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Bernhard Langer's legendary perspective on showcase at Charles Schwab Cup Championship

4 Min Read


    Written by Jim McCabe @PGATOUR

    Bernhard Langer dials in approach to set up birdie at Charles Schwab

    PHOENIX – If it appears as if Bernhard Langer is ambivalent about his opportunity to pull even with Hale Irwin for most wins in PGA TOUR Champions history (45), it might be owed to the fact that history-defying numbers are part of his legacy.


    51 – As in the number of years he has played professional golf.

    120 – The number of world-wide wins on his resume.

    42 – How many years ago that he recorded his first professional win. (And for further perspective, Steve Alker and Padraig Harrington, the only two players who can win this week’s Charles Schwab Cup for season-long excellence, were only 9 years old.)

    5 – As in how many days it’s been since he won for the 44th time on the PGA TOUR Champions.

    Compiling impressive numbers, you see, is part of who Langer is. So do not mistake his soft words about chasing down Irwin’s 45 victories as being nonchalance. When he insists that “I’m trying to play every day and every hole as good as I can and if it happens, it happens,” Langer is being what he’s been every day since turning pro in 1972.

    Methodical. Practical.

    If he doesn’t win this week at Phoenix Country Club and remains one behind, “We’ll try next year.”

    And seeing as how there’s been a half-century of “next years” for Langer, who can doubt that he’ll be right back at it in January at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship? That tournament will be contested again at Hualalai GC where he’s won three times, so it’s best to appreciate that

    Langer’s lack of urgency is owed to his sense of perspective.

    Take this week’s Charles Schwab Cup, for instance. The spotlight is solely on Alker, the leader, and Harrington, who is the only man who can catch him. In fourth place, Langer cannot win the season-long competition, but that doesn’t disrupt his rhythm.

    There’s the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship to play for and a possible 45th win. But mostly, there’s the professional demeanor that defines him.

    “It’s the love of the game and competing at the highest level with the best players my age,” said Langer, when asked what keeps him going. And, no, it doesn’t get old. “Very seldom. No, it doesn’t.”

    Walking the walk is a Langer specialty, of course, so to the surprise of no one, the wonderous one opened the Charles Schwab Cup Championship with a splendid 5-under 66. That’s one behind a trio of co-leaders – John

    Huston, Stephen Ames, and Alker – but the fact that Harrington also posted 66 brought a little more clarity to the Charles Schwab Cup picture.

    It is quite favorable for Alker – and that was the assessment of the esteemed Harrington.

    “Steven played very nicely today, very steady,” said Harrington, who was paired with Alker in the last group. Each made six birdies; what separated them was the lone bogey, which belonged to Harrington.

    So, score-wise, they’re tight, but to win the season-long title, Harrington must win and have Alker finish out of the top five. “(But) it would be hard to see him not finishing in the top five,” said Harrington.

    Which isn’t to say that the perpetually upbeat Irishman is packing his bags. Far from it. “I’m in good place in the tournament,” said Harrington, “(but) I’m in a bad place in the Schwab Cup. That’s the way it is.”

    Harrington did nothing to ruin his chances, not even accounting for the birdie try from inside of 3 feet that he missed at the par-4 16th. He felt he should have made it and was a bit stunned that he didn’t. “But we don’t play gimmies out here,” he smiled.

    Given the stretch of consistency in Alker’s brief, but meteoric PGA TOUR Champions career – in 32 starts he has five wins, five seconds, five thirds, and 26 top 10s which is the definition of consistency, friends – the only “gimmie” seems to be brilliant play by this quiet and unheralded New Zealander.

    But as even as his loyal family and friends walked around with “Team Alker” shirts and jackets and cheered his every move, the 51-year-old who concedes that the latter part of his pro golf career was spent “just trying to survive” went about his duties with a determined focus.

    No worries, he said, when asked if it feels uncomfortable to be out there being chased by everyone in the field.

    “I’ve been hunted since May,” he laughed. “So, there’s no problem. It felt fine. It was like, you know, just another week.”

    Which is great news for Team Alker, because almost every week on the PGA TOUR Champions has translated into success for their guy, whose story grows with every sub-par round.

    “I always said we were going to have success out here,” said Alker’s caddie, Sam Workman. “But this has been even more amazing than I dreamed of.”

    Jim McCabe has covered golf since 1995, writing for The Boston Globe, Golfweek Magazine, and PGATOUR.COM. Follow Jim McCabe on Twitter.