Langer at 58 seeks a win for the ages at Masters

Golf ball (Gallo Images)
Golf ball (Gallo Images)

Augusta - Germany's 58-year-old Bernhard Langer moved into contention for one of the most astonishing triumphs in sports history Saturday, pulling within two strokes of the lead entering the final round of the Masters.

Langer would become the oldest major winner in history, more than a decade beyond the record age mark of Julius Boros at 48 from the 1968 PGA Championship and the oldest Masters winner, Jack Nicklaus at 46 in 1986.

"It would be one for the old guys," Langer said. "I'm really the underdog. If it's supposed to be, so be it. It would be a wonderful thing. But it's way too early for that."

Using wisdom learned over more than three decades golfing at Augusta National, the two-time Masters champion fired a two-under par 70 to finish 54 holes on one-under 215, sharing third with Japan's Hideki Matsuyama.

"Just a lot of knowledge," said Langer, in his 33rd Masters appearance. "I must be getting close to 200 rounds out here so I know the place well."

Defending champion Jordan Spieth, born three months after the second of Langer's Masters victories in 1993, led on 213 with fellow American Smylie Kaufman next on 214.

"I think it's incredible," Spieth said. "He's a guy that certainly knows how to close, and close here. He's a force to be reckoned with.

"You can't think of it being his age or this is an amazing story. He's just another competitor who's fully capable of shooting a really solid round and winning this tournament again, which would be something. I've got to expect that he's going to come back tomorrow and play a strong round."

Langer, inducted into World Golf Hall of Fame in 2002, is confident he can overcome young stars who outdrive him by 50 or 60 yards.

"I believe I can," he said. "If I play my best, I can shoot 4- or 5-under if the conditions are a little bit better. But so can Jordan Spieth or any of the others on the leaderboard. I can only play my game and see how that holds up.

"It's fun for a 58-year-old to play with the best in the world."

Four months after the anchored putting style Langer used was banned, he still has his long putter, just not touching his chest.

"I've tried all sorts of putters, different lengths, different grips," he said. "I'm still the most comfortable by just not anchoring because I've done this for 18, 19 years."

Langer only needed 27 putts on a blustery day that baffled most players. He birdied three holes in a row starting with a tap-in at the par-5 13th, a 42-foot chip-in at 14 and a 14-foot putt at the par-5 15th before a seven-foot bogey save at 18.

"It was a good bogey, if there is such a thing," he said. "Made a couple of putts and just played smart, aggressive smart. I just try to stay away from missing the ball in the wrong places where you don't have a shot, like I did on 18."

World number one Jason Day, Langer's Australian playing partner, liked what he saw.

"It's really impressive to watch what Bernhard did out there," Day said. "I know he wants to try and win this thing tomorrow."

The heroics of Langer, inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2002, revived memories of Tom Watson's 2009 British Open runner-up effort at Turnberry at age 59. Watson played his final major round at Augusta on Friday.

"Tom almost had it once, but I know almost doesn't count. He was extremely unfortunate not to win that tournament," Langer said.

"Sooner or later, it's going to happen. One of the over-50s is going to win a major... Guys are staying fit. They are taking care of themselves. It's just a matter of time."

Langer says he is playing a different game than his long-driving rivals over the 7,435-yard layout.

"But when I play really good, when I bring my A-game, I can still compete, even on a very long golf course like this," he said.

"We're not playing tennis or football where it all comes down to speed and strength. Golf is a lot more about knowing yourself and technique, thinking your way around the course and then execution.

"If you hit it exactly where you want, you can still shoot under par, and that's what I've been trying to do."

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