By Tony Jimenez
AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - The performances of the golden oldies at this week's Masters have proved the 50-plus brigade can mix it with the young powerhouses of world golf, Bernhard Langer said after finishing in the top 10.
The 56-year-old German, who won the coveted green jacket in 1985 and 1993, squeezed six birdies and an eagle into his closing three-under-par 69 on Sunday to complete a final level-par score of 288 at Augusta National.
Langer said the veterans had sent out a statement after six 50-plus competitors made the cut at the opening major championship of the season.
Asked what kind of statement, he told reporters: "What do you think? I think everybody can figure that out.
"There are a lot of good over-50 players. We can compete at the highest level and even on a very, very long golf course like this one."
Langer also excelled at the Masters last year before fading away with a final-day 76 to wind up in a share of 25th position.
The former world number one launched his closing round in dramatic fashion on Sunday by birdying the first hole and eagling the second.
"It was a beautiful start," said Langer. "I hit a beautiful three-wood on two.
"I had to hook it 20, 25 yards, it landed nicely between the bunkers, rolled up and finished about four feet behind the hole.
It was nice to see the ball that close."
Langer explained his reasons for the resurgence of the 50-somethings.
"I think the guys stay in better shape and they know there's a great tour with the Champions Tour waiting for them," he said.
"In their late 40s they don't kind of quit and say I'm done.
They're maybe working harder at it knowing they're going to have five or 10 years, maybe more, on the Champions Tour.
"A lot of guys used to say I don't want to be on the Senior Tour so I'll just quit when I'm 40 or 45 or something like that.
It's all changed now," said Langer.
"The Champions Tour is where I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life playing golf. It's that much fun."
Langer acknowledged, however, the veterans have a major disadvantage against their younger rivals.
"I was hitting balls next to Rory McIlroy this morning and I hit a four-iron on to the green on the range and he was next to me and I saw his ball land right where my four-iron landed," he added.
"I said what club is that? He said six-iron so he's hitting two clubs less.
"Then he hits his drive probably 40 yards past me. He's got a 60-yard advantage on every hole. That's huge.
"He's hitting a nine-iron when I'm hitting six clubs more, a three-iron, into the green. It's hard to compete when that goes on."
(Editing by Ed Osmond)