Golf: Mastery of Langer runs rivals ragged: Masters champion remains in the fast lane on the Burma Road as James fails to keep up with the pace at the Volvo PGA

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The Independent Online
NOT so much deja vu, more vorsprung durch technik. Bernhard Langer's advancement this year has been technically impressive, mentally overpowering. He led by three strokes going into the final round of the Volvo PGA Championship and yesterday cruised down the Burma Road, pausing only to acknowledge the applause. It came from the crowd and his fellow competitors. Both parties had the role of bystanders.

In the end he won by six strokes and it was almost as painless as his triumph at Augusta in April. With Nick Faldo and Seve Ballesteros missing the cut, there was nobody with the pedigree or confidence to give Langer a run for his money. He collected pounds 116,660, one of the biggest prizes in Europe, bringing his career earnings to around dollars 10m. Only Tom Kite and Greg Norman have won more.

Langer, who plays in the Dunhill Masters at Woburn this week, won the PGA with a record score of 18 under par in 1987. Yesterday he finished on 14 under after a round of 68 and the three players who were joint second at eight under, Colin Montgomerie, Gordon Brand Jnr and Frank Nobilo, accepted their fate probably before they even teed off. Big Monty, a perennial bridesmaid, won pounds 52,196 but it wasn't enough to raise his spirits. 'Second again,' he said. 'I didn't think anyone was going to catch Bernhard and I said the same thing at the Masters. There's always somebody better than me. I've stopped believing in myself. I'm just out there playing for a good position.'

Montgomerie, who played with Langer in the Ryder Cup two years ago, tells an illuminating story about the extraordinary professionalism of the German. In a four-ball Langer lost his ball and then asked Montgomerie how far he had to the flag. The Scotsman, taking his yardage from a sprinkler head on the fairway, replied that it was 150 yards. Langer had doubts. 'Are you measuring from the front of the sprinkler or the back?' Langer asked. The difference was a matter of inches and, had it come from anybody else, it would have been meant as a joke.

Langer's obsession with detail was evident yesterday when he drilled a one-iron from 211 yards at the 12th to within a foot of the hole, dead on line. It brought him an eagle three, and when he rolled in a putt from 30 feet for a birdie at the next he raised his arms to the heavens. 'I had a lot of help from up there,' said Langer, who held a Bible study class at the course over the weekend.

He recalled that when he won in 1987 the competition was more difficult. Mark James, three strokes adrift of Langer after the third round, shot 80. 'Nothing went right,' James said, 'and I lost all my confidence.' Nevertheless, James is top of the Order of Merit. It earns him an invitation to the US Open, which he will decline.

Ken Schofield, the executive director of the European Tour, confirmed that from next season Rupert Murdoch's beady eye would have a wider view of events. BSkyB is covering five tournaments this season and when the BBC's contract runs out at the end of the year Schofield said the pie in the Sky would be 'considerably extended'.

Benson and Hedges, who have sponsored golf for 23 years, have already said that if the Tour goes with Sky they will reconsider their position. The B and H International at St Mellion is covered by the BBC. Jim Elkins, director of special events at B & H, said that when cricket, sponsored by his company, was shown on Sky the audience was around 350,000. On the BBC it was between three and five million.

'I won't comment,' Schofield said. 'Discussions with our sponsors are confidential.' Philip Payze, chairman of Volvo UK Ltd, said that television coverage was not the raison d'etre for his company's sponsorship of golf. 'I find the whole business of television totally mystifying,' Payze said. Next year the prize-money for the PGA will be pounds 800,000, an increase of pounds 100,000. Not all dealings with sponsors are confidential.

Schofield also announced that Delta Air Lines would be the 'official airline' to the European Tour even though the company is based in Atlanta, Georgia. The press conference announcing this dramatic news was delayed by 25 minutes because Schofield was in a meeting with Jaime Ortiz Patino, the owner of Valderrama. Their discussions were, of course, confidential, but it's a fair bet that the subject of the venue for the 1997 Ryder Cup was on the agenda. Valderrama is the leader in the clubhouse.

VOLVO PGA CHAMPIONSHIP (West Course, Wentworth) Leading final scores: (GB or Irl unless stated): 274 B Langer (Ger) 70 69 67 68). 280 G Brand Jnr 69 71 73 67; C Montgomerie 70 69 71 70; F Nobilo (NZ) 72 67 70 71. 281 M McNulty (Zim) 72 71 69 69). 283 T Johnstone (Zim) 74 66 69 74. 284 G Day (US) 72 67 74 71; G Turner (NZ) 73 69 71 71; E Romero (Arg) 71 71 71 71. 285 J M Olazabal (Sp) 74 70 73 68; J Coceres (Arg) 70 67 79 69; P Fowler (Aus) 73 71 71 70; A Sherborne 68 72 73 72; D W Basson (SA) 68 75 70 72; P Mitchell 73 70 69 73. 286 M Roe 73 70 72 71; A Oldcorn 70 68 76 72; J Haeggman (Swe) 70 69 75 72; R Rafferty 68 69 75 74. 287 D Feherty 72 71 76 68; S Ames (Trin) 69 75 72 71; M Mouland 72 68 73 74; C Mason 71 71 71 74. 288 G Evans 66 77 77 68; R Chapman 74 69 73 72; D Cooper 77 67 72 72; I Woosnam 72 72 71 73; G J Brand 73 67 74 74; H Clark 69 73 72 74. 289 A Murray 69 69 78 73; J Parnevik (Swe) 70 68 77 74; E Els (SA) 71 71 73 74; M James 68 68 73 80. 290 G Levenson (SA) 71 72 74 73; P O'Malley (Aus) 68 71 76 75; P Baker 69 72 74 75; S Tinning (Den) 69 72 74 75.

Leading places in the Volvo European Tour Order of Merit: 1 M James (Eng) pounds 183,911.67; 2 D Gilford (Eng) pounds 178,602.64; 3 F Nobilo (NZ) pounds 172,301; 4 J Haeggman (Swe) pounds 162,664.17; 5 N Faldo (Eng) pounds 158,000.

Leading positions in the European Ryder Cup points table (1pt for every pounds 1 won): 1 B Lane (Eng) 326,217.75; 2 C Montgomerie (Scot) 306,410.79; 3 N Faldo (Eng) 291,202.50; 4 B Langer (Ger) 281,411.48; 5 M James (Eng) 257,334.08; 6 J Spence (Eng) 210,577.65; 7 D Gilford (Eng) 208,476.57; 8 J M Olazabal (Sp) 194,616.71; 9 G Brand Jnr (Scot) 191,411.93; 10 S Richardson (Eng) 187,028.41.

(Photograph omitted)

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