Langer set to defend hometown title at Allianz Championship in Florida

By Associated Press
Published on

Defending champion Bernhard Langer hopes playing at home will be his ticket to winning a second consecutive Allianz Championship title this weekend.

“It’s great to be back here playing at Broken Sound, eight minutes from my home, sleeping in my own bed and having family and friends cheer me on,” said the longtime Florida-based German. “It doesn’t get a whole lot better than this.”

Langer returns to the Old Course at Broken Sound, where he’ll face a competitive Champions Tour field planning to challenge his title defense. Among the notables is John Cook, who Langer beat out in a dramatic playoff for the title last year.

Other players in the field include: Mark Calcavecchia, Tom Lehman, Corey Pavin, Nick Price, and Mark O’Meara.

Neither Langer nor Cook has forgotten their journey during last year’s surprising Allianz playoff finish. Langer holed a 45-foot bunker shot from a half-buried lie to win after Cook failed to extend the playoff when his 25-foot putt lipped out.

Langer visited that 18th hole bunker during practice this week, but didn’t try to replicate his winning shot.

“I hit a couple of shots out of there Tuesday, but I didn’t practice the plug lie,” Langer said. “I’m hoping not to get a plug lie the next time I’m in there.”

Cook, who comes into the Allianz having won the 2011 Champions Tour opener in Hawaii last month, has vivid memories of last year’s disappointment.

“It was a hard pill to swallow,” he said. “To go from having the upper-hand to having to make a 25-footer to keep the thing going was, uh, that ride home was not my favorite I can promise you.

“I didn’t say much to Jan (his wife). Luckily, it was only a short ride up the turnpike.”

Langer, 53, is coming off of another incredible season, having won five titles in 2010, including the Senior British Open and U.S. Senior Open.

He was named the Champions Tour Player of the Year for a third consecutive year. Since joining the Champions Tour in August 2007, Langer’s won 13 titles and over $7.2 million in prize money.

Langer cites a number of important reasons why he’s been so successful throughout his career.

“It’s not one element, it’s the whole mosaic,” Langer said. “One is health and fitness, but I haven’t had marital problems and divorces like some guys, and I have four healthy kids.

“I have the same coach for 35 years. The same manager for 35 years. The same wife for 27 years,” he added. “I have a support group that is very important to me and I like harmony in my life.”

Cook, 53, is hoping that a strong 2010 finish -- he won the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship -- coupled with his recent win in Hawaii will help him sidle up to Langer’s stature on the tour.

“He’s the standard and for good reason,” Cook said. “He’s won a lot of tournaments. He’s won majors. To get into that level where Bernhard is you have to be better. He’s a Hall of Famer for a reason, it’s not a fluke. And that’s the level I’m looking towards.”