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THE MASTERS : Langer Says Amen to Victory : Golf: His eagle on 13th, Beck's decision on 15th are keys to four-shot margin as challengers fade away.


AUGUSTA, Ga. — Bernhard Langer said he looked at the leader board for the first time Sunday after he had finished nine holes.

It provided him with more incentive to win the 57th Masters tournament, which he did with comparative ease.

"It was pretty obvious I had to play better, because no one was backing off," Langer said. "I had to be aggressive."

However, the German player's pursuers made it even easier for him.

Dan Forsman, who trailed Langer by only one shot through 11 holes, had his hopes of winning drowned in Rae's Creek on the par-three 12th hole, where he took a quadruple bogey.

That left Chip Beck as Langer's closest competitor. After Langer made an eagle on the 13th hole, Beck trailed by three shots going to the par-five, 500-yard 15th.

It seemed that Beck would have to gamble by going for the green on his second shot. He needed an eagle to close in on Langer.

However, Beck elected to lay up short of the water that guards the green. And when his approach shot went over the green, he had to settle for par while Langer made birdie and increased his lead to four shots.

The tournament was virtually over at that juncture. Beck bogeyed the par-three 16th hole, so Langer had a five-shot lead with two holes to play and he won by four after getting an inconsequential bogey at the 18th hole.

Langer shot a two-under-par 70, the same as Beck. Langer's 72-hole score was 277, 11 under par.

By winning, he earned $306,000 out of a total purse of $1.7 million.

Langer, 35, now wears the coveted green jacket, emblematic of a Masters champion, for the second time. He won here in 1985.

Langer was playing one hole behind Forsman and he saw him hit two balls into the water on the 12th hole.

"I knew then that this was between Chip Beck and myself," Langer said.

Langer had a four-shot lead over Beck and Forsman at the outset of the final round--and it held up.

He was surprised, though, that Beck didn't try to reach the green with his second shot on No. 15.

"I thought he would go for it, but I wouldn't mind if he laid up," Langer said. "If I was in his shoes, I would have gone for it."

So Beck finished second at 281 and four players--Steve Elkington, Tom Lehman, Lanny Wadkins, and John Daly--tied for third at 282.

Beck said he had 236 yards left to the front of the green and 250 yards to the pin on his second shot at the 15th hole.

"I thought the wind felt too strong," Beck said. "I didn't want to throw the tournament away on one shot."

Even though Beck was questioned intensely about his decision, he wouldn't second-guess himself.

"I don't regret that decision at all," he said. "I felt like I played well and that Bernhard won the tournament."

Langer said he has played in about 30 major tournaments since he won the Masters in 1985.

"I was beginning to wonder whether I'd ever win another," he said. "I thought it would be easier to win a second major."

Langer, who has now won 38 tournaments worldwide, missed a six-foot putt in the Ryder Cup matches in 1991 that prevented the European team from tying the winning American team.

"The Ryder Cup is in my past," Langer said, then added, smiling, "but you will remind me the rest of my life."

Langer was only even par through nine holes, while Forsman had three birdies on the front nine and was closing in on the leader.

Then, the innocent-looking par-three 12th at Amen Corner became his downfall.

"My mind was racing on the 12th hole. I just couldn't calm down," said Forsman, who had missed the cut in his only two previous appearances in the Masters.

"I took out a seven-iron and it was so high up in the wind that I knew it didn't have a chance."

So his tee shot found the water, and then, from the drop zone, his sand wedge shot went into the water again.

"I just hit it thin. I just nipped it," Forsman said.

So Forsman wound up with a seven at the par-three hole--as England's Nick Faldo did on Friday. Canada's Richard Zokol had an eight there on Friday.

Despite his disastrous shot, Forsman came back to birdie the 13th and 14th holes, only to bogey 15 and 18 and finish with a 73 and a 284 total.

"I wish I could have had a mulligan (at 12)," Forsman said, getting a laugh from reporters.

"It was kind of embarrassing. You're a professional player and people are pulling for you. I didn't want to end it like that."

After glancing at the leader board after nine holes, Langer went to work.

He got a par at the par-four 10th hole and then his second shot almost went into the water bordering the green on the par-four 11th.

However, he saved par there and got another par at No. 12 with a six-foot putt.

He had a two-shot lead over Beck going to the par-five, 465-yard 13th hole. "I knew I had to get some birdies," Langer said. "I wasn't going to back off."

So he didn't hesitate going for the green on his second shot. His three-iron shot of 202 yards ended up 20 feet from the pin, and he made his eagle putt. Beck had to settle for a birdie.

So Langer improved his lead to three strokes and, with Beck's decision not to try to reach the green on No. 15, Langer was on his way to his second green jacket.

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