PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS INSIDER
Langer's greatness on par with all-time best players
December 07, 2016
By Vartan Kupelian, PGATOUR.COM
- Bernhard Langer claimed yet another Schwab Cup in 2016 and is looking for more. (Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)
A year ago during the holiday season, Bernhard Langer was contemplating method. Twelve months later, it is no longer about process. It is about the big picture.
Langer has carved another magnificent PGA TOUR Champions season into the substantial list of personal accomplishments. Along the way, he added a few more chapters to the archives.
Last winter was about finding a solution to the impending ban on anchored putting. That he went out and won four tournaments in 2016, including a third straight Charles Schwab Cup, speaks volumes about how successfully he navigated those waters.
This winter will be less stressful in that regard. It will allow him to reflect upon and celebrate a banner season. It will be about rest, relaxation and recovery from the grinds of a long campaign.
“I’m going to enjoy the offseason, get healthy,” Langer said after winning the Charles Schwab Cup. “I was hoping to go skiing but now with the knee, probably not.”
Langer’s next tournament appearance will be the PNC Father Son Challenge in December at The Ritz Carlton Golf Club in Orlando. The event will bring together the three leaders in career victories on the PGA TOUR Champions – Hale Irwin (45), Lee Trevino (29) and Langer (29) – competing alongside offspring.
Here is a glimpse at the PGA TOUR Champions careers of its three finest players. Now that Langer has completed his 10th season, there are similarities in their achievements over their first decade on the PGA TOUR Champions:
A three-time U.S. Open winner, Irwin joined the PGA TOUR Champions in 1995. He is the career leader with 45 victories, the final triumph coming at age 61 at the season-opening event in Hawaii in 2007. Irwin amassed his victory total in 273 starts.
He continued to play full seasons from 2008 to 2014, never appearing in fewer than 19 events during that span. He has dialed back his tournament play since 2014 and made only eight appearances in 2016.
Irwin, who bettered his age 16 times on the PGA TOUR Champions, has seven majors to his credit, including the Senior PGA Championship four times. Only Jack Nicklaus, with eight, has won more majors. Langer also has seven.
In 1997, his second full season on PGA TOUR Champions, Irwin won nearly 40 percent of his starts, 9 of 23 events. In his career, he was runner-up three times. He has 43 second-place finishes.
Trevino’s 29 victories came in a 10-year span, from 1990-2000. He posted his final victory, at age 60, at the 2000 Cadillac NFL Golf Classic. He finished runner-up 33 times and won four PGA TOUR Champions majors, including the Senior PGA Championship twice.
Trevino won six majors on the PGA TOUR, winning the U.S. Open, the Senior Open Championship and the PGA Championship twice each. That’s a total of 10 combined majors, the same as Irwin.
Trevino’s 29 victories came in his first 292 PGA TOUR Champions starts. After playing 17 events in 2001 and 2002, he cut back his schedule and appeared in only 69 more events through 2011.
Langer has played in 187 events, with four victories coming in 2016. He celebrated his 59th birthday in August. Langer has 25 runner-up finishes. A two-time Masters winner, he has a combined nine majors to his credit.
He is renowned for his dedication and discipline, best illustrated by his ability to overcome the putting yips on several occasions during his career. Langer has had two five-win seasons, in 2010 and 2014.
By comparison, the next winningest golfer on the PGA TOUR Champions during Langer’s era is Jay Haas with 12 wins. Only two others, Fred Couples (11) and John Cook (10), are in double figures.
Since his debut in 2007, Langer has been in the top five at the conclusion of any tournament round 257 times, a triple-digit lead over Haas who is next with 156. Langer has won the money title eight times in nine years.
Langer’s winning percentage on the PGA TOUR Champions is 15.5 percent. He has been in the top five 48.6 percent of the time and has a 71 percent ranking in top 10s.
Langer’s offseason plans will depend largely on his recovery from a left knee injury he suffered at the start of the Charles Schwab Cup playoffs.
Langer has often said that one of the keys to longevity is staying healthy. It is a focal point of his preparations and when there has been an injury, he has been able to overcome. The injury he suffered to his left knee at the start of the playoffs was painful but, typically, Langer put mind before matter and got it done.
“My youngest son is playing a golf tournament December 19-22,” he said. “That's usually when we go skiing, the week before Christmas, it's not so crowded. That's not going to happen. I have to get my knee healthy and then maybe ski in March if I feel like I should. Just have some family time, enjoy Thanksgiving, play the PNC Father-Son tournament with my daughter. That's a great week of just having family and friends around.”
During his break from competition, Langer will explore the possibility of putting new clubs into play.
“Maybe find some different clubs,” Langer said. “Some of my clubs are 15 years old. Actually, 16 years old, three of them, and the other ones are six or seven years old. It's time to find some new equipment.
“I found a (Titleist) driver (at the Schwab Cup). First time ever in five years that I put a new driver in the bag and I was very pleased with it. There's still hope to find maybe better equipment and probably play even better golf the next few years.”
For Langer, that’s always the objective. Get better, play better.
“I'm always looking for ways to improve my swing, to improve my short game,” he said. “I sometimes throw this idea out: If I can improve my score by half-a-stroke a day, that's two strokes a week, or a stroke and a half a week, that would be unbelievable the results that would come out of that. Yet half-a-stroke a day is nothing when you think about it.”
Langer closed with a 64 at Desert Mountain.
“I could have shot 60 easily,” he said. “Seriously, there were four shots out there that I could have easily been better. I know there's still a margin in there. It's not a joke when I say I still think I can get better. I know I can. I know I can hit more fairways, I can hit more greens and I can make more putts or get it up and down more often. It's just a matter of believing and having the right technique and the mindset of doing it.”
Even at 59.
“Confidence always gives you an advantage,” Langer said. “Confidence is a great deal in golf. Success breeds confidence, confidence breeds success. It's a cycle. And the same the other way. When you're not doing well, then you lose confidence and then you're not doing well. It's just a vicious cycle, negatively or positively.”
In Langer’s case, it’s been decidedly positive for a decade on PGA TOUR Champions.
Bernhard Langer's dramatic putt on the 72nd hole at Charles Schwab Cup