Bernhard Langer can maintain Major grip despite challenge of Steve Stricker
Starts 1pm Thursday
Bernhard Langer is an each-way steal at 6-1 to win The Tradition for the third time in three years at Greystone, Alabama.
The evergreen German, who turns 61 in August, is chasing his 11th senior Major to go alongside two Masters green jackets from 1985 and 1993 and 111 worldwide victories in a glorious career.
He has reigned supreme on the roundbellies circuit for ten years but now has a new 'kid' on the block, Steve Stricker, threatening to overhaul him after back-to-back victories in March and a highly creditable 23rd at the Players Championship.
Demon putter Stricker chose to play The Tradition – not on TV and not recognised as a Major on the European Tour – over the main tour’s Byron Nelson and is 5-2 favourite to bag his first Major.
Can Langer give him more than nine years? It was no contest on the same course last year with Langer a massive five-shot winner and Stricker only 13th.
“He may be 60 but Bernhard looks and plays like a 40-year-old,” said an admiring Champions Tour rival, the 1989 Open champion Mark Calcavecchia.
But when Langer struggled into 54th and 58th places in March, his worst-ever Champions finishes, golf fans wondered whether he had become a yesterday’s man finally bowing to Father Time and whether old putting problems had resurfaced.
It turned out to a temporary blip as last time out he won the Insperity Invitational in Houston, having lost in a playoff to Steve Flesch at the Mitsubishi, his previous tournament. He and Tom Lehman also just got edged out in the Legends pairs event in another playoff.
So it’s all the more surprising to see the big price gap – Stricker never having won a Major and Langer having bagged five senior Majors in the past two years and being back on a track that provided two of them.
He is 37 under par for his eight course rounds and didn’t mess about either, winning by six in 2016 and five last year. Stricker may well win but you'd want double the odds to get involved and it’s not entirely a two-horse race.
Consistent Jerry Kelly won in Hawaii, Scott McCarron has the course form (second and sixth), Vijay Singh bagged his first solo win for ten years in March and David Toms, sixth last year, is taking time chalking up his first senior success but is getting there.
Lefty Flesch had Langer’s measure at Mitsubishi which makes 50-1 interesting and Miguel Angel Jimenez is class (although not putting with any great confidence).
The most tempting outsider is Brandt Jobe at 70-1. He won his first senior tournament last season and is a strong big-occasion player with five Majors top-fives in two years. He was fifth to Langer last time out in the Insperity.
3pts each-way at 5-1 general
1pt each-way at 70-1 Betfred
1pt each-way at 28-1 Betfred
1pt each-way at 20-1 Betfred
Course Greystone Golf and Country Club (Founders course), Hoover, Alabama
Prize money $2.4m ($360,000 to the winner)
Length 7,227 yards Par 71 Field 78 (no cut)
Course winner taking part Bernhard Langer (2)
Course record – 72 holes 268 (-20) Bernhard Langer (2017) 18 holes 64 Kenny Perry (2016), Bernhard Langer (2017)
When to bet By 1pm Thursday
Time difference Alabama is six hours behind UK & Ireland
Last tournament – Insperity Invitational 1 B Langer, T2 B Bryant, P Goydos, J Maggert, T5 B Jobe, D Frost, K Perry, T Pernice, T Lehman
Course overview Laid out by Bob Cupp and former US Open champion Hubert Green in 1991, it is holding this Major for the third straight year. Unusually it has five par fives. The course is fairly flat and tree-lined
Story of last year From six behind Fred Funk at halfway, Langer finished 66-64 at the weekend to win by five over Scott McCarron and Scott Parel. Funk ran him neck and neck for the first 11 holes on Sunday but on the 12th drove out of bounds and triple-bogeyed. After that, it was easy for the defending champion
Weather forecast Some rain every day but it will be stiflingly hot with temperatures between 30 and 32C.
Key attribute Accuracy
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