A Slice of Sandwich: Langer can still laugh about how a journalist cost him the Open

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The Independent Online

Bernhard Langer was given a lifetime achievement award at the Association of Golf Writers annual dinner here last night. The German then had to listen to a speech by the member of the AGW who is the reason why Langer does not have an Open title to his name. Typically, Langer had the good grace to laugh when reminded about it.

The scene was the practice green of Royal St George's in 1981. It was 8.21am on the Thursday and John Whitbread, then working for the Westminster Press, was talking to American Bill Rogers who had won the World Match Play at Wentworth two years before.

"Suddenly, John looked down at the draw sheet and said to me, 'Bill what are you doing, you're due on the tee?'," recalled Rogers this week. "I told him, 'No, I'm not off for 20 minutes', and he said, 'You're due off in about five seconds'.

"I'd got the times wrong. I panicked, ran off the green and made it on to the tee in time. There's no doubt that if John hadn't told me I would have been DQ'ed. Instead I won." And Langer came second. Journalists. Who needs them?

Oosthuizen willing to play for tractor parts

The reigning champion's love for tractors is well known. As a reward to himself for his win at St Andrews Louis Oosthuizen bought a John Deere. But what isn't so publicised is that part of the deal negotiated on his behalf to play in last week's John Deere Classic in Illinois was for the manufacturers to supply him with the add-ons for his pride and joy. Most major champions ask for a million bucks. Oosthuizen asked for a baler.

Howell will need pinball wizardry

Not all the Americans are impressed with Royal St George's. Take this from Charles Howell. "I can't remember who said it but the quote was, 'It's the biggest pinball machine in the world'," said the man from Augusta.