This week’s BMW International Open might be making its inaugural stop at Cologne’s Golf Club Gut Lärchenhof, but the Jack Nicklaus layout has proven fertile hunting ground in the past for six of the 2012 field, led by Major Champions Retief Goosen and Michael Campbell, plus eight-time European Number One Colin Montgomerie.
Ever-popular Spaniard Sergio Garcia, German legend Bernhard Langer, and South Africa’s James Kingston have also all previously tasted victory at the 7,289-yard, par 72 course in the tournaments it hosted between 1998 and 2009 – the Mercedes-Benz Championship and the Linde German Masters – and all will be heading into this, the 24th staging of the championship with hopes of making it a career-double at the North Rhine-Westphalia based venue.
Kingston triumphed at the last European Tour event to be held at Gut Lärchenhof in 2009, holing a four foot putt for par on the first hole of a sudden-death play-off with Anders Hansen as the Dane failed to get up and down from a greenside bunker.
Two-time Major Champion Goosen survived a late scare on the final hole at Gut Lärchenhof to win the Linde German Masters in 2005 after finding the water from the tee, with a nervy bogey affording the former US Open Champion a narrow victory over a chasing pack of four players one shot back.
As far as sporting legends go in Germany, they don’t get much bigger – at least in golf – than Langer. 42 times a European Tour Champion, the Anhausen born man thrilled the delighted home crowds with a one shot victory, aged 44, in the 2001 German Masters event after firing a final round five under par 67 to triumph by one shot over American John Daly and Sweden’s Fredrik Jacobson.
The year previously New Zealand’s Michael Campbell, five years before his famous victory in the 2005 US Open Championship, collected his third victory of the 2000 season in unexpected circumstances at Gut Lärchenhof when the final round of the Linde German Masters was washed out due to torrential rain, but the title was much merited, however, after three rounds of 68, 64 and 65.
Close finishes have been a regular occurrence over the years at Gut Lärchenhof and 1999 provided one of the most memorable. Garcia, then just a teenager, produced two stunning putts in sudden death to claim his second European Tour title in his first six months as a professional when he won a dramatic play-off. After his win at the Irish Open in July of the same year, Garcia coolly sank putts of 25 feet and then 12 feet to win the play-off after he, Padraig Harrington and Ian Woosnam had finished on an 11 under par total of 277.
Montgomerie, victorious Ryder Cup Captain of 2010, claimed the first European Tour championship to be held at Gut Lärchenhof in 1998, narrowly closing out Vijay Singh and Robert Karlsson with a winning score of 22 under par.
If you are one that believes in the old mantra of ‘horses for courses’, the above sextet could prove ready to make a move in this year’s BMW International Open as they take to familiar surroundings with the fondest of memories.