If history is to be believed, week belongs to Langer

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Bernhard Langer won the Charles Schwab Cup Championship in 2010 at TPC Harding Park.
October 31, 2012
Vartan Kupelian, PGATOUR.COM Contributor

The history of the Charles Schwab Cup, now in its 12th year, offers a remarkable bit of symmetry.

Bernhard Langer is poised to see that it continues.

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Hale Irwin won the Charles Schwab Cup and the $1 million season bonus for excellence in 2002 and 2004. Tom Watson, the 2003 winner, repeated in 2005.

Jay Haas won the first of his two Charles Schwab Cup titles in 2006. Loren Roberts won in 2007. But, just as Irwin and Watson had before him, Haas repeated in 2008, two years after his first victory.

Care to do the math and figure out who won in 2009 -- two years after his first crown?

Of course, that would be Roberts.

Langer won his first Charles Schwab Cup two years ago before relinquishing the title last year to Tom Lehman. Now, Langer is on the verge of winning it again, and continuing the cycle.

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Langer begins this week's Charles Schwab Cup Championship, the limited 30-man tournament that will bring down the curtain on the 2012 Champions Tour season, as the leader in the points race. He has 2,413 points and a lead of 211 points over Tom Lehman. The only other player with a chance to overtake Langer is two-time major champion Roger Chapman, who is a distant 657 points behind the leader.

Langer's pursuit for a second Charles Schwab Cup victory is sustained by the unrelenting season he has put together. He has won only twice but he has performed with the kind of consistency that simply isn't often seen on golf's tournament stages. Week in and week out, he has been in contention. He added to his lead with a runner-up finish last week at the AT&T Championship.

"Obviously, every little bit helps or could help," he said. "It all depends on the scenario. There are a lot of scenarios."

But it remains that Langer is firmly in control of all those that matter. And he's playing beautifully. He called his performance at the AT&T Championship "Some of the best golf I've played all year.

Langer is attempting to become the fifth two-time winner of the Charles Schwab Cup. Here is a look back at how the four golfers to achieve the feat before him won their second $1 million bonus.

Hale Irwin, 2004 Irwin's Charles Schwab Cup victory in 2004 came despite some serious physical issues. He had to deal with a tender lower back and assorted neck and shoulder pain late in the season. At the time, he was unsure that he could even continue playing at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship but managed to finish T7 and hold off Craig Stadler by 39 points. Irwin led the Schwab Cup race for 11 weeks during the summer, relinquished the lead for four weeks and finally won it all.

After a solid 66-69 start at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, Irwin, a former college football player, needed therapy to continue.

" I just felt so fortunate really to play," he said after finishing with rounds of 74-75. "I mean, I really did not think for one moment that I was going to get in the day, to be perfectly honest with you. I just didn't think it would hold up.

"I played football hurt. That's a different kind of situation. You kind of expect that, but I've never played golf this uncomfortable before."

Mark McNulty won the Charles Schwab Cup Championship by one shot over Tom Kite.

Tom Watson, 2005 Tom Watson won the season-ending tournament for the third time on his way to a second Charles Schwab Cup in two years. He rallied from six shots behind to defeat Jay Haas. Watson closed with an 8-under 64 at Sonama, one shot better than Haas.

Watson's round featured 10 birdies and he finished the championship with a 16-under 272 total.

"I didn't expect to win the tournament," Watson said. "I felt that Jay was. I told Meg, my daughter, that he's probably going to run away with it, with a six-shot lead like he had."

After a mediocre warmup on the range, he got off to a solid start with a long birdie putt at the second hole.

"Then I really striped it on 4, 5, and 6 and I said, 'Well, wait a minute. Today it's starting to feel pretty good,'" Watson said.

"As far as the yearlong Charles Schwab event was concerned, I didn't know my position. I knew I was fifth coming in but I didn't really think I had a chance with Dana (Quigley) right in there, with the point system, even though we were triple points today. I'm glad I was wrong."

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Jay Haas, 2008 It was a strange week in Sonoma Country Club. The race for the Charles Schwab Cup was wide open but nobody grabbed a hold of the situation. Nobody with a chance to win the bonus finished in the top 13 at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.

That left it to Haas to walk away with the top prize by the narrowest margin in Charles Schwab Cup history -- a mere 12 points.

Andy Bean posted a massive nine-stroke victory over Gene Jones at the rain-interrupted event. Haas closed with an even par 72 for a 4-under 284 total and a tie for 16th. Of the five players with a chance to win the Cup, rookie John Cook was low in 13th place on a 282 total. Bernhard Langer shot 285, Eduardo Romero 287 and Fred Funk 288. Funk, the overall point leader two weeks earlier, tied for 25th in Sonoma and finished runner-up to Haas.

"I was real fortunate that nobody behind me did what he had to do,'' Haas said. "I didn't do what I had to do, but they didn't either."

Loren Roberts, 2009 Only four players had a mathematical chance to win the Charles Schwab Cup. Loren Roberts was the points leader, followed by Fred Funk, Bernhard Langer and Jay Haas.

Roberts held a 165-point lead over Funk, with Langer 348 points behind the leader. Haas, looking for a third Charles Schwab Cup and second straight, was a distant 602 points back.

Describing his play over the final 36 holes "as good as I can play," Roberts closed with a pair of 66s to overtake Langer, the Money Leader. Roberts had opened with rounds of 70-73.

"All I can say really about the week is, for me, there were two tournaments," Roberts said. "I played two totally different golf tournaments in one week. The first two days I really didn't hit it very good and I really didn't putt well. I'm 1-under par for two days and just basically out of it.

"I just started a whole other tournament on Saturday. Put a lot practice time in Friday afternoon. I went out there and just kind of beat myself up on the range a little bit and just really tried to focus in on what I need to do just to change my rhythm and find a little swing, something that worked. I found a little something probably in the last 30 balls that I hit out there late Friday night."

Champions Tour Insider Vartan Kupelian is a freelance contributor for PGATOUR.COM. His views do not necessarily represent the views of the PGA TOUR. He can be reached at golfstix@aol.com.

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