with his deft touch on the greens. Langer drove the ball all over the Harbour Town links, but repeatedly rescued himself.
On the back nine, Langer hit more trees than greens—five trees, four greens—but he chipped in at the 12th, for a birdie, saved par several times from Easter Bunny territory and kept burning the cup on long putts. He forced the playoff with just such an effort on the 18th, his ball lipping the cup from 40 feet. On the first extra hole, the 16th, Wadkins bunkered his second shot, blasted out to 12 feet and missed for a bogey, while Langer almost holed a 30-footer before tapping in for par.
Naturally, Langer was still keyed up over his Masters victory when he arrived in Hilton Head. He and his wife, Vikki, had celebrated at Augusta National, joining Masters chairman Hord Hardin for dinner on Sunday evening. Then they visited some Australian friends who decided around midnight that Langer should telephone the Australian press. The Aussies thought the call was a hoax. "They figured it was just someone with a German accent," Bernhard said.
It was nearly 3 a.m. when the Langers returned to their rented home, but they couldn't sleep, so at 5 a.m. they took a stroll through the neighborhood. Then they packed and made the 3½-hour drive to Hilton Head.
Discussions about Langer usually focus on his futuristic clothing—bright colors and zippers all over his pants; his slow play, a criticism that may be overstated; and his putting, which until recently was considered to be a joke. When Langer was 19, he had the yips, which make a player's putting stroke act precisely the way the word sounds. His caddie, Pete Coleman, says that in those days people literally could not bear to watch Langer putt. "It was too painful," says Coleman, especially when Langer would double-hit his putts, the putter striking the ball twice on the same stroke.
Langer tried everything he could think of to overcome the problem, but ultimately it was Seve Ballesteros who offered the most helpful and simple advice back in 1980. Ballesteros, whose talent on the green is unsurpassed, told Langer that his putter was too light. Langer discarded it, bought a new, heavier putter from British pro Clive Clark's Sunning-dale golf shop for ¬£5 and was on his way, winning the Dunlop Masters in England three weeks later. "I always knew I had it in me to putt because I was such a good chipper," Langer says. "I was just too tense. My muscles would lock."
Confidence now seems to be an integral part of Langer's makeup. After winning the Australian Masters in February, he said, "The Australian Masters today, the United States Masters in April." And at Hilton Head, asked if he was surprised to be playing so well, Langer said, "I'm not surprised how well I play. I'm surprised how well everybody else plays."
Langer's Heritage win was worth $72,000, boosting him to third on the PGA Tour money list with $256,667. He seems to be making an effort to speed up his methodical pace; at the TPC last month, Langer was fined $500 for slow play. On Sunday, despite two time-consuming rulings, Langer and playing partners Larry Mize and Danny Edwards finished in a respectable four hours and 12 minutes. "I don't think we're going to have a problem anymore with Langer," said PGA official Mark Russell, during the round. "He knows we're watching him and he's a smart guy."
Langer needed all of those wits about him in the last round. With Vikki in the gallery, wearing her bright red LANGER'S LIKERS NO. 1 FAN T shirt, Bernhard, who started the day one ahead of Edwards and two up on Mize and Wadkins, birdied the first hole. After that, he had an up-and-down-and-up-and-down-and-up day. Vikki, as she often does, walked between the greens and tees with her arm around her husband, offering words of solace.
After the victory, the normally languid Langer was in a bit of a hurry. He had to fly down to Fort Pierce, Fla., for a dinner in his honor at the Tournament Players Club at Monte Carlo, where he has a condominium. As he left, he was wearing the red sport jacket that goes to every Heritage winner, but the club members were celebrating his Masters win, so he obliged by changing into a green jacket. As long as tournaments make a practice of awarding haberdashery, and as long as he can putt, Bernhard Langer may never again need to buy a jacket.
GARY M. FORCIER
GARY M. FORCIER
Bernhard was good to the very last drop.
A week after Langer was helped into Masters green by Ben Crenshaw, he modeled Heritage red with wife Vikki.
GARY M. FORCIER
[See caption above.]