Langer’s lesson on experience

by Michael Vlismas on


He may have had an advantage off the senior tees, but Bernhard Langer showed exactly what experience counts for at the Gary Player Country Club in Thursday’s first round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge.

On a tough day where the main field was separated by only five shots between leader and last, Langer produced the only bogey-free round of both the main and Champions Challenge fields with his four-under 68.

American Bill Haas and Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts shared the lead on two-under 70 in the main field, one clear of Louis Oosthuizen, Paul Lawrie and defending champion Lee Westwood. Garth Mulroy is last following a three-over 75.

In the Champions Challenge, Langer is three strokes clear of Jay Haas.
“It certainly helps that I know this course better than most players here,” said Langer. “I hit the ball beautifully but I was a bit disappointed with my putting. The greens were very slow. But overall I was very solid. No bogeys on this course is great, especially with this rough. It just takes one bad shot and you can make double bogey really quick.”

Haas certainly experienced the severity of the local kikuyu grass. He stepped onto the 16th tee at four under, and then made two bogeys in his final three holes. “I felt confident, but was maybe too confident and let my guard down. It’s tough out there. I’ve played and won on kikuyu before in America, but it just seems so much more severe here. It seems to be more penal here and it’s a total guess as to how the ball is going to come out of it,” he said. “But overall I’m happy. I didn’t win it today, but I also didn’t shoot myself out of it.”

Colsaerts took some early lessons to heart and held back on his driver, preferring instead to think his way around this course.
“I didn’t use an aggressive gameplan at all because this is not that kind of course. I had a good combination of playing well and thinking well out there. There are some serious tees on this golf course, and they can really get nasty with some of the pin placements if they want to.”

Putting was a focus for other reasons as well on Thursday following the announcement by the Royal and Ancient and United States Golf Association that they plan to ban the anchoring of long putters by 2016.
“That’s disappointing,” said Langer. “I’m not sure why they’re doing this now when the long putter has been in the game for so many years already. There are some pros out there who grew up using the long putter. I’ve been using it since 1997. If they’re talking about the spirit of the game, why not ban drivers, or two-piece golf balls that travel 400 yards, or wedges that rip the cover off the ball?”
Haas was also unsure about the motive behind the announcement.
“I used a long putter for a while, but then went back to a short putter. I don’t think it makes putting any easier. I think if there are players who want to use it then let them.”

First Round Scores:

Nedbank Golf Challenge
70 (-2) Bill Haas, Nicolas Colsaerts
71 (-1) Louis Oosthuizen, Paul Lawrie, Lee Westwood
72 (LVL) Francesco Molinari, Martin Kaymer, Peter Hanson, Charl Schwartzel, Carl Pettersson
73 (+1) Justin Rose
75 (+3) Garth Mulroy

Nedbank Champions Challenge
68 (-4) Bernhard Langer
71 (-1) Jay Haas, Mark Calcavecchia
73 (+1) Ian Woosnam
74 (+2) Sandy Lyle, Jeff Sluman, Tom Watson
76 (+4) Fred Funk

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