On Thursday morning, three days ago, imagine the odds you could have got for betting the leading Europeans in the 2013 Masters would be Bernhard Langer and Lee Westwood come the final round.
Langer, 55, is not supposed to have the length to be on the final-round eaderboard at Augusta, and Westwood is not supposed to have the short game to be there either. But this is where they are, in a share of ninth, five shots off the lead.
In an interview for Golf Monthly earlier this year, Langer said that if you could combine the long game of Sergio Garcia with the short game of Jose Maria Olazabal you would have an almost perfect golfer. At Augusta National this week, if you could combine Westwood’s long game with Langer’s short game you would have the third-round leader.
With Langer’s shot length, a par-four on this golf course is the equivalent of a birdie on a par-five to the 20, 30-somethings. He has been delivering hybrid and long iron approaches into the increasingly firm greens at Augusta this week, while the likes of Westwood and Garcia have been playing mid-irons.
This factor was clearly illustrated at the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City at the end of 2012, where the Champions Challenge for seniors unfolds ahead of the main event, on the same Gary Player C.C. course.
“The seniors play from forward tees on some holes, but we play to the same pins,” explained Langer, who finished his 2012 campaign with a two-stroke win over Jay Haas in the Nedbank Champions. “I asked players like Martin Kaymer or Lee Westwood what clubs they played on 18 for example, and they would say ‘driver, eight iron’, while I was having to play driver, six iron. So even though
the seniors were playing less yardage, the younger guys were still hitting less club into the greens.”
At Augusta in particular, it is very difficult to hold long iron approaches on the greens.
“The greens are firming up to the point where you hit some really nice shots and the ball just doesn’t stop,” said Langer after carding 72, level par, yesterday. “On 17 I probably hit a career 7-iron straight up in the sky and when it came down it just took off over the green.”
From the back of the 17th green, Langer nearly chipped in, saving par, as he had done for most of the day.
Robin Barwick travelled to the 2013 Masters with Mercedes-Benz, International Partner of the Masters Tournament