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updated: 6/21/2014 10:16 PM

Langer believes Kaymer could really go on a tear

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  • Bernhard Langer hits a chip shot on the first hole during the first round of the Encompass Championship tournament Friday. Langer has been impressed with the play of fellow countryman Martin Kaymer.

      Bernhard Langer hits a chip shot on the first hole during the first round of the Encompass Championship tournament Friday. Langer has been impressed with the play of fellow countryman Martin Kaymer.
    Associated Press

  • Bernhard Langer, shown here during the first round of the Encompass Championship on Friday, has been impressed with the play of fellow countryman Martin Kaymer.

      Bernhard Langer, shown here during the first round of the Encompass Championship on Friday, has been impressed with the play of fellow countryman Martin Kaymer.

  • Martin Kaymer, of Germany, holds up the trophy after wining the U.S. Open golf tournament in Pinehurst, N.C., Sunday, June 15, 2014.

      Martin Kaymer, of Germany, holds up the trophy after wining the U.S. Open golf tournament in Pinehurst, N.C., Sunday, June 15, 2014.
    Associated Press

 
 

It doesn't seem that long ago when we would have asked Bernhard Langer about his own play in the Masters or the U.S. Open.

One of the best golfers in the world for a couple decades, Langer was the inaugural No. 1 player in the Official World Golf Ranking in 1986, while winning the Masters twice and finishing second in the U.S. Open twice.

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He's already won twice on the Champions Tour this season, leads in Schwab Cup points and finished eighth at Augusta in April at age 56.

Yeah, the Hall of Famer is still pretty good at this golf thing.

But today he is considered the world's foremost expert on Martin Kaymer, and there's really nowhere he can go now without being asked about his fellow German who ran away with the U.S. Open last week at Pinehurst.

Nowhere. Not even Alaska.

"I took the week off last week, something I didn't do a lot on Tour," Langer said Saturday at the Encompass Championship at North Shore in Glenview. "My brother and I have been talking about doing it for years so we went fishing in Alaska with my brother and my two sons.

"It was a great trip. We caught a lot of fish and had some great weather. It's a long way to go for fishing, but it's memories with your family and that made it all worth it."

Still, he could not escape the legend that is becoming Martin Kaymer.

"There was one TV and we kind of gathered around it to watch," Langer said. "It was exciting for all four of us and of course we were rooting for him.

"He played so good, so smart all week, and was so good around the greens, which is never easy at the U.S. Open. With the Players (Championship), he's won two of the biggest tournaments there is in the whole year and he's won them in the last five weeks.

"It's great to see him back. He was struggling for a while there. A lot of people would have been happy to play the way he played when he struggled, but he changed his swing and that's why he was having a hard time.

"Now, he's back to where he was. He's not thinking about swing technique anymore. He's playing golf again."

Langer was standing only a few feet away when Kaymer's 6-foot putt clinched the Ryder Cup for Europe at Medinah in 2012, a small measure of revenge for Langer, whose missed 6-footer handed the Cup back to the United States at Kiawah Island during the "War on the Shore" in 1991.

"I knew when Martin made that putt that it was going to be a very good thing for him, for his confidence," Langer said. "He was still struggling at the time a bit and I knew that would help him. I thought it was only a matter of time before he found his game again.

"He's always been a very positive person that knows he can shoot low numbers. He's done that before. He was the No. 1 player in the world and he tried to get better by changing his swing. He's past all that now.

"When you can shoot two 65s in the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, you know you are a great player.

"There's going to be a lot more of that from him. I think this is just the beginning for him at (age) 29 if he can stay healthy."

Not surprisingly, Langer has become something of a mentor to Kaymer over the years, though he believes Kaymer has an even greater upside than Langer did, considering Kaymer's age.

"We talk about a lot of different things," Langer said. "Some life stuff, some golf stuff. You talk about lessons learned, mistakes made. You hope you can teach someone to avoid the mistakes you've made.

"He's got a lot of people in his life he can talk with, but I've always liked being with him. I think the world of that young man."

The feeling is mutual for Kaymer, who frequently mentions one of the best players on the Champions Tour, where Langer has been consistently among the top players the last half-decade.

"I feel good," Langer said. "This is a great venue. It's a great city. Chicago is a great place to play golf. We get a lot of support from the community and the spectators."

Storms ended play late Saturday afternoon with Tom Lehman (13 under) atop the leader board after a middle-day 66. Langer's at minus-5, with a minus-4 Saturday through 13 holes, a round which will have to be completed Sunday morning.

"I turned pro at 18 and I'm going to be 57, so after 40 years out here I have to pace myself to still be interested, to not get bored," Langer said. "It's a matter of knowing yourself and just timing the schedule to be fresh and excited to play golf.

"I don't ever want to get to a place where I don't love to play the game. I won't let that happen. I always want to be around the game."

Martin Kaymer will probably make sure of that.

brozner@dailyherald.com

•Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM.

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