OpinionTuesday, July 29, 2014
Clark and Langer long-broom it to success
A remarkable weekend on both sides of the Atlantic proved a clean sweep for the long putter, Bernhard Langer brushing his way to the largest victory ever in any modern-day major championship at the British Senior Open Championship, Tim Clark clutch at the Canadian Open, five birdies in his final eight holes to defeat serial bridesmaid Jim Furyk.
For many the ban on the attached stroke with Long John, due to take effect in January 2016, can’t come soon enough and although Adam Scott, another player whose game has soared since he took to the broom-handle, didn’t win the Open Championship, it was with some dismay purists watched him using his long-shafted stick to obtain maximum advantage for a penalty drop.
Let’s be clear, Adam was fully within the rules to measure the dropping zone in this manner, but somehow the sight of him doing so didn’t sit well with the many who consider the 2016 ban on attaching the club to one’s body during the stroke should be broadened to limit the club’s overall length.
None of that however, should take anything away from the remarkable performances by 56-year-old Langer or 38-year-old Clark. Since joining the 50s-plus circuit Langer has now garnered 22 victories, including four senior majors, but none sweeter than this runaway romp around Royal Porthcawl, Wales’ premier links and one of the most challenging golf courses in Britain.
In last year’s championship at Royal Birkdale ever-solid Langer took a two-stroke lead into the final hole, unheralded Mark Weibe clearly destined to be the runner-up. Until, in the most uncharacteristic way, the German star failed to get out of a greenside bunker with his first attempt, then missed from six feet, sending the event into a six-hole playoff that carried over to Monday morning, when Weibe outlasted the favourite.
This time Langer dominated wire to wire, finishing 18-under par for an astounding 13-stroke margin of victory, so much more tasty by leaving Colin Mongomerie floundering in his wake. This win over the jowly Scot, who captured both the PGA Seniors and the Senior US Open, restored Langer to leader in the Schwab points rankings. Perhaps the best measure of Langer’s remarkable feat is that only four other players finished under-par for the four rounds, and while Langer posted a heroic last day 67 when he could have just mailed it in, there were only four other scores in the 60s.
Tim Clark has always been a streaky putter and in Montreal he suddenly found his touch with the club that over his career has done so much to compensate for his lack of length off the tee. After his five birdie run, the tournament came down a six-footer for victory, which Clark rolled confidently into the cup. Furyk, leader in all three opening rounds, after missing from twice that distance to force a playoff, could only smile thinly and offer congratulations to the man whose career took off in 1998 when he captured the Canadian PGA Championship.