New putter boosts Bernhard Langer
Helped by a lighter putter, Bernhard Langer rolled back the years with a five-under-par 67 in the Players Championship first round at the TPC at Sawgrass on Thursday.
Playing in the prestigious event for the 21st time, Langer ended a damp and overcast day in a three-way tie for third place, two strokes behind joint leaders Davis Love III and Jim Furyk.
"I hit it really close today and didn't have too many long putts," the 48-year-old German told reporters after needing only 24 putts on the heavily contoured greens at the Stadium Course.
"I had 11 putts on the back nine, which is pretty good.
"I changed to a new putter for this week, a lighter model, and I felt fairly comfortable with it."
Since reaching the pinnacle of the game as a professional, twice U.S. Masters champion Langer has three times been forced to conquer the putting 'yips', an involuntary movement of the muscles.
"I learned over the years that when the putter is too heavy, certainly the way I putt, I have a tendency to leave putts short," he added.
"So I went to a lighter putter which helps me control the distance a little better. I wish I would have thought of that a couple of years ago."
The 2004 European Ryder Cup captain birdied four of the last eight holes to finish the opening round at Sawgrass level with Australia's Robert Allenby and Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez.
"I kept the ball in play most of the time and had a nice stretch of three birdies in a row from the 11th," Langer said.
"On 11, I made a 10-footer for birdie, next hole I had a good tee shot and pitching wedge to about five feet and then, at the par-three, I hit a pretty good seven-iron to 20 feet and made the putt.
"I like the variety this golf course represents," added the German, who has produced five top seven finishes at the Players Championship since making his debut in 1984.
"It gives every player a chance, whether you can drive it 330 (yards) or only 280 off the tee.
"There is a premium on accuracy and distance control and just hitting it in the right spot, and I enjoy those kinds of golf courses."