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Fellow pros paint portrait of Bernhard Langer beyond the ropes

12 Min Read


Fellow pros paint portrait of Bernhard Langer beyond the ropes

All about the all-time winningest PGA TOUR Champions pro, as told by his peers

    Written by Kevin Prise @PGATOURKevin

    They say Father Time is undefeated.

    Bernhard Langer, at the very least, has played him to a tie.

    Langer, 65, has become the all-time winningest player on PGA TOUR Champions, with his 46th career title – the 2023 U.S. Senior Open – surpassing Hale Irwin’s longstanding mark of 45.

    In trademark Langer fashion, his record-breaking title came in emphatic fashion. Langer won the U.S. Senior Open at SentryWorld by two shots, beginning the final round with a two-stroke lead and pulling away from the field with a surgical Sunday in Wisconsin.

    Langer has aged like a fine wine, setting the record as the oldest winner of a PGA TOUR-sanctioned event with his victory at the 2021 Dominion Energy Charity Classic. He has then broken his own record four times over, and there’s no reason to expect his title accumulation to end anytime soon.

    The numbers need little contextualization; Langer’s consistency and longevity speak for themselves. In traditional German fashion, he maintains an even keel, moving with an almost trance-like cadence that preserves years’ worth of energy.

    But what is Langer really like?

    To that end, we asked several of his peers on PGA TOUR Champions for their perspectives and anecdotes. A portrait emerged of a man akin to what is seen on screen, but also with a lighter side and even a sweet tooth.

    Here’s a look at the hidden Bernhard Langer, the winningest player in PGA TOUR Champions history.

    A relentless competitor

    Hale Irwin on Bernhard Langer chasing his wins record

    Alex Cejka: He’s been always a fit guy; I’ve known him for so many years, and his work ethic is just incredible. He’s a hard grinder, and when you don’t see him on the driving range, he’s on the treadmill. Sixty-five, look how fit he is, how skinny he is, and I think he does everything 100%, and to travel for decades … and he’s an incredible guy, very smart in golf course management, and he obviously can pull off those shots; he won (approximately) 100 times in his career worldwide. It’s a thing where everyone wants to be Bernhard Langer, career-wise.

    Retief Goosen: Bernhard has always been very consistent his whole life. He does the same thing over and over, and he does it good over and over. Some players do the bad thing over and over and don't play that well. He's looked after himself very well and mentally-wise he's very strong. You can't win that amount of tournaments and play good golf if you're not mentally strong. And he just seems to be, his whole career he's on a peak. Some people peak early, some peak late, some have it all.

    Jay Haas: I think his secret sauce is his desire. I don’t know that he’s ever lost his desire to play, to compete, to improve, and I think that’s what it takes as you get older. If you lose that edge or that want to, then it’s pretty hard to continue, because there are a bunch of guys who still want to do it and are still pretty good out here, but he seemingly is the same person he was 20 years ago physically, he doesn’t seem to have changed much at all.

    His longevity, he’s had relatively good health, had some thumb issues, I think he’s had back issues, aches and pains like most of us, but pretty much he’s been in pretty good health. Haven’t heard a lot of complaints from him about things hurting.

    He outworks most of us, too.

    Billy Andrade: I thought maybe he might slip a little when he turned 58 to 60, or 62, then last year at The Ally Challenge he turned 64, and before the first round – I say this to all my friends that are older than me, 60, 61, “That much closer to shooting your age” – Bernhard went out there and shot his age the first day.

    And come on, what he’s done is simply amazing, and I love his passion, the detail of how he goes about his work. He’s a savant. Really, he’s a savant that can just get in the arena. He doesn’t think about how old he is; he just goes out to try and shoot the lowest score he can shoot that day and that week. He’s still highly, highly competitive, and it’s really cool to watch.

    Steve Flesch: Believe me, he’s still out here on Mondays, when everybody’s out here taking a day off or going home or sleeping, he’s out here working … which is annoying as hell, because he’s still beating us, so maybe we should all take a page out of his book and make a commitment to work as hard now as we all used to.

