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Langer: “It’s very, very difficult for me to win now.”

Bernhard-langer-masters2013_640 (Langer won his second and last Masters in 1993. Credit: Jacqueline Duvoisin/SI) Two-time Masters champion Bernhard Langer is one of several
current Champions Tour players teeing up at Augusta National on Thursday, and I
had the chance to interview the 2002 Hall of Fame inductee for a future Golf
Magazine piece at the posh Mercedes-Benz hospitality suite along Augusta's
first fairway.

 At 55, Langer is playing some of the best golf of his
career, and is easily the most dominant player on the Champions Tour with 17
wins in five seasons. Is a run at a third green jacket really so unthinkable?
Apparently so. Langer hasn't made the cut at Augusta since 2005, and concedes
that his recent Masters appearances have become more about enjoying the
experience than winning the tournament.

 “I think it's very, very difficult for me to win now, ever
since they lengthened the golf course,” Langer said. “I've gotten a little
shorter and the golf course has gotten longer.”

Indeed, the days of hitting short iron approaches on
Augusta's par 4s are long gone, even for a guy who averages 280 yards off the
tee. “When they lengthened the course, they said they were trying to restore
the course to where it was years ago, and they went a bit overboard,” Langer
said.
The course's length isn't the only obstacle today's players
need to overcome. Langer also recounted a fun story about how a Champions
dinner conversation with Augusta's chairman resulted in a new fairway mowing
policy.
“Years ago, they would mow some of the fairway away from us
and some into us,” Langer said, “and when you land the ball in some places it
skids and runs 40 or 50 yards, whereas when you land into the grain, it stops.
And I remember this because I played then, and at one of the past Champions
dinners, the Chairman said, ‘gentlemen, is there anything we can improve, or
anything we can do better?' And I think it was Jack Nicklaus or Arnold Palmer
who got up and said, ‘well I have one point I'd like to raise. We've noticed
that half the fairways are mowed this way and half this way, and it's the
middle of the fairway, so if you land it a foot over here, you get fifty yards
of run, and if you land a foot over here you get five yards of run. That's not
fair.' And the chairman said, ‘good point. We can fix that.'
And then soon they mowed everything into us, so now, it's not just the course's length, but it actually plays a lot longer because the ball doesn't run like it used to. And
it makes it tougher because if the grass is standing into you and I'm hitting
an iron, if I just catch it a little fat, the grass stands up and gets in
between the ball and the clubface and you'll get flyers with less spin, so you
don't have the backspin and you don't have the distance control, so it changed
a lot about this golf course when that happened. It makes a huge difference to
hit an 8-iron into these greens or a 5-iron. A huge difference, people have no
idea. An 8-iron stops but a 5-iron just doesn't.”

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by Kevin Cunningham