Getty Images Bernhard Langer

At the 1991 Ryder Cup, Europe had a chance to stick it to the United States. After 13 straight American titles from 1959-1983, Europe won in 1985, 1987 and 1989. All the Europeans needed at Kiawah Island was a six-foot putt on the 18th hole from its German star and the continent would retain the Ryder Cup for a fourth straight time, second consecutive on American soil.

But Bernhard Langer missed. He halved his match with Hale Irwin and sent the South Carolina crowd into a frenzy.

Now, 25 years later, Langer, is at the center of a controversy involving the president of the United States. In a New York Times story published Wednesday, reporter Glenn Thrush explained that one reason for Donald Trump's claim at voter fraud in the presidential election -- a charge that the Times has documented as a lie -- stems from a tale told by Langer. Or, at least Trump thinks it was told by Langer.

In case you missed it, here's the weird golf-politics crossover:

"Mr. Trump said he was told a story by 'the very famous golfer, Bernhard Langer,' whom he described as a friend, according to three staff members who were in the room for the meeting…

"…The three witnesses recalled Mr. Langer being the protagonist of the story, although a White House official claimed the president had been telling a story relayed to the golfer by one of Mr. Langer’s friends.

"The witnesses described the story this way: Mr. Langer, a 59-year-old native of Bavaria, Germany -- a winner of the Masters twice and of more than 100 events on major professional golf tours around the world -- was standing in line at a polling place near his home in Florida on Election Day, the president explained, when an official informed Mr. Langer he would not be able to vote.

"Ahead of and behind Mr. Langer were voters who did not look as if they should be allowed to vote, Mr. Trump said, according to the staff members -- but they were nonetheless permitted to cast provisional ballots. The president threw out the names of Latin American countries that the voters might have come from.

"Mr. Langer, whom he described as a supporter, left feeling frustrated, according to a version of events later contradicted by a White House official."

According to the Times, Langer lives in Boca Raton, Florida, a short drive from Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence, but he is not an American citizen. Langer is a German citizen with permanent residence in the United States, and he cannot vote. Langer's daughter, Christina, added, "He is not a friend of President Trump's and I don't know why he would talk about him."

A White House staffer told Thrush that Langer and Trump caught up in Florida during Thanksgiving break, and the story was about one of Langer's friends.

OK, so what do you need to know about Langer? Assuming you are a novice golf fan, here are the bullet points:

-- He's won the Masters twice. The Masters, played in Augusta, Georgia, every April, is one of golf's four major championships. Langer won in 1985 and 1993, becoming the third European to do it twice. As a past champion, Langer can play in the tournament until the day he dies, so he will be back out there this April, golfing with competitors half his age.

-- He was the first No. 1 player in the world. When the Official World Golf Rankings were introduced in 1986, Langer had accumulated the most points and was the inaugural No. 1 player. His run was short-lived, as Spaniard Seve Ballesteros passed him after three weeks. Langer never claimed the title again. For reference, Tiger Woods has accumulated the most time at World No. 1: 683 weeks.

-- Langer is a Hall of Fame golfer. Outside of major championships, Langer spent most of his career in Europe. He won 42 times on the European Tour, but only one win on the PGA Tour aside from his two Masters championships). He has 19 top ten finishes at majors, including an eighth-place (tied) finish as recently as 2014. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2002.

-- He's competed against the United States in international events. Langer represented Europe in ten Ryder Cups as a player and one as a captain. He won or retained the cup seven of those 11 times.

-- He's still really good. In 2011, after turning 50, Langer joined the PGA Tour Champions. He has won 30 times on the PGA Tour Champions, good for second most all time (behind Irwin's 45 wins). His seven PGA Tour Champions major are tied with Irwin for second, behind Jack Nicklaus' eight. Langer has been the PGA Tour Champions money leader for eight of the last night years, accumulating at least $2 million each of those seasons.

Away from golf, here is what you need to know about Langer's life:

-- He married his American wife, Vikki, in 1984. They have four children, including Christina. Like many American northerners who move south as they age, apparently European golfers enjoy a semi-retirement move to Florida. Swede Jesper Parnevik recently popped back up in Florida after playing golf with Tiger Woods.

-- Langer is a legend in Europe. Some Americans might be hearing his name for the first time in this Trump flap, but Langer is royalty in Europe. In his homeland, he has received the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. For his contribution to golf, he has also been appointed an honorary Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE).

What does this all mean?

First, it should be noted that Trump considers himself a friend of many golfers. He owns more than a dozen high-quality golf courses around the world, including three in South Florida. Trump National Doral Miami hosted the Doral Open until 2006 and the WGC-Cadillac Championship from 2007-2016. Trump played golf with Tiger Woods earlier this month. Through his connections in the golf world, Trump has clearly come into contact with many pro golfers. Whether he is actually friends with them is another question.

Langer is a major public figure in the world. Any golf fan from the 1980s to the 2000s knows Langer. He has been in the spotlight since he was in his 20s. For four decades, he has carried a rather clean image. Depending on one's interpretation of Trump's story, his public perception may have changed forever Wednesday.

It also cannot be ignored that Langer is German. Barack Obama spent his presidency building a close relationship with Angela Merkel, but Trump has been critical of the German chancellor since his campaign. As recently as Jan. 16, Trump accused Merkel of making a "catastrophic mistake" by allowing Germany's borders to open for refugees from war zones in the Middle East. Now, Trump is using a story (allegedly) told by a German as an example for voter fraud, in terms of illegal immigrants.

Langer issued a statement Thursday morning with this alternative story:


Somehow, Langer appears to be blaming the media for this miscommunication. But based on what The New York Times reported, with help from Christina Langer, Trump was the one who miscommunicated.

At some point, Langer is going to play in a golf tournament again and he is going to be asked about this. Somehow, a German golfer, nearing 60, is in the middle of a critical moment in American voting history.

For once in his career, Bernhard Langer has found his ball well off the fairway.

-- Follow Jeff Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband. Like Jeff Eisenband on Facebook.

Story continues below