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Man of Steel

April 19, 2004
April 19, 2004

Table of Contents
April 19, 2004

Golf

Man of Steel

If you were watching Bernhard Langer, the 46-year-old German
golfer, two-time Masters winner and European Ryder Cup captain,
when his third shot rolled off the 15th green and into the water
on Sunday while he was still playing for keeps, or if you've seen
him play over the past two decades, you know that he usually
exudes the emotion of a widget. Then there's his accented
English, grammatically perfect and comically monotone, like Hans
and Franz on steroids.

This is an article from the April 19, 2004 issue

You're thinking, The Ryder Cup is all about emotion. You're
thinking, He's the anti-Seve. You're thinking, The Europeans will
lose big come this September.

Captain Bernhard will leave the Americans, as Ireland's David
Feherty says on TV, crying for their mommies. Why? Because more
than anything, more than even emotion, the Ryder Cup is about
resolve, and nobody can preach resolve like Langer, a devout
Christian and recovering yipper who had the PGA Tour's traveling
preacher, the Reverend Larry Moody, as his houseguest in Augusta
last week. Langer is all resolve, all the time.

"I was extra motivated to play well because I wanted to win on
Easter Sunday, as I did in '93," he said after the final round.
Only three players finished ahead of him on Sunday. "The '93 win
means more to me than the first win, because in '85 I was not a
Christian."

Resolve is his life's work. Here's Langer on his new favorite
movie, The Passion of the Christ: "I really enjoyed that movie.
It showed to me how much Jesus loved me, to hang on that cross
and die for my sins and what he had to go through as an innocent
man, to take all that upon him for the will of his father. That's
awesome to me."

To summarize: two thumbs up.

Langer is now the same age, 46, that Jack Nicklaus was when
Langer slipped a green coat on him in 1986, and Langer expects to
win again. "People are winning at 50," he says. "I would like to
do that."

He has already played in 22 Masters. At the champions' dinner on
the eve of this year's tournament, Langer sat next to Arnold
Palmer and did some quick arithmetic. He calculated that if he
plays in the next 28 Masters, he'll play his 50th at age 74, just
as Palmer did this year. "I would like to do that, too," Langer
says. His to-do list is long.

He weighed 155 pounds in 1985, and he still did last week. Except
for the lines on his face, the man has not changed in the decades
he's been stoically marching across fairways all over the world.
He's all veiny arms and bleached arm hairs and early-morning
workouts.

He will not be a playing captain at the Ryder Cup, no matter how
well he plays this year. "You know us Germans," he says. "When we
make up our minds, we make up our minds." He's funnier even than
Mark James, the losing captain at Brookline. Well, actually,
Langer's not. But he can be funny.

He played the first three rounds last week with Sergio Garcia,
the Spaniard who plays Ryder Cup golf with Ballesteros's boyish
verve. Garcia shot the low round of the tournament, a final-day
66 that left him in a tie for fourth, with Langer. On Sunday, in
the penultimate twosome, Captain Langer played with Paul Casey, a
brawny young Englishman who plays like an attack dog. Langer is
already calculating points from those two. They and their 10
teammates won't need simple pep talks from Langer, not when they
have the example of Langer's life--a former caddie turns pro at
18 and becomes one of the game's alltime greats--for inspiration.

Anyway, very occasionally, in exceptional moments, Langer exudes
emotion. Is there a photo with more pain in it than the picture
of Langer's face when he missed the putt that would have meant
victory for the Europeans at the 1991 Ryder Cup on Kiawah Island?

Then there was Sunday night, when Langer was in the sanctum
sanctorum, the second-floor locker room for past champions. While
Phil Mickelson was making his victory speech, Langer was in the
room alone with his golf bag and the idea that he was in the hunt
for a while, but not at the end. He took his extra-long putter,
sticking up like a cowlick, and gave it a good, hard downward
shove deep into the bag. He had a chance to win--not only for
himself, but for his Lord--and didn't get it done.

In September, at Oakland Hills, he'll have another chance, with
12 players ready to follow his resolute example.

COLOR PHOTO: DAVID CANNON/GETTY IMAGES RESOLVED Captain Langer won't play at the Ryder Cup.