Bernhard Langer delves deep into LIV Golf problem, golf ball rollback, Ryder Cup

Bernhard Langer is one of the legendary figures in golf. In fact, I believe it would be quite difficult to tell the history of the sport without detailing his exploits.

Langer is a two-time Masters champion, having beat out Seve Ballesteros and Raymond Floyd for the Green Jacket in 1985. Then, eight years later, he ran away with the tournament with a four-stroke victory.

He was slated to make his final Masters appearance last week. An unfortunate Achilles injury derailed that. However, his recovery is progressing smoothly with eyes on Augusta National in 2025.

Beyond his Masters presence though, Langer is also one of five players to have ever won a professional golf tournament on six continents.

He ranks second all-time in European Tour wins with 42. The German native has won on the PGA Tour, the Asian Tour, and has 46 titles on the PGA Tour Champions, the most ever.

It is safe to say that he is someone worth listening to when it comes to important matters within the sport.

Luckily, I was granted that opportunity to spend some time with him during The Masters. We spoke at length regarding a number of hot topics, and Langer was incredibly candid during an exclusive with Playing Through.

Golf: Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals, Bernhard Langer

Bernhard Langer with Augusta National Drive, Chip and Putt winner
Katie Goodale-USA TODAY Sports

Golf Ball Rollback; “Too Little, Too Late”

One of the more prominent conversations among golf fans is the golf ball rollback.

The USGA and the R&A, golf’s two governing bodies, announced that the ball will be rolled back for both professionals and amateurs alike. It is not slated to take effect until 2028, but that did not stop Langer from stating just how ridiculous the current approach is.

But not for why you might expect.

“Rolling the ball back seven-to-12 yards, I think that makes no sense. That is too little, too late,” Langer said boldly.

“In four years time, the guys will already hit it seven-to-12 yards farther. When you roll it back just that much, we are going to be where we are right now. In three or four more years, they are going to have this problem again.”

As the 66-year-old would go on to detail, athletes are getting bigger, stronger and faster in all sports. That is not likely to stop.

When you combine that with the advance of technology, learning “the perfect spin rate, launch angle, speed training, nutrition,” players are simply going to keep hitting it farther.

“If they are going to roll the ball back, roll it back substantially. Seven-to-12 yards does nothing in the long run for the game of golf,” Langer said.

He did however acknowledge how complicated the situation is.

Golf ball manufacturers are not going to want to pour tens of millions of dollars into a ball that only professionals will use. So, bifurcation was dead on arrival.

But that means what is already a tough sport for Sunday golfers like you and me, is only going to get harder.

“That makes it harder for the amateurs. The game is already hard and now you are going to hit it shorter. That will make it even harder.”

It was refreshing to hear Langer speak frankly and it was only made possible because of his role with Mercedes-Benz.

Langer Mercedes-Benz: The Perfect Marriage

Langer is one of the brand ambassadors for Mercedes-Benz. The German automaker has been one of the longest running sponsors within the sport for decades. As they like to say, focus, persistence and a concentration of power are qualities they have sought and found in golf, which aligns with what they bring to their products everyday.

But Langer’s relationship with them, and in particular how it came about, is pretty fantastic.

77th Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid, Bernhard Langer

Bernhard Langer, Senior PGA Championship
Photo by Traci Edwards/The PGA of America via Getty Images

“I won here [Augusta National] in 1985 and had a contract with Jaguar,” Langer said while wearing one of his Green Jackets.

“Someone asked ‘how come a German guy is driving an English car when there are so many great German car manufacturers?’”

“I said, ‘good question.’ I then got a call from Mercedes-Benz and we connected and have been together ever since.”

Mercedes has been a huge proponent of the sport for a very long time, but also imbues its values.

The automaker recently announced a multi-year partnership with lifestyle golf brand Eastside Golf to forge a more inclusive game of golf and increase access and opportunities to play and grow the sport. Together, they will support local community golf, spotlight HCBU’s and their golf teams, and they recently released a co-branded women’s capsule collection to celebrate women in the game – all in an effort to build a more inclusive community around the game and attract a new generation of diver golfers and fans..

In a sport filled with philanthropy and giving back, Mercedes-Benz does their part.

LIV Golf and the OWGR Problem

Langer also did his part during our time together, pulling no punches.

We, of course, had to discuss the current state of professional golf. I asked for his thoughts and he provided one very obvious sentiment, while another perked my ears up.

“There’s two things for sure.”

“All the professionals are making more money, whether they play on the LIV Tour or the PGA Tour. They are all making more money, so it is a good thing for all of those involved,” said Langer matter-of-factly.

Everyone talks about the money that LIV players are making. But what gets overlooked is the PGA Tour purses increasing. No, not to the level of LIV, but Langer is correct that the creation of LIV Golf has bulked up the pockets of many PGA Tour players as well.

“But the other thing is that it is not good for the game of golf. It’s dividing, it’s not good to not see the best players play against each other on a regular basis.”

“The whole world ranking is out of whack now too. You don’t have all of the best players getting world ranking points… they dug themselves into the trenches a while ago and now they have to find their way out.”

Langer is referencing the fact that the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) system has refused to award LIV Golf with any points. That has led to the majority on the Saudi-funded circuit to plummet in the standings.

But everyone knows that Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm, Cam Smith, and such are some of the best players on the planet.

Ryder Cup – Euro Stars Emerge thanks to LIV Golf

Following the Europeans decimation of Team USA at last fall’s Ryder Cup in Rome, Luke Donald was awarded captaincy in 2025 as well.

It will be the first time since the 1990’s when Stephan Gallacher was captain back-to-back for Team Europe.

Part of last year’s success, was in part, thanks to LIV Golf, according to Langer.

“Luke had a lot of success last year. It may not have happened if some of the guys not gone to the LIV tour, like Westwood, Garcia and Stenson. That left a little bit of a void.”

That void opened up spots for rising talents like Viktor Hovland, Ludvig Aberg and Nicolai Hojgaard. Aberg and Hovland historically embarrassed Team USA, hammering Scottie Scheffler and Brooks Koepka.

2023 Ryder Cup - Singles Matches, Ludvig Aberg, Viktor Hovland, Nicolai Hojgaard

Ludvig Aberg, Viktor Hovland, Nicolai Hojgaard celebrate Ryder Cup win
Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images

There is so much young talent coming from Europe these days. Langer went so far as to point out the number of German players now on Tour, which is uncommon historically.

“Even Germany has eight or 10 guys on tour now, which is unheard of.”

“The game of golf is growing in that part of the world. It took a while but it is happening. More and more of the top European youngsters are coming over to go college in America. They get the best coaching, the best facilities, practice and competition as well.”

“That has helped them be much better at a much younger age.”

Indeed, Aberg is 24 years old and nearly just won The Masters. Hovland is the reigning FedEx Cup winner at 26.

The rising stars from across the pond are going to help make an incredibly contentious Ryder Cup rivalry for years to come.

Kendall Capps is the Senior Editor of SB Nation’s Playing Through. For more golf coverage, follow us @_PlayingThrough on all major social media platforms.

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