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The longer the better

Posted: March 12, 2008 3:05 a.m.
Updated: May 13, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Champions tour golfer Bernhard Langer practices his putting Tuesday at Valencia Country Club in preparation for the AT&T Champions Classic.

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It's pronounced LAWN-gur, though it's spelled L-A-N-G-E-R.

It doesn't describe his drive, but it describes his other drive - as in will to win.

Soft, but emphatic, Champions Tour golfer Bernhard Langer says he didn't want to go home late Tuesday afternoon.

It's been a very long five days for the two-time Masters champion.

But Langer was one of the first Champions Tour golfers to test Valencia Country Club's Course Tuesday and one of the last off the course.

The two days prior had been pretty hectic.

Langer outlasted Jay Haas in Newport Beach on Sunday in the Toshiba Classic.

After seven playoff holes, the mentally-drained 50-year-old wrapped up the title with a birdie on the par-5 18th hole.

"I was yesterday and I'm still tired today," Langer said. "I'll be all right by Friday."

Langer was drained even more Monday, though, as a German magazine took four hours of his time shooting photographs of him smiling and posing in the heat.

But Langer is one of the youngest players on the tour.

The qualifying age is 50.

 The German-born golfer turned 50 Aug. 27, so this is the first time he's played at VCC.

Langer leads a strong group of first-timers, including - British Open and two-time PGA Championship winner Nick Price, PGA Championship winner Jeff Sluman and Fred Funk, who also competes on the PGA TOUR.

Langer has something different, though.

Two green jackets.

It makes his presence at VCC heavily anticipated.

In 1985, Langer defeated Seve Ballesteros, Raymond Floyd and Curtis Strange by two strokes.

Floyd and Strange are also competing in this year's AT&T Champions Classic.

Eight years later, he won by a conformable four strokes.

"It was a dream come true," Langer said of the Masters victories. "You practice and work hard, especially because it's a major. The first one is very big because you always wonder if you could win a major or not. Once you've done it once, you wonder if you could do it again.

"It was important for me personally to win the second one so I knew it wasn't a fluke."

Langer actually has only three wins on the PGA TOUR and none since the 1993 Masters, but he said his play in 2007 on the PGA TOUR was strong.

He had five top-15 finishes.

But he's been even better since he joined the Champions Tour.

In six tournaments last year, he finished in the top 15 in five of them, winning the Administaff Small Business Classic in October.

He's been top 10 in three of four tournaments thus far in 2008.

It makes him a strong contender for the AT&T title.

Yet Langer admits his game is not best suited for long courses and VCC does have a few lengthy holes.

But golfers say that it is better known as a ball striker's course, which could be a good omen for the precise Langer.

He tried it for the first time Tuesday.

"Most guys like it," Langer said. "It's a course I think you have to maneuver some tee shots. You've got to be very precise with your iron shots because of certain greens because all the humps. If you're two feet short or two feet further where the ball lands, it could be spinning off 10 yards and it could be bouncing off 10 yards."

Langer didn't get off the course until nearly 4 p.m. Tuesday finishing on the 18th hole.
He left an interview room, walked downstairs and went right back to work, measuring his putter as the hot sun beat down on him.

He spoke earlier of age not holding him back from being busy.

"To me it's just a number anyway," Langer said. "Whenever people say you're 30 you're over the hill, you're 50 you're over the hill - means nothing to me. I have more aches and pain now than when I was 20 or 30, but that's to be expected. But at the same time, I can still make a full turn. I can still move my body. I can still play pretty good golf."

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