Ageless one, Bernhard Langer, does it againAt 61, he still has the joy of winning and is showing no signs of slowing down
November 12, 2018
By Randy Youngman, Special to PGATOUR.COM
- November 12, 2018
Bernhard Langer's interview after winning Charles Schwab Cup
Bernhard Langer, the PGA TOUR Champions’ ageless wonder, is the modern-day version of Sam Snead.
Which is to say, age merely is a number – not a disadvantage.
With help from Vijay Singh, who torched Phoenix Country Club with a 10-under 61 in the final round to win the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship, 61-year-old Langer won his record fifth Charles Schwab Cup for capturing the season-long points race on PGA TOUR Champions.
Though Langer tied for 13th in the final Schwab Cup Playoffs event in Phoenix, he had built a big enough points lead to win the $1 million season bonus when Scott McCarron and his other nearest pursuers on the points list failed to win the tournament.
If you’re keeping score at home, Langer has now won four of the past five Schwab Cups, and it would have been five in a row if there hadn’t been a points re-set before the Charles Schwab Cup Championship a year ago.
Because Langer was so dominant in 2017 – seven wins, including three majors and two Playoffs titles, and 13 top-3 finishes – it didn’t seem fair to some that one-time winner Kevin Sutherland emerged as the season-long champion instead of Langer. That’s why the TOUR Policy Board changed the Playoffs format in 2018 to eliminate the points reset and instead award double points in each Playoffs event.
So perhaps it was poetic justice that Langer hoisted the gleaming silver Schwab Cup trophy again Sunday at Phoenix Country Club.
“It never gets old,” a smiling Langer said shortly after he and a smiling Singh exchanged mutual congratulations for their respective wins as the season came to another memorable close.
Langer never seems to get old, either.
Since turning 60 years old on Aug. 27 in 2017, Langer has won five PGA TOUR Champions titles, breaking the record of three post-60 wins held by fellow World Golf Hall of Famer Hale Irwin.
It’s also interesting that Langer has won 20 of his 38 career PGA TOUR Champions titles since turning 57, because historically 85 percent of PGA TOUR Champions winners have been between the ages of 50-55 since the inception of the 50-and-over Tour in 1980.
How does he explain that?
“You have way too many stats,” Langer said Sunday, smiling again. “I’m trying to be like red wine; it gets better with age.”
Whether he gets better every year is debatable, but Langer’s performance certainly isn’t dropping off.
Consider that he has now finished first or second on the Schwab Cup points list for seven consecutive seasons. He also won the money title ($2,222,154 in 24 events) again in 2018, for the 10th time in his 11 years on PGA TOUR Champions and likely will be voted Player of the Year by his TOUR colleagues for the eighth time. He also has led PGA TOUR Champions in scoring average every year since 2014.
In the past two years combined, he has won nine times, with 21 top-3 finishes and 30 top-10s in 45 events while winning $5.9 million in prize money. (That doesn’t include his $1.5 million in bonuses in 2017-18.)
If most players on TOUR are chronologically challenged after age 60, then he is chronologically gifted.
“I try not to put too much emphasis on the number of age, but I do feel older than 10 years ago,” Langer conceded during a one-on-one interview with PGATOUR.COM. “You feel it. You have more aches and pains. You’re not as flexible, not quite as strong – all of that. So you have to try to make up for it in other ways.”
“Course management, better technique,” he said. “You can make it up in the short game. You can be a better chipper, a better pitcher, a better bunker player. And certainly putting is the biggest key of all. If you can putt well, you can make up for a lot of mistakes.”
In a lot of ways, Langer’s late-career accomplishments are reminiscent of Sam Snead, the PGA TOUR’s all-time leading winner with 82 career titles, nearly 30 years earlier.
Snead didn’t have the opportunity to play on PGA TOUR Champions, so he had to distinguish himself on the PGA TOUR as he got older.
For example, Snead became the oldest player to win a PGA TOUR event when he captured the 1965 Greater Greensboro Open when he was 52 years, 10 months and 8 days old – a record that still stands. He is also the oldest to make a PGA TOUR cut (67 years, 2 months, 21 days in the 1979 Manufacturers Hanover Westchester Classic); the oldest to finish in the top 10 in a PGA TOUR event (63 years, 3 months, 4 days in the 1975 B.C. Open); the oldest to make a cut in a major (67 years, 2 months, 7 days in the 1979 PGA Championship); and the oldest to finish in the top 10 in a major (62 years, 2 months, 15 days in the 1974 PGA Championship, when he finished third behind Lee Trevino).
Snead also came close to winning the 1974 LA Open at Riviera when he was 61. He went into the final round tied for the lead and was one shot back on the 18th hole before Dave Stockton birdied to win.
“The ball doesn’t know how old you are,” said Snead, who shot a 78 at Greenbrier in 1997, when he was 85. He died four years later at 89.
Similarly, Langer continues to defy conventional wisdom about playing well after age 60.
Before he joined the exclusive Winners-at-60 Club, there had only been 23 PGA TOUR Champions events won by sexagenerians in 37 years since the PGA TOUR Champions began, including three by Irwin, two by Tom Watson, two by Jimmy Powell and two by Jay Haas. But now Langer has won five times in 15 months since turning 60 and just became the oldest to win the Charles Schwab Cup trophy.
How long can he keep it up? He has no idea.
“We’re just going to celebrate this one right now,” Langer said Sunday, shortly before being presented with his fifth Schwab Cup. “At age 61 to do it, it’s quite an achievement.”