One of the most remarkably consistent and resilient professionals in golf is making perhaps his final Ryder Cup appearance. Bernhard Langer of Germany is helping to lead the European team at the Belfry near Birmingham, England.
Bernhard Langer is making his tenth appearance in the Ryder Cup, just one behind the record held by Nick Faldo of Britain. Langer has played on four winning teams, in 1985, 1987, 1995 and 1997. He has contributed an individual record of 18 wins, 15 loses and five tied matches.
The 45-year-old German, who turned professional at age 15, says what he remembers most about the Ryder Cup is the fans.
"They have been awesome," he says. "They have been awesome most years. They have just been tremendous. As soon as you walk off the tee or you hit a decent shot, they cheer. They cheer when you walk along. And you definitely can tell from the noise level whether Europe won a hole or whether the Americans won a hole. It is just fantastic. I think they have been very fair."
The two-time Masters champion may be best remembered for his singles confrontation with Hale Irwin in 1991, perhaps one of the most dramatic moments in sport. Langer trailed Irwin by three holes with five remaining in the final match. Langer waged an epic comeback which reached a dramatic conclusion as he stood over a two-meter par putt on the last green to win for Europe. He missed, giving the United States the title for the first time in eight years.
Langer points out he has enjoyed the prestigious match play competition. "Most of the Ryder Cups I was involved in, which has been 10 out of the last 11, the players themselves were actually very good," he said. "There was very, very seldom anything where there was gamesmanship or somebody was trying to do something on the other guy. Very, very seldom. It was really pretty fair and pretty intense but gentlemanlike."
Langer says time has likely caught up with him. "I know the chances are very slim for me to be making any more Ryder Cup teams because I live in America now," he adds. "I play most of my golf over there. The only way for me to probably get on another Ryder Cup team would be if they have a qualifying system change. And I think they need to change it anyway."
Langer has won 39 European tournaments and since 1980, he has only been outside the top 30 in the European Order of Merit rankings on one occasion in 1996. Langer's next Ryder Cup incarnation may be as the coach of the European team.