PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS INSIDER
Bernhard Langer, 64, back atop of Schwab Cup standings
September 02, 2021
By Bob McClellan, PGATOUR.COM
- September 02, 2021
- Bernhard Langer continues to be the golfer to chase regardless of age. (Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)
The first time I wrote about Bernhard Langer was Nov. 3, 2016. I called him Benjamin Button then. I have no idea what to do with him at this point.
The man is 64 now. He turned 64 on Aug. 27, the day of the first round of the PGA TOUR Champions Ally Challenge. How did he celebrate? By shooting his age for the first time.
Of course he did. Such a Langer thing to do.
"That was really exciting and a goal of mine for a couple of years now," Langer said. "I got close when I was 62 and 63. Now I did it on a par-72 course in competition. I didn't want to do it on a par 70 or 71. That obviously would have been easier."
That's one reason Langer is back in the place that seems to be his birthright -- atop the Schwab Cup standings -- his competitive fire. There is zero quit in that flame. He has 19 top-10 finishes in the 2020-21 wraparound super season and 27 top 25s. That's in 31 events. While other players might take their foot off the pedal after a second-round 73, Langer grinds, goes three or four lower on Sunday and climbs the money list. He has only one win this season -- the 2020 Cologuard Classic -- but he now has made more money than all nine guys who have multiple victories this season.
He finished second by a stroke at the Ally, one shot behind Joe Durant. It was his third runner-up of the long season.
“He never ceases to amaze me,” said Champions Tour veteran Scott Parel, who ranks 11th in the Schwab Cup standings. “I was talking with Kevin Sutherland about him this week when we were playing together Saturday, and we both said his ability to stay motivated to get better every year and compete at the highest level is mind-boggling. I'm not sure they'll be ever be another Champions Tour player like him again.”
It certainly seems unlikely.
"I still love to compete," Langer said. "There are a lot of great players on this tour -- Jim Furyk, Ernie Els, Jerry Kelly, on and on and on. They all hit it farther than I do so I have to make up for it somewhere else.”
Langer is exaggerating. He might not hit it as far as he used to, but they don’t all hit it farther than the German legend. He ranks 39th in driving distance and is fifth in driving accuracy. Moreover, he’s fourth in greens in regulation and second in putting average. Plenty of the big hitters would be happy to hit a few more fairways and greens and then sink the putts with the frequency of Langer.
"Are there anymore adjectives left to describe this guy?" Steve Flesch said. "Fantastic, ageless, unbelievable, impressive, remarkable, unparalleled. The list goes on.
"I'm using him as my inspiration to try and play as long as he has. Yes, he's kept himself in great shape, continues to work a hard as ever, and plays great. But what I notice more than anything about Bernhard is that he just loves the game and loves to compete. That's what drives him. It's so refreshing."
Had he won the Ally, Langer would have become the oldest player to win on the Champions Tour. And obviously if he wins the Schwab Cup he’ll become the oldest to accomplish that. Langer already has won five Schwab Cups; no one else has won more than two.
“That would mean a lot to win the cup at 64,” Langer said. “And, I mean I would have won the Cup last year but we did a two-year-in-one season so last year there was no Cup.
“It’s been pretty special to win it, and it would mean a great deal.”
Since the first time I wrote about Langer and suggested, even lightly, that Father Time is undefeated in match play, he has won 12 more times. It’s no secret he’d like to track down Hale Irwin’s career wins record (45); Langer is at 41.
He admits 64 doesn’t feel quite as spry as 63. He said he’ll have a balky knee that has given him problems for “a couple of years” cleaned up in November after the Charles Schwab Cup Championship. He says he “probably doesn’t have quite the energy I used to have. There are more aches and pains than ever before.”
There’s supposed to be when a man is in his mid-60s. But Langer doesn’t show many chinks in his armor. He remains in impeccable shape, and his mental game remains stronger than most of his compatriots.
He even has shown a lighter side the past couple of years. Langer is on Twitter, and he’s pretty active. He smiles more on the course; he says he always has had fun off it.
“I’m somewhat serious on the course because I’m concentrating, but I like to … I have a great sense of humor and I like to have fun,” Langer said. “People who are close to me know that side. The fans only see me on the golf course. But I’m trying to enjoy it and show my friendships with players and caddies and referees and spectators in general. I realize how blessed I am and have been. I also realize it’s not gonna last forever.”
Only a fool would say this is Langer’s last best chance to win the Schwab Cup.
“I try not to think about that,” he said. “But I’m a realist. This could be my last chance, you never know. As I said, the competition gets tougher and it gets harder all the time.”