MIAMI - The measure of a young golfer is not always how well he wins. Sometimes it's how you lose that makes a true winner.
One year ago at Doral, Franklin Langham learned how to lose.
"There have been a lot of guys who knock on the door for a while before they break through," Langham said. "That's what you have to tell yourself. It just wasn't my time, and eventually it will be. There are all different kinds of ways to get there."
Langham, the former Georgia All-American from Thomson, returns today to the scene of what some might have dubbed a disaster. With a six-shot lead and seven holes left to play on Doral's Blue Monster, Langham looked ready to take home his first PGA Tour trophy.
Then Jim Furyk happened all over him. Furyk countered Langham's three bogeys down the stretch with five birdies in seven holes. His astonishing back-nine 30 left Langham with a two-shot loss despite a closing 70.
"It was a snowball thing," Langham said. "There was nothing that derailed him that back nine, whether it was me making a putt or him sliding one by the edge. Every time he pulled the putter back, it seemed like it was going in."
Professional golfers trying to break into the winner's circle can handle a stinging defeat in two ways - be consumed by it or build on it. The PGA Tour is littered with players who couldn't recover - Eric Booker, Brian Gay, Matt Gogel, Brian Watts ...
Langham, 32, didn't become a casualty. He became better.
"I could have said it was bad luck, and I'm a bad-luck guy," he said. "I wanted to take the other approach. It was the first time in my career I had a chance to run away and win a golf tournament, but the one person that could stop me did.
"After I had time to sit back and think about what transpired, I realized I did play well enough to win, and that it just wasn't my time - yet. Once I got to that point with my thinking, I was able to go on and have a good year after that."
Langham had a great year, to be honest. He followed his runner-up finish at Doral with seconds at the Kemper and Greater Milwaukee Opens and five additional top-10 finishes. The $1.6 million he earned ranked 26th on the money list and placed him in the Tour Championship, World Golf Championship events and this year's Masters.
Much of that success could be traced back to that defeat at Doral.
"It solved a lot of doubts in my mind as far as being a good enough player to win out here and compete on a daily basis," he said. "It changed my perspective. I was no longer happy just to show up and play. I was going out and trying to win golf tournaments. That sort of raised the bar in my mind. I started feeling good in my own skin."
Doral proved to Langham that he belonged with the best in the world. The real trick to this golf thing is being consistent.
"You're building a foundation," he said. "I didn't want to be one of those guys that came out here and won, and you never heard from them again. I'm trying to establish a long career out here, and, hopefully, I can look back at last year - and even though there was some heartbreak in it - I can say, `Wow, that was the year I got it started."'
Maybe this week at the renamed Genuity Championship, Langham will capture the vibe and take the next step in his development - winning.
"It will come full circle," he said. "One day it will be me making those putts on somebody. And I'll know how they feel."
Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219.
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