ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - There haven't been many inductees into the World Golf Hall of Fame who were ranked in the top 20 in the world at the time of their enshrinement and are coming off a victory.
Germany's Bernhard Langer, who goes into the hall tonight after playing a first-round match in the UBS Warburg Cup, qualifies on both counts.
Langer, 45, shared the European Tour's Volvo Masters title Sunday with Colin Montgomerie. They decided to split the title when darkness fell with the pair tied after two holes of sudden death.
The draw with Montgomerie moved Langer to 17th on the Official World Golf Ranking. Langer and 45-year-old Nick Price, who is ranked 12th, are the only forty-somethings in the top 20.
In the UBS Warburg Cup, Langer and Argentina's Eduardo Romero of the Rest of the World team take on Paul Azinger and Scott Hoch of the United States in a foursome match at 9:30 a.m. at Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course.
Langer will then make the short trip down I-95 to the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Fla., for tonight's World Golf Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
"It's a great honor to be part of the hall of fame at a fairly young age, when you're still competitive," Langer said Thursday. "Many members in the hall of fame are either dead or are legends in the sense where they're no longer playing anymore or are over the hill. It's neat that I can still compete and be part of it."
Joining Langer as 2002 inductees are two-time Masters Tournament champion Ben Crenshaw, Tommy Bolt, Tony Jacklin, Marlene Hagge and the late Harvey Penick, who was the golf instructor for Crenshaw and Tom Kite.
Langer will be the first German in the hall.
"He's been one of the great role models in golf," Warburg Rest of the World playing captain Gary Player said of Langer. "He's always tried hard and kept in shape. He's been such an inspiration by keeping himself trim and working out."
"Gary was my idol when I heard about other pros and looked up to them, for various reasons," Langer said. "One reason was because he was my height and he had to travel from South Africa to other countries to play in tournaments.
His career-long commitment to fitness is one reason Langer is still ranked in the top 20 at his age.
"It pays dividends over the years," Langer said. "You feel better, you focus better, you have more energy and hopefully you can prevent injuries when you're physically stronger and in good shape."
UNIQUE PAIRINGS: The UBS Warburg Cup features 12-man teams from the United States and Rest of the World. Each team has six players between age 40-49 and six 50 and over. Most of the matches, as selected by the captains, feature players from the different age groups going up against each other. They all play from the same tees.
The United States won the inaugural match in 2001, 12 1/2 -11 1/2 . It was played at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, S.C.
There are six foursome (alternate shot) matches today, six four-ball (best-ball) matches Saturday and 12 singles matches Sunday. Each match is worth one point. In the event of a 12-12 tie, the United States would retain the cup by virtue of being the defending champion. The Rest of the World needs 12 1/2 points to win.
TOP MATCH: The Langer-Romero vs. Azinger-Hoch match is the marquee foursome pairing of the six today. Langer, Hoch and Romero are the three highest ranked players among the 24 in the tournament. Langer is No. 17, Hoch No. 22 and Romero No. 23. Azinger, who along with Langer are the only players in the field who played in September's Ryder Cup Matches, is ranked 55th.
SEEING GREEN: Eight of the 24 players in the field have won Masters titles, headed by United States playing captain Arnold Palmer with four. In all, the group has combined to win 17 green jackets. Player and Nick Faldo are three-time champions, Tom Watson and Langer have won two titles each and Raymond Floyd, Ian Woosnam and Mark O'Meara have won the Masters once.
Reach David Westin at (706) 724-0851.
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