Langer, Cook worthy victors on a hard Sunday at Harding

Chris Condon/PGA TOUR
Like Schwab Cup Championship winner John Cook, Bernhard Langer shot 67 in Sunday's trying conditions.
November 07, 2010
Art Spander, Special to PGATOUR.COM

SAN FRANCISCO -- An unbelievable year. Bernhard Langer said that. About Bernhard Langer's year, and the observation is undeniable. Also, considering everything, understated.


That year, this year, was embellished by Langer becoming Charles Schwab Cup Champion, virtually the only thing in his three years on the Champions Tour which Langer had not won. Until Sunday.

That year included five victories in tournaments, two of those in majors, the Senior British Open and the following week, the U.S Senior Open.

That year included a third-place tie in the Charles Schwab Cup Championship at TPC Harding Park, won for a second straight time by John Cook who, making only two bogeys in 72 holes, had a fantastic 17-under-par 64-69-67-67--267.

That was two shots better than home boy Michael Allen, who after his course-record 10-under 61 on Saturday had a 70 for 269. Langer (67) and David Frost (65) were at 272.

"I've achieved a lot of my goals,'' Langer agreed. "I won the two majors. Won the Charles Schwab cup. Won the money list again. Might end up Player of the Year again (for a third consecutive time).

"It's hard to do that year after year.''

Maybe not playing the way 53-year-old Bernhard Langer plays. And has played, since as a young man from Germany he joined the European Tour. He won the Masters twice. He won more than 60 events around the world -- before he reached age 50 and joined the Champions Tour, where he has 13 victories.

It was a tough day Sunday, a classic Bay Area late fall day, with rain, sunshine and chill winds. Harding, already wet enough as golfers were allowed to lift, clean and place balls on the fairway starting with round one, turned into a soggy beast. Play was delayed roughly an hour and tee times were split between one and 10.

"You put the umbrella away and you took off the jacket,'' Langer said about conditions, "and two minutes later you had to grab it and put it back on again.

"The ball didn't go as far ... on 12, the long (480-yard) par-4, they moved up the tee up like 20 yards, and I still had a 3-iron. (Saturday), was a driver and 4-iron, but the tee was 20-25 yards farther back.''

The Charles Schwab Cup, held the previous seven years at Sonoma, some 60 miles north, always has been a tournament in a tournament, the end-of-the year event which gives both a winner, Cook, and the final points champion.

Langer on the Charles Schwab Cup

Bernhard Langer discusses claiming the Charles Schwab Cup and looks ahead to 2011.

Langer was all but a lock in the second category. To fail he would have needed to finish this event lower than a tie for fourth if the man chasing him, Fred Couples, was to win. Couples could only come in 10th, at 274, but that was good for a $500,000 annuity.

The real battle was for the $440,000 tournament prize. Cook, who had not won all year, despite nine top 10 finishes his previous 14 tournaments, and Allen, who had never won on the Champions or PGA TOUR -- he still plays both -- began Sunday a shot apart.

Allen, 51, grew up in San Mateo, maybe 10 miles south of Harding, and the majority of the hardy spectators who braved the inclement weather, some of them fellow members of the Olympic Club, supported him.

"But they were fine,'' said Cook, 53, who grew up in Southern California but now lives in Florida. "I kept saying, just because it's not a home game for me, doesn't mean you can't win.''

Not at all. And on the fourth hole when Allen hit his tee shot into one of hundreds of cypress, eucalyptus and fir trees lining the Harding Park fairways, Cook took the lead.

Allen said he was not at his best. "It was one of those days,'' was his comment, something any golfer would understand.

The exclamation point came at 18 when, two shots behind, and with a 12-footer for a birdie, Allen watched in disbelief as Cook holed a 15-footer to save par and win.

"It was a little frustrating,'' Allen conceded. He will be on a plane Monday for Orlando to compete in the Children's Miracle Network Classic in an attempt to retain his status on the PGA TOUR, where he is 124th in money winnings.

Cook knows frustration. He also knows autumn success. Each of his five wins on the Champions Tour has been in October or November.

"This year I had a lot of top 5s and top 3s,'' said Cook. "And when you have top 3s, it means you've had chances to win. If I had gone through this year without a win, it would have been disappointing to say the least.''

As a teen Cook has been mentored in the California desert by the great Ken Venturi, the 1964 U.S. Open champion, a native of San Francisco who learned the game playing at Harding.

"It was instilled in me young about finishing,'' said Cook. "You have to understand how to finish.''

John Cook finished the tournament quite well. Bernhard Langer finished the year even better, as Charles Schwab Cup Champion.