Langer led the seniors’ competition by four strokes overnight and, even though Jay Haas shot an even-par 72 to narrow the gap, the two-time Masters champion could afford to shoot a two-over-par 74 and still win by two shots.
Langer, who won the Nedbank Golf Challenge in 1985 and 1991, said the victory made up for last year’s runners-up finish to Mark Calcavecchia when he surrendered the lead in the final round.
“It’s very satisfying because of what happened last year. It still came down to the end because the wind was very tricky and I missed more greens, which makes bogeys inevitable. But Jay was also very solid today, he drove the ball terrifically and he was good with his wedges too. To be fair, he was a bit unlucky with a few putts,” the gracious Langer said.
The tournament became a two-horse race with Ian Woosnam only managing a 72 on Saturday to finish five strokes adrift, while defending champion Calcavecchia fared even worse, slumping to a 13-over-par 85.
Haas put some pressure on Langer with a flawless inward nine and Langer was in some difficulty on the 14th hole, when he had just a two-stroke lead and he faced a tricky up-and-down for par.
“It was fantastic to get that up-and-down on 14 and then on 15 I was hitting out of the semi-rough, a very tricky second shot. It landed perfectly but then it took off downwind and finished right at the back of the green. I had a 40-45 foot putt with about three feet of break, but I hit it absolutely brilliantly, with the perfect speed, for a crucial birdie,” Langer said.
The birdie gave Langer a three-shot lead with just three holes to play and he could afford a bogey at the par-four 17th after his approach shot slid off left into the water short of the green. But, after the drop, he hit a wonderful chip shot to within a few feet of the hole.
The 55-year-old then pushed his tee shot on the final hole into the semi-rough and decided to lay up rather than risk letting Haas back into the contest.
“I had a horrible lie, so I could just chip the ball out and I then made a great up-and-down with a seven-iron and a putt from about 10 feet,” Langer said.
Haas had begun the final round shakily with two bogeys in his first three holes, before a birdie at the par-five ninth kept him in touch, egging him on to a brave challenge on the back nine. But the putts just refused to drop for the American.