Bernhard Langer has come so close to winning The Open at Royal St George’s,

and on three separate occasions.

The German golfer finished second behind Bill Rogers here in 1981; in a tie

for third in 1985 behind Sandy Lyle, having held a share of the third-round

lead; and then in 1993, Langer’s excellent final round of 67 was eclipsed by

Greg Norman’s immaculate 64.

Langer finished third, and then in 2003 his run

of top-three results came to an abrupt halt when he missed the cut.

So it is a bittersweet relationship Langer has with Royal St George’s, and

as the Senior Open champion of 2010, he has qualified to re-engage with this

mighty Kentish links.

This will be Langer’s first Open appearance since 2006, and only his third

tour event in nearly five months as he continues to recover from surgery in

March on a torn ligament in his left thumb. My thumb is getting better, starts Langer, 53, talking exclusively to Golf

Monthly on behalf of Open patron Mercedes-Benz.

“This week has been the

first time since surgery that I have been able to swing a golf club without

any pain. After my surgery I had to keep the thumb still for five weeks, and

when you don’t move a joint for that period of time it starts to gets stiff

and little arthritic. The problem now is getting the thumb to move again and

getting the flexibility back, and my game is still a little rusty.”

Langer, understated at the best of times, is characteristically cautious in

his hopes for the week. “If everything goes perfect then I might win, but let’s be realistic,” says

Langer, who has collected 77 Tour titles over the best part of 40 years,

including a pair of Masters green jackets, and who was presented with an

Award for Outstanding Services to Golf by the Association of Golf Writers at

its annual dinner here last night.

“I have just had four months off and I am

still not 100%. What is more, the golf course is getting pretty long

nowadays.”

But you never know, and as R&A chief executive Peter Dawson notes, you can’t

discount a player of Langer’s experience and quality on a course like Royal

St George’s, even if the course does stretch to 7,211 yards this year.

“Perhaps Bernhard has played so well here because he is a patient man,” suggests Dawson. “You have to be patient here because everyone is going to

get the odd bad bounce ­ left or right into a bunker ­ and the test is how

you handle those situations.

“No player takes golf shot by shot better than

Bernhard Langer. Despite his recent thumb injury, I would not be surprised

at all if he performed very well this week. You can¹t rule out senior

golfers in the Open.”

Article courtesy of Mercedes-Benz, patron of the Open Championship