Bernhard Langer's partner in crime, Webb Simpson's short-game fix and Alex Noren's new attitude
Bernhard Langer and Terry Holt may not seem alike, but the German Hall of Famer and the British caddie have more in common than what meets the eye. In part, that’s what makes them one of the great all-time player-caddie teams in PGA Tour Champions history. The KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship was the ninth example of their winning work together in senior majors in their 11-year partnership. “He’s a very hard worker,” Langer said after wearing out Vijay Singh with his tireless precision at Trump National Washington D.C. on Sunday to complete the Senior Slam and break Jack Nicklaus’ mark of eight career senior majors. “So am I, but I think he outworks me. I appreciate that about him.” That’s saying something given that Langer’s work ethic among players is considered second only to Singh’s. In a profession known for its high turnover rate, Langer, who turns 60 in August, has maintained long-term relationships with his caddies. Pete Coleman was on the bag for 22 years before going into semi-retirement in 2003. Holt took over Langer’s bag at the 2007 Honda Classic, and he says one of the keys to their chemistry is not only the loyalty and faithfulness, but also their ability to work through the hard times. “He wants to work it out rather than throwing it away,” Holt says. “And that’s old school.” Adds Langer, “We have our little arguments here and there … under the heat of pressure he explains to me why and I say, ‘Don’t preach to me. I need to hit the shot. I don’t have three minutes listening to why this and why that …we got to go.’ ” And go they have, to the winner’s circle 32 times.
At a Mexican restaurant on Sunday night, Webb Simpson and Paul Tesori sat down to hash things out over a couple beers at dinner. Simpson started the day with a two-stroke lead in the Dean & DeLuca Invitational; with a bogey at the last he shot one over for the day to finish in a tie for fifth. But these were happy times, nowhere near the emotional level as the meeting the player and caddie had in their courtesy car at Bethpage Black last August after a heated exchange on the course following the second round of the Barclays. According to Tesori, the heart-to-heart on Long Island at the end of last season’s FedEx Cup playoffs set in motion this comeback year from Simpson, who lost a playoff to Hideki Matsuyama at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and has three other top-20s including the final result at Colonial Country Club. Tesori challenged Simpson to seek any and all feedback he could to resolve his struggles with the anchor ban, including a call to Bernhard Langer. Sunday’s result -- with what Tesori describes as a “forearm-locked claw grip” -- was the first time in back-to-back tournaments that Simpson was on the plus side in strokes gained/putting. “Today’s a hard loss,” said Tesori, 45, who has been on Simpson’s bag the past seven years. “But all that said and done, our goal is not to win tournaments. Our goal is to put ourselves in position to win as often as possible. But [sometimes] the heart doesn’t want to hear that.”
The Alex Noren that won the BMW PGA Championship with a final-round 62 on Sunday at Wentworth, and the try-too-hard Alex Noren representing Oklahoma State in the 2003 NCAA Championship, represent the Swede that wouldn’t get out of his own way as a collegian and the golfer who's now in the top in the world with five wins since last August. Hunter Mahan was the star of that OSU team that lost to Clemson by two strokes on the Cowboys’ home course, Karsten Creek in Stillwater. As a sophomore, Noren opened with an 80 and shot a final-round 75. His other three NCAAs produced a T-152 as a freshman in 2002, an 81st as as junior in 2004 and a 39th as a senior in 2005. “Great promise unfulfilled as a collegiate player, but it’s nice to see him mature into a world-class player,” says former Cowboys’ coach Mike Holder, calling Noren a “great teammate, tireless worker with a desire to be a great player.” That greatness has come through at 34 for Noren, who credits the birth of his first child last year with a new perspective. “Perhaps he wanted it too much,” Holder says in hindsight. “It appears that he finally has a healthier life-golf balance.”