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Langer, a two-time winner, says his goal is making cut

Thursday, April 10, 2008

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Bernhard Langer was in good company.

Gary Player (from left) and Jack Nicklaus head toward the 12th green after Bernhard Langer hit his tee shot. (Jackie Ricciardi/Staff)

The two-time Masters Tournament champion played the back nine with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player in Wednesday's practice round at Augusta National Golf Club.

Langer, Nicklaus and Player are no strangers to success on the course. They have 11 Masters wins among them. The veterans played alongside 23-year-old Martin Kaymer, the European Tour's rookie of the year in 2007.

Even though the three have a storied history at the Masters, they tend to forget about that. Their focus shifts to something else.

"We talk about the golf course changes since the years when we won," said Langer, who won in 1985 and 1993. "It's totally different now."

Nicklaus, a six-time Masters victor, last won in 1986. Player's last of three wins was in 1978.

Langer has won 80 tournaments worldwide. The German considers his wins at the Masters the most prominent, however. In his first win, he came from behind and shot 68 on the final day. Eight years later, he had an eagle on 13 and a birdie on 15 to win by four strokes.

Though Langer has had much early success at Augusta National, he has missed the cut the past two years. He shot 78 and 77 in 2007. Two years ago, he shot 79 and 74.

He last placed in 2005, when he tied for 20th . In 2004, he came close to winning for the third time, but he shot 285 and tied for fourth place.

Langer isn't thinking too much about slipping on the green jacket again, 15 years after his last win. His goal for now is to be playing on the third day of competition.

"That would be a pretty good achievement," he said.

In three months of play on the Champions Tour this year, Langer has won two of the seven events he's competed in -- the Ginn Championship and Toshiba Classic.

"I've been playing pretty good on the Champions Tour, but this course is probably 500 yards longer than what we play out there on average," he said. "It's playing even longer because the ball's not running."

Even though Langer's most recent win came just a few weeks ago, the modifications to Augusta National are making it more and more difficult for him to adjust.

"The course is so different now," he said. "Since they lengthened it three or four years ago, it's really hard for an average hitter like me to compete."

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