Johannesburg – The international magazine Monocle, which briefs on global affairs, business, culture and design, conducts an annual survey on how well countries use their unique intangible assets.
They call it their ‘Soft Power’ survey. It’s all about when nations, or organisations, look beyond military or financial power to exert an influence globally. So we have cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar fulfilling this role for India, Nelson Mandela and the 2010 World Cup for South Africa, the 2012 London Olympics for Britain, and – as far as organisations go – the thoroughly delightful and down-to-earth Pope Francis for the Catholic Church.
The UK topped Monocle’s list of countries in 2012 due to the hugely successful London Games.
However, in the magazine’s assessment of last year, it was Germany and not Britain who they believed led the world in ‘Soft Power’, which is what really counts.
Germany, they pointed out, is known for its precision and quality in manufacturing, for its great footballers, for its dynamic Chancellor Angela Merkel (re-elected with record figures), its rich culture, its diplomacy and – who would ever have believed this in the dark days of World War II? – its emphasis on promoting pacifism, to the point where conscription has been done away with.
Now this is supposed to be a column about golf, and it is. You see, I read Monocle’s article on ‘Soft Power’ last Saturday, the day before the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship on the money-spinning Champions Tour for the over-50s in America.
Well, 24 hours later came the news that the Hawaii event had been won by 56-year-old Bernhard Langer, who birdied five of the last six holes to pull away from Fred Couples and Jeff Sluman.
Langer, of course, is a German and Monocle could have added weight to their article had he been mentioned (which he wasn’t). In any event, in the second round, the former world No1 shot his second successive 64 for a fabulous 22-under-par total of 194 at Hualalai in this tournament for all the Champions Tours winners of last year.
“It’s a new year and my goal was to get over the hurdle and win as soon as possible,” said Langer, who has now posted 19 victories on the Champions Tour.
“I’m very pleased and extremely blessed to play golf like this. To be 22-under doesn’t happen very often.” Especially for a 56-year-old, I might add.
He now has 90 worldwide wins in the bag, 42 of these on the regular European Tour, two US Masters, a pair of Nedbank Golf Challenge victories (1985 and 1991) as well as the 2012 Nedbank Champions Challenge when he played pretty much as well as 27-year-old compatriot Martin Kaymer, who won the main event at Sun City that year.
Golf is said to be a game for gentlemen but many of today’s top professionals are anything but. Langer is an exception. He’s a wonderful, humble man. And like his country, he displays precision and efficiency on the golf course. And he’s a pacifist. But a hard man to beat? You bet. And ‘Soft Power’? The perfect example of it.