ORLANDO, Fla. – Two-time Masters champion Bernhard Langer had surgery on his left thumb and will miss the next two months, ending his streak of 27 consecutive appearances at Augusta National.
Langer sustained the fluke injury six months ago while riding his bike to the beach, and it never properly healed.
"Knowing that it wouldn't heal itself, I had to have surgery," Langer said Friday night after returning home from New York, where he had the ligaments in his thumb repaired. "It's not a good time for it, but you can't choose these things."
Langer, who has missed the cut the last five times at the Masters, won his first green jacket in 1985, and returned to Augusta Natioinal the following year as No. 1 in the world when the world ranking was first published. He won his second Masters in 1993.
He said he still plans to attend the Champions Dinner on Tuesday night and be at the Masters for other obligations. Even so, he was disappointed to miss the Masters for the first time since 1983, calling in one of the highlights of his year. Adding to his frustration is that a record three Germans were to play Augusta National this year — Langer, PGA champion Martin Kaymer and Alex Cejka.
Asked how he injured the thumb, Langer laughed and said, "Nothing sensational — you won't believe it."
He was riding to the beach in south Florida last fall when he came to an intersection and, with the bike still moving, reached out to push the button on the traffic signal.
"I felt a sharp pain pushing the button," Langer said. "I played three more tournaments with pain, then had six weeks off. I figured that I sprained it, and in six weeks it should be gone. But when I started again, it wasn't gone."
An MRI didn't immediately reveal ligament damage, and Langer taped up his thumb and won the Ace Group Classic for his 14th title on the Champions Tour. After getting another opinion, the ligament damage was revealed.
Langer had the surgery Wednesday in New York. He will be in a splint for five weeks, and a full recovery is expected after about eight weeks. That puts the 53-year-old Langer scheduled to return about the time of the Senior PGA Championship.
Langer won two majors last year, the U.S. Senior Open and the Senior British Open. He was the Champions Tour player of the year.
Along with missing the Masters, Langer was to defend his title April 15-17 at the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am, and he had planned to play with Tom Lehman in the Legends of Golf.
"I was told not to rush it," Langer said. "Everybody wants to come back real quick, and that's one of the worst things to do."