Those who don't learn from the past are condemned to repeat it, it's said. This evening, Curtis Strange relived the horrors of Billy Joe Patton in 1954. And because he did, he lost the Masters by two shots to Bernhard Langer of West Germany.

Golf's circumstances recur. The same challenges and crisis decisions are passed from one generation to another. Often in the same exact spots. That's what happened in the Amen Corner.

Strange came to the back nine this black-cloud day with a four-stroke lead. He seemed on the verge of making history as the only man to shoot 80 in the first round of a major championship then win it.

Instead, the Virginian repeated history.

In the long run, vast credit will go to Langer, whose second straight 68 gave him a six-under-par 282 total and his first victory in the United States.

What Europe already knows about the 27-year-old blond, America will soon learn. The reigning open champion of France, Spain, Holland and Ireland might weigh only 155 pounds, but he hits his drives 300 yards, has a marvelous short game and has finally beaten the putting yips that threatened to destroy his career.

However, this evening, as night and a cool mist settled over the Georgia pine woods, many here would be reminded again of how Bobby Jones built a golf course that is really a laboratory for the observation of human psychology.

Last year, Ben Crenshaw birdied the 12th hole at Augusta National for a two-shot Masters lead. After a perfect drive at the 465-yard 13th hole, Crenshaw took out a wood to try to reach the par-5 in two shots.

Before he swung, Crenshaw looked for his father in the gallery. Instead, he saw Billy Joe Patton. Crenshaw put the wood back in his bag.

"I figured somebody was trying to tell me something," Crenshaw said then. Patton, leading the 1954 Masters, gambled at both the 13th and 15th holes, went in the water twice and made a 7 and a 6. By one shot, he missed a playoff with Sam Snead and Ben Hogan, and Snead went on to win.

With the past as prologue, Crenshaw laid up safely at both the 13th and the 500-yard 15th, made a par and a birdie, and won by two shots.

This afternoon, it happened again.

Strange made a 20-foot birdie putt at the 12th hole for a two-shot lead over Langer. Strange also hit a perfect drive at the 13th.

Strange also pulled out a wood for his second shot. But he didn't know his history. So he didn't put it back.

Instead, he knocked his ball in Rae's Creek. When he tried to explode from the greenside muck therein, his ball trickled up the bank, then right back down to his feet and he took a bogey.

Again at the 15th, Strange was brave instead of wise. Faced with another 200-yard shot over water in a gusting breeze, he tried to hit a long-iron to the green. Again, he drowned and made bogey.

"I just don't understand that shot," he said later. "I flushed a four-iron. I'd hope like hell to hit it as good if I had it to do over . . . I'm thinkin' (birdie) four at worst. I really can't explain how it could come up so short. It wasn't even close."

If Strange had laid up twice and made two child's-play pars, he would have come to the 18th tee with a one-shot lead. Had he made just one birdie, as Crenshaw did, he'd have had a two-shot cushion. Instead, he came to the final hole one shot behind, had to gamble and made a bogey for a 32-39 -- 71 round that knocked him back into a three-way tie for second place with Seve Ballesteros and third-round leader Ray Floyd.

After winning his Masters, Crenshaw recounted every twist of the cautionary Patton tale and cited it as the key to his victory. Asked about Patton, Strange said, "1954 was the year before I was born. I don't remember it too well . . .

"It's not in anybody's blood to lay up there," said Strange, defending his heart-over-head decisions. "None of us are built that way . . . I had such short distances on both shots. They were not hard shots."

Half a century ago, Gene Sarazen made the Masters famous with his double eagle at the 15th hole. Strange's second shot there was dead on the flag, just like Sarazen's. But since Sarazen's day, a pond has been added.

Strange, 15 under par from the tournament's 19th through 63rd hole, continued the recent Masters tradition of losers who come off the course completely baffled about how they came to grief. "I shot three-over on the back and I didn't hit that many bad shots," said Strange, sounding exactly like Hubert Green, Ed Sneed, Craig Stadler and Tom Kite before him.

"It's a good question whether, some day, the satisfaction of coming back from the 80 will take precedence in my mind over . . . (pause) . . . throwin' up all over myself on the back nine."

For Langer, this day was "a dream come true . . . I just kept telling myself to concentrate, don't get excited. Some holes on the back nine I didn't even look at the leader board."

Langer's determination to play his game and ignore Strange may well have been what kept him from the same fate as Floyd (72) and Ballesteros (70). They may have felt pressed to match the early pace of Strange, who birdied Nos. 2, 4, 7 and 8 before three-putting 10.

The man from Anhausen, who is a little-known athlete in Germany, where golf is an obscure sport, started poorly with a bogey at No. 2 when he drove into the same fairway trap for the fourth straight day. Birdie putts of 14 and 18 feet at the third and fifth holes got Langer squared away, but it was a birdie deuce from 13 feet at the 12th that suddenly made him Strange's prime challenger.

That's when the 13th and 15th did their work. Langer played those two par-5s in nine under par this week; Strange was one over par on the course's two easiest holes.

Three years ago, when he first saw Augusta and missed the cut, Langer thought this would be the last layout where he'd ever win.

"Back then, 95 percent of my putting rounds were disastrous," said Langer, who now putts cross-handed inside 20 feet. "Nobody could help me. It took me four years to work it out for myself. Why was I getting so uptight and stiff? I knew I had it somewhere inside me to putt well. I just had to find it."

When Langer returned here last year, his putting miseries solved, he suddenly saw a course he might conquer. The same man who had 11 three-putt greens in two rounds in '82 had only one three-putt in 72 holes this year.

When Langer sank a 14-foot birdie at the treacherous 17th green for a two-stroke lead, he was completing his recovery from a golf disease previously thought to be incurable. That birdie allowed Langer to play the 18th cautiously, with an iron off the tee. That led to a bogey that hurt him not a bit.

Langer overcame another burden. On the European tour, Langer and two-time Masters champion Ballesteros have been the two kingpins throughout the '80s. Their relationship has been so chilly that their World Match Play duel last fall became known as The Match of Silence.

"I enjoyed playing with Seve Ballesteros today," said Langer, who gave the Spaniard a hard, steady stare when Ballesteros hugged him coming off the 18th green. "He is the one player in the world who can concentrate better than anyone else on a golf course. He doesn't care about anyone or anything else out there. I tried to learn that."

Now, Langer's only problem now is to convince his countrymen, who have only one public course, he has done something worth noticing. Germany has so little golf history that its most famous golfer before Langer was Tony Kugelmuller. Who?

If our golf history were so simple, Curtis Strange might know more about Billy Joe Patton.