    His job is dawn to dark, and it’s refreshing, it’s really cool, and I don’t think there’s one guy who’s surprised that he’s still playing great, because of that.

    Michael Allen: His desire to still do it is incredible. I know that’s what he does for fun; I got it, everyone’s a little different in life, but that’s what’s amazing, he has that desire and the ability to do it.

    Perennially driven

    Bernhard Langer Interview after 45th Champions win at Chubb Classic

    Darren Clarke: Just so many (stories) with Bernhard as a Ryder Cup captain, he was wonderful. I was very lucky to be part of the team whenever we won, and he was as good a captain as what you would imagine. Every detail, every little aspect, he had it covered, and he was just, just a wonderful man. Everything was very precise, very German, very organized.

    Alex Cejka: We play a bunch of practice rounds; we used to play practice rounds in Europe a long, long time ago, and he’s a really nice guy. Obviously when he shows up at the golf course, he’s almost like Tiger Woods, tunnel vision, and focusing on his work basically, but really it’s very impressive … what he’s done basically every decade for the last four decades and no matter what Tour it was, the (DP World) Tour in the ‘80s and ‘90s … I’ve seen a lot of players hit balls, and in the ‘80s, late ‘80s, I think, I want to say he was best ball striker, I’ve ever, ever seen in my career … Obviously everything changed, the material changed and the players changed, now everybody’s 6-foot-4, 6-foot 5 … but it’s very impressive.

    Larry Mize: Every time he tees it up, he’s really prepared to play, and that sounds simple but I don’t know as many people out here that are prepared as Bernhard is, every time he tees it up. To stay focused, to stay on top of your game for as long as he has, is not very easy … and he works very hard at his game. He’s a hard worker; he’s always out here working, very diligent about that, and just a tremendous player. I think his preparation to be ready to play and his focus and hard work, those are the things that keep him on top.

    Tommy Tolles: If it was one thing, I think he’s eliminated all distractions from his life. I think he’s kept it simple, his faith in God, his faith in his golf and his family … those are his three focuses in life, and he doesn’t allow himself to get caught up in anything else.

    He’s all business too, so when he comes here, he’s focused on one thing, one thing only. Some of us, when we’re practicing, we tend to do a little bit more conversation than what we should; I think we allow ourselves to get distracted, and we kind of encourage it at times, and I think he discourages it. Not to say that he’s not impersonable or inapproachable or anything like that; it’s the total opposite.

    When it comes to him being himself, he’s the best at it, and he’ll always be the best at it.

    Robert Karlsson: The first time I saw him play live was the 1989 Open (Championship); I was in the clubhouse at Royal Troon and he came in on the 18th hole. I was inside and he was out on the last green, I remember that; that was when he was going through his tough times with the putting. It wasn’t a very good thing for him, but it was one thing I remember, and also very, very strong from him to break through all the troubles he had at the end of the day. I do remember that.

    I’ve played with him since I was probably 20 years old, seen him the whole way, and he’s just so professional in everything he’s doing. He’s very, very precise and knows what he’s doing. It’s a true pleasure every time I play with him.

    Worldly interests

    David Toms: He talked to me this morning at breakfast about how he's been following Formula 1, he's kind of a new fan of that. I'm like, well, at least you know something besides golf. I wasn't sure he knew anything else.

    Duffy Waldorf: One time I was having a glass of wine and he was coming in for one of our pro-am events, and he goes, ‘Duffy, I’ll have a glass of wine too,’ and that was very surprising, because I wasn’t expecting … I was like, ‘Oh wow, he lives an easy life too, must be great’ … and he had a glass.

    Cejka: I’ve been over to his house a couple times, and he’ll want to play pickleball … he’s a great soccer player, and I think he’s good at ping-pong too.

