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Published: Tuesday, 5/17/2011

Langer won’t miss Toledo tourney despite surgery after injury

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST
Bernhard Langer shows off his 2010 U.S. Senior Open tournament trophy at the Inverness Club. Langer will lead a field of 156 players for this year’s tourney, running July 28-31. Bernhard Langer shows off his 2010 U.S. Senior Open tournament trophy at the Inverness Club. Langer will lead a field of 156 players for this year’s tourney, running July 28-31.
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Bernhard Langer has a bum left thumb, but is confident he’ll be back to full-go at Inverness Club in late July to defend his championship in the U.S. Senior Open.

Like many Europeans, Langer is a bicycling enthusiast and when the story broke in late March it indicated he had undergone surgery to repair a torn ligament suffered in a cycling accident. Visions of the great German golfer clipping a curb, flying over the handlebars, and being injured breaking his fall, or some such thing, quickly came to mind.

Not quite, he admitted Monday while attending the Senior Open media day at Inverness.

“Well, I was on my bicycle,” he began with a sly smile. “But I was stopped at a crossing and I pushed the traffic signal button. I guess I pushed it too hard or awkwardly. What are the odds of doing some of the things I do, golfing and snow skiing, and then tearing a ligament pushing a button? It’s sort of crazy.”

A couple weeks after the surgery, with his hand and wrist heavily bandaged, Langer accepted an award at the Golf Writers Association of America’s annual dinner in Augusta, Ga. He held his hand high in the air that night and told the crowd he had been hurt “carrying all the money to the bank.”

That may have been more believable than the truth. In 2010 he became the first Champions Tour player to win player-of-the-year honors and the money title for three straight years. Since joining the tour late in 2007, Langer has played in 72 tournaments, won 14 of them, posted 47 top-10 finishes, and earned $7.5 million.

Last summer, he won two major championships — the British Senior Open at Carnoustie and the U.S. Senior Open at Sahalee, near Seattle — in successive weeks with a taxing eight-hour time change factored into the middle of it all.

“To be honest, I’m one player who’s not extremely happy that we play back-to-back majors,” Langer said. “Plus, for those of us who also play in the regular British Open the week before [the British Senior] that’s three majors in a row. That’s a very difficult stretch. So I feel blessed to have won two major championships back-to-back; that doesn’t happen very often.”

Although the schedule is expected to change in future years, a similar challenge will be present this summer, give or take a couple hours of time change. The British Senior will be staged at Walton Heath (Surrey, England) on July 21-24 with the U.S. version at Inverness set for July 28-31, preceded by three days of practice rounds.

For Langer, one of the more athletic and fit members of the senior circuit at age 53, that kind of grind is really nothing new. He has truly been a global golfer, winning 75 tournaments on five continents, since the start of his pro career in the mid-1970s. Best known of all those wins, of course, were Masters titles in 1985 and ‘93.

He also is no stranger to playing with pain, having suffered fairly serious back injuries while fulfilling German military obligations at the age of 19. He has dealt with stiffness and cramping ever since.

Langer played in PGA Championships at Inverness in 1986 and ‘93 and remembers it fondly despite being saddled with a pair of missed cuts.

“I liked it; a very challenging old-style course with severe greens,” he said. “There are some awfully difficult holes out there.”

Surveying the lush panorama from a wide clubhouse window on a rainy, chilly morning, Langer said he’d give Inverness two thumbs up … if only he could.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398



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