With Bernhard Langer’s amazing Masters performance, which sees him just two shots off the lead going into the final round, David Taylor asks whether an Augusta win for the 58-year-old would be a good thing for the sport as a whole?
The focus going into the 80th Masters championship was all about the so-called new Big Three, and which of golf’s young guns would triumph in the season’s first Major. This narrative looked to be playing out perfectly yesterday as Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy stepped onto the first tee in the final group on day three.
Not many people would have predicted the real story to come out of Saturday would be Bernhard Langer producing a round of two-under to sit tied third, two shots behind Spieth at the top of the leaderboard.
Seeing him outplay the current World No.1 Jason Day – 30 years his junior – was one of the highlights of this or any other Masters year. But would a victory for the German be a good thing for a game that is often accused of not being a proper sport?
It all brings back memories of Tom Watson’s magical display at Turnberry in the 2009 Open Championship. The 59-year-old was eventually beaten in a play-off with Stewart Cink, but the result prompted some to question the legitimacy of the sport at a time when it was fighting to gain Olympic status.
Surely there has been enough debate already about the inclusion of golf at Rio later this year without a Major victory from a man who last won the Masters three months before Jordan Spieth was born?
Well that argument may work for some, but I think the majority of the sporting world would cherish a third Green Jacket for the German.
At a time when the game is dominated by power, and hitting fairways no longer seems to be a prerequisite for winning tournaments due to the huge distances being found off the tee, a Langer win would help to reinforce the depth and variation of the sport we all love.
It would prove there is still a place for imagination and course knowledge above the ability to bomb drives 350-plus yards. At times on Saturday Langer found himself 70 or 80 yards behind Day on the fairway, but he used his ability to think his way round, as well as his marvelous technique, to outscore the Australian.
It gives us all hope that, whatever our standard, we can go on enjoying golf well into our retirement, and the passing of time does not necessarily have to lead to diminished performance. Not many sports can make such a claim and I think golf is all the better for it.
So, if the German were to take the title tonight and become the oldest Major winner by ten years, it would not only be a victory for the ‘old guys’ as Langer himself put it, it would be a victory for the sport of golf as a whole.