Bernhard Langer: It is an insult to accuse me of cheating
Bernhard Langer has hit back against the critics who have accused him of “cheating” with his use of the long putter and said that it is has marred what he calls “the best season of my career”.
The German plays in Thursday's first round of the Senior Open at Royal Porthcawl, looking for his third major of the campaign, which would emulate Jack Nicklaus’s feat of 1991. But Langer does so under a cloud of controversy, with certain experts slating his technique on the greens.
Golf’s governing bodies banned anchoring at the start of last year, meaning the player cannot intentionally have the club or the hand gripping the club in contact with any part of their body. Langer, who has utilised the broomhandle putter since the 90s, simply moves it an inch or so away from his chest. Yet while the referees have cleared him, public opinion has not been so kind.
Brandel Chamblee, the respected Golf Channel analyst, called the stroke “appalling” and declared that it exhibited “gross disregard for the spirit of the game”. Hank Haney, Tiger Woods’s former coach, also chimed in, asking if Langer’s method was “legal”, while the former Australian professional Mark Allen went further, alluding to the fact that Langer has won more than £1.5 million so far in 2017.
“Every [other] player on tour has been ripped off and they [the authorities] just keep letting it go,” Allen said.
When asked by The Daily Telegraph whether it had cast a pall over his remarkable year, Langer answered in the affirmative. “I personally don’t understand it because I’m a man of integrity and the last thing I want to do is break rules and be known for cheating or something,” Langer said.
“I’m not touching any part of my body and I know I’m within the rules. I have conferred with the rules officials on a regular basis, and they have wholeheartedly said you’re not breaking any rule. You have a few people who question my integrity, which is really hurtful.”
The 59-year-old went on to express his “disappointment in some people”, saying: “we are all in the game of golf and should be discussing positive things”. He did not mention any names but the atmosphere could even be a little frosty on the first tee on Thursday afternoon.
Langer has been drawn with John Daly, who called the rule “vague” on Twitter. This is a commonly held opinion within the sport, as the rule says that there has to be intent and that the club can brush the body if accidental.
“I don’t think it is vague,” Langer said. “The rule is actually very simple. You can’t anchor. And I’m not anchoring. I haven’t anchored since January 2016.”
Langer believes there is more at play here than purely the wish to protect the sport. He has not been the only senior criticised in the anchoring debate, as Scott McCarron, the 2016 US Senior Open champion, has also come under fire.
“It’s human to be jealous; let’s put it that way,” Langer said. “If I was 180th on the money list, I don’t think anybody would be talking about it. But I’ve been No 1 the last few years.”
There can be no doubt he is the first on the betting lists to win on Sunday, despite being a month off his 60th birthday and facing a field including Fred Couples, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Colin Montgomerie and Nick Faldo. The last time these links hosted the Senior Open, in 2014, Langer won by 13 strokes.