    Flesch: I heard he likes ice cream, so I know his vice, he likes sweets … so he is human. He’s like the messiah, he doesn’t do anything wrong, but he’s got his vices, like the rest of us.

    Stephen Ames: The one time I saw him having a beer at a concert at DICK’S Sporting Goods (Open)? Yeah, that was the only time I’ve ever seen him have a beer. His son … was like, “Dad had a beer last night.” I was like, “What?” (laughs). It might have been the Bon Jovi concert.

    Tommy Tolles: He is definitely starting to enjoy life a little bit more, because on occasion after a pro-am, you can see him drinking a beer. I don’t know if I had ever seen him drink an alcoholic beverage before, and some of the pro-am functions, he’ll also have a cocktail on occasion. At some point in your life, you have to step back, and especially his, kind of garnish the fact and soak the whole thing of what you’ve done in your career, and especially what he’s done after 60, it’s really impressive … other players that did it, probably maybe with a slightly lesser competitive level, whereas he has been able to maintain it and flourish after 60. Everyone else certainly tapers down.

    Mize: We joke about this … I’m worse than he is, but he definitely likes his desserts. He doesn’t eat huge desserts, but he’ll like to have a little dessert after he gets through eating … he does enjoy his desserts.

    A lighter Side

    Bernhard Langer goes undercover as a maintenance guy to prank players

    Jay Haas: Jeff Sluman and I were playing with him in Pittsburgh at Fox Chapel, the SENIOR PLAYERS, and we were walking down the sixth fairway, and he goes, “I have a joke for you.” We started laughing right away, just that comment right there … because you just don’t imagine Bernhard telling a lot of jokes. And we couldn’t stop laughing, and he got tickled because we were laughing at that comment. So he finally told the joke, and it was a little racier than I expected; I can’t remember what it was, but we were laughing the whole time at him telling the joke. So he does have a wonderful sense of humor, a wry sense of humor, you’d say, but that is what I’ll remember about Bernhard being funny. “I have a joke for you.”

    Cejka: He’s a jokester.

    Andrade: I try to mess with him as much as I possibly can, so in the fitness van, he has a brush and he has a shoehorn that is hung up in the fitness van just for him … so when he wins, I’ll move it around to try to mess with him, and he knows it’s the prankster from Rhode Island that’s going at him, so he knows it’s me.

    Allen: I was at a friend of mine’s house, and he always did a dinner in Naples, all the Tour players, we came back the next time, and he brought his kid w him, Jason, he was 80 pounds, this little skinny kid … so anyhow, he comes there and he’s having dinner, we’ve had a nice evening and this and that, my buddy brings out this big tiramisu, this big plate of tiramisu … and then Bernhard’s like, “You’ve already had 1,200 calories,” and it was like, the kid’s like 85 pounds, “he’s 6 foot, 85, give him some food, will ya,” and he digs in, he’s like, “Oh, it’s OK,” on that night he was OK … he’s dedicated, that’s who he is.

    Then he let Jason eat it, he was kidding w him … 1,200 calories tonight … the kids 12, he’s like a kid, he needs to eat food, he’s skinny … that’s the dedication that he has had that’s gotten this longevity. Its impressive, it really is.

    And a closing thought from a longtime peer …

    Clarke: He’s inspiring in many ways. His dedication to his sport, his professionalism, is unmatched. His desire, even now, is as strong as I remember growing up, and the first time I ever played w him back on the (DP World) Tour … he’s a very, very impressive golfer because he gets every inch out of his game through due diligence and hard work, but he’s an even more impressive man for his values.

    He sets a wonderful example to all of us with his work ethic, what he does, how he conducts himself, and everything. He’s a consummate professional and a wonderful man.

    Bernhard Langer's wins from No. 1 to milestone No. 40

    Kevin Prise is an associate editor for the PGA TOUR. He is on a lifelong quest to break 80 on a course that exceeds 6,000 yards and to see the Buffalo Bills win a Super Bowl. Follow Kevin Prise on Twitter.

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