Steady Langer stayed calm at Hualalai


POSTED: Tuesday, January 27, 2009

While the PGA Tour events in Hawaii aren't secured beyond 2010, the season-opening tournament on the senior circuit just completed the first of a four-year deal and the players couldn't be happier.

Time and again during the three-day Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai, the players noted that the Big Island resort was where the Champions Tour needed to begin its season. They practically insisted after MasterCard ended its long relationship with this winners-only event in 2008 and tour officials listened.

“;You want to begin your year in Hualalai and end it in Sonoma (Calif., where the Schwab Cup Championship is held),”; runner-up Andy Bean said. “;If you have qualified to play in those two events, then you know you've had a good year.”;

Winner Bernhard Langer all but assured he will be at the Schwab Cup in October by holding off Bean to secure a one-stroke win on Sunday in this elite 34-man event. Bean did his best to keep the German from running away with the title by shooting a final-round 66.

“;I had a good idea when the day began I needed to shoot a 64 to win and I was right,”; Bean said. “;I could have easily shot a 64 if I could have sunk a few more putts, but I'm still very happy with the way I played. This is such a wonderful place to begin the year. I can't say enough about the sponsor and the people who run this event. It's first class all the way.”;

Langer secured a first-class seat Sunday night en route to Los Angeles, where the Toshiba Classic folks held media day for their defending champion. Granted, the tournament isn't played until the first week in March, but having Langer passing through on his way home to Florida was too good to pass up.

The fact he won on Sunday just made it all the better. He'll be jet-lagged, but he'll still be very happy that he won, celebrating his 25th anniversary in style with a $315,000 first-place check.

“;This is a great place to start because you know the course will be in great condition and the weather is going to be good,”; Langer said. “;You can work on your game here, which is important because most of the country the weather is still bad. Even in Florida (where Langer and his family lives), the weather can still be bad.”;

The winds only made an appearance for a few hours during Sunday's final round, bedeviling Langer early on as he tried to adjust to the strong Kona winds that swept across the 18-hole layout.

A perfect example was Langer's second shot at the par-4 second, where his caddie told him to hit 8-iron. He opted for a 7 and still came up 15 yards short after hitting what he thought was a perfect shot into the green. It led to one of only two bogeys for Langer, but it was an eye-opener for the precision player.

“;Don't call me a machine because I'm not a machine,”; Langer said. “;I was upset, believe me. What gets me angry? Hitting what you think is a perfect shot and realizing it wasn't. That's frustrating to me.”;

He promptly birdied the next two holes to pass playing partner Brad Bryant, who turned a three-shot advantage after walking off No. 2, into a two-shot deficit he never recovered from, prompted by a 7 at the par-3 fifth that proved to be the most difficult hole on the course.

“;You're able to breathe a sigh of relief after you get past that hole,”; Bean said. “;I hit a perfect shot in there to within 15 feet and just left my putt on the edge of the cup. I had several of those all day.”;

Langer knows the feeling. He had a day like that on Saturday, when a half-dozen putts lipped out, keeping him from going even lower in the opening event of the season.

But as Langer likes to say, “;That's golf.”;

But as long as it's in Hawaii for the next several years, nobody is going to complain too much. This is where they want to be and the tour made sure of it with a new deal in place through 2013.