As Bernhard Langer prepares to play in the Masters for the 34th time, he recalls his nerve-wracking debut at Augusta back in 1982
1982: Bernhard Langer’s Masters Debut
“To tell you the truth the Americans didn’t know a lot about me in 1982 and they did not know a lot about European golf altogether,” starts Bernhard Langer in discussing his US Masters debut with Golf Monthly. “But I was used to that. I was the only German golfer on tour at the time so it was normal for me.”
In the early 1980s very few non-American golfers were invited to the Masters. The only way a European Tour golfer could be guaranteed his first invitation was to win the European Order of Merit, which Langer achieved for the first time in 1981.
“I sure was nervous on those greens,” adds Langer, who is 59 now but aged 24 in April 1982. “I was a fish out of water. I had never experienced greens like those at Augusta despite the fact I had been on tour for five or six years by that point, playing around the world. My eyes opened wide because I had never seen greens that undulated as much or ran so fast. The ball would just kind of take off and I had to put in a lot of time to figure out where to position my ball on those greens and how to play them.”
Unfortunately for Langer, his debut was short-lived. A string of 11 three-putts over the first two rounds saw the Masters rookie miss the cut by just a single shot, but as he drove out through the shady Magnolia Lane, Langer didn’t doubt that he would return.
“I swore that when I got back to Augusta I would put more time into figuring out those greens, so that the putting issue would not happen again.
“And there was no doubt in my mind that I would be back. I had won the money list in Europe and you don’t do that by playing rubbish. I was still getting better and I figured I was yet to arrive at my best. There were areas of my game I could improve. I knew I had the long game and I just needed to improve my putting and my short game a little to be right there with the very best.”
Langer duly returned to Augusta two years later, finishing tied-31st, before becoming his country’s first ever major champion at the 1985 Masters. And that’s how to secure an invitation to Augusta on an annual basis.
“Augusta is a very special place and I am still very excited to play every year,” says Langer as Masters start number 34 approaches. “I feel very much at home here, increasingly so over the years.”