PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS INSIDER
Part II: The Langer Effect
Langer's sustained success has raised the overall level of play on PGA TOUR Champions
February 28, 2017
By Vartan Kupelian, PGATOUR.COM
- Bernhard Langer won his third consecutive Schwab Cup in 2016 and his fourth overall. (Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
Editor's note: This is the second installment of a two-part series on the 2017 PGA TOUR Champions season. Last week: All Things Point to a Special Year.
With Bernhard Langer on his way to an unprecedented third straight Charles Schwab Cup last season, Bart Bryant put the accomplishment in perspective.
“He’s our Tiger Woods,” Bryant said. “When Tiger was good.”
The sentiment says more than just how good Langer, with 30 career victories on the PGA TOUR Champions, has been.
Just as Woods redefined the game and the expectations that go with it, Langer is setting new standards for the PGA TOUR Champions at practically every turn. He is the hallmark for outstanding golf, fitness, dedication and competitiveness.
Langer, at 59, shows no signs of slowing down and that’s a wake-up call for those in pursuit.
The PGA TOUR Champions is nothing if it isn’t highly competitive. First and foremost, it’s about winning, and nobody does that better than Langer. And to win requires preparation, a work ethic and skill.
Olin Browne is a major champion. He won the U.S. Senior Open in 2011. But when 2016 ended, he was looking for something more out of his golf game.
“We wanted to work on some things and I want to try and get a little bit more consistent,” Browne said. “I look at my statistics from last year and really my only great stat is my putting.
“I want to improve my bunker game, I want to improve my driving accuracy, I want to improve my greens in regulation. There's plenty of room for improvement in this game all the time and we've got a guy out here that is kind of like the standard for all of that. We see him play every day, all the time. His bad days are 4- and 5-under. Bernhard is just that good. So it's a target, right? It's something to aim for.”
The message resonates throughout the PGA TOUR Champions. Everybody knows Langer’s goal is to continue to improve and few doubt that he has the desire and energy to do so.
Kenny Perry, a three-time senior major winner, was faced with a decision as the 2017 season neared: Rededicate himself to play better and be more competitive or pack it in.
Perry went to work like he hasn’t in several years and the results have been immediate. He finished a shot behind Scott McCarron at the Allianz Championship, his best finish since a victory at the 3M Championship in 2015.
For most of four seasons, Perry was the man challenging Langer for PGA TOUR Champions honors. But as Perry slumped, Langer soared. Perry knew what he had to do.
“The golf skills out here are still very good,” said rookie David Toms. “I played with Hale Irwin (at Allianz Championship) and he shot under-par. He was grinding the whole way. Not that that surprised me, but it reaffirmed the thing that I know that everybody's going to be competitive out here and it's going to take good golf to have the type of finishes that I want to have.
“Somebody's shooting a low score every day, but maybe I'm a little surprised by that as low as some of the scores have been. Guys are still very capable, even guys that are late 50s, early 60s.”
John Daly continues to struggle in his sophomore year. With his TOUR-leading length off the tee, he was considered a sure-bet to win on the PGA TOUR Champions. It hasn’t happened.
“This is harder to win out here than any other tour,” Daly said. “These guys, their wedge game and their putters, are just as good as anybody else's. And that's what this game is out here on the PGA TOUR Champions, it's all about the wedges and the putter.
“You've got to shoot 6-, 7-under a round each day to even come close to winning.”
Jose Maria Olazabal, a longtime friend and competitor, isn’t surprised the kind of impact Langer continues to have.
“It is very remarkable,” Olazabal said. “I've known Bernhard from my very early days, since in '86 that I went on tour, European Tour. I saw Bernhard actually overcome two situations with the yips and that makes it even more remarkable, to be honest.
“And he looks like the years don't go by because he's still in great shape. He has a great working ethic and the things he has done through these years and when he was at his prime but even now he's just really something. We have to take our hats off to him in that regard.”
Langer isn’t about to relinquish his dominance if he can help it. He continues to set goals.
“Well, I haven't won the Senior PGA Championship, for instance,” said Langer, 59, who has won seven senior majors. “My goal is to improve. That's my goal. If I can improve my swing, my technique, my way of thinking, whatever it may be, my putting stroke.
“If I can improve half a stroke a day, that would be two strokes a week or one-and-a-half. That would be phenomenal. My scoring average would go down that much and I would win six tournaments a year, maybe seven or eight. So my goal is to improve and I strongly feel I can."
Only Jack Nicklaus, with eight, has won more senior majors than Langer.
“My body is going to deteriorate some,” Langer said. “It already has, I'm aware of that. But I can make up with better technique, better thinking, better strategy, knowing the venues we play and maybe a better putting stroke as well, whatever it takes. There's a lot of parts to the game that I have not perfected. I'm fairly good at it and nobody will ever perfect it, but I think Bernhard Langer can still get better in certain areas.”
Langer has a target on his back every time he tees it up these days. And that’s another source of motivation.
Bernhard Langer news conference after winning the Charles Schwab Cup