Bernhard Langer is eight Champions Tour wins from tying Hale Irwin for the career most with 45. Can Langer catch Irwin? Don't rule it out.
Bernhard Langer certainly doesn’t look like someone who will be turning 61 on Aug. 27.
And he definitely doesn’t play golf like anyone his age.
Langer, from Germany, has been the dominant player on the Champions Tour for more than a decade – with three of his 37 victories on the 50-and-older tour coming in the Seattle area – and he is showing no sign of decline that almost every other player goes through when they near 60 or even before.
Langer won a record four times on the Champions Tour since turning 60 and is still the player to beat at the Boeing Classic that is being played Aug. 24-26 at The Club at Snoqualmie Ridge.
Where: The Club at Snoqualmie Ridge
Defending champ: Jerry Kelly
Friday: Boeing jet flyover, 11:20 a.m.; first round, 11:30.
Saturday: Second round, 10 a.m.
Sunday: Final round, 8:30 a.m.Information: boeingclassic.com
“It’s a lot of things,” Langer said of why he has continued to succeed. “You’ve got be healthy, you’ve got to have the drive to work on your game. I feel like my technique has gotten better over the years. I don’t have to practice as hard as I did in my 20s and 30s and still play very good golf. I still feel like I can get better.”
Langer, who is second in career Champions Tour wins behind Hale Irwin (45 victories), seems to have genetics on his side as his mother just turned 95 and his father died at 86. But Langer said he could not have predicted this much success when he joined the tour 11 years ago.
“I wanted to be one of the top players, win some tournaments and be one of the leading players,” said Langer, who won two Masters. “But I had no idea it would turn out like this.”
Langer has had great success here, winning the Boeing Classic in 2010 and 2016, joining Tom Kite as the only two-time winner. He was tied for third last year and second in 2015. And perhaps his biggest moment was outdueling Fred Couples to win the U.S. Senior Open in 2010 at Sahalee Country Club, taking down the big local favorite with nearly a mistake-free round.
“He’s incredible,” Couples said recently of Langer. “Sometimes, you are just not going to beat him. It’s just incredible.”
There is a lot more precision than flair to Langer’s game. And when he gets the lead, he is extra tough, as he rarely makes a mistake.
Langer’s average driving distance is the same this year (282 yards) as it was on his first full year on the Champions Tour. He was first in total driving (distance and accuracy) last year and is second this year.
Add in that he is great with his irons and one of game’s best clutch putters, and it’s easy to see why Langer is so tough week after week. He even is still competitive against the younger players, finishing tied for 38th in the Masters this year and tied for 24th last month in the British Open.
For years, it seemed like Irwin’s total of 45 career victories might never be broken. But the way Langer is still playing, it would be foolish to count him out.
“I think it is possible, but it is not going to be easy because I’m almost 61,” Langer said. “Not many players win events when they are in their 60s. But I believe there are always exceptions and I hope to be one of those exceptions where I can still compete at the highest level into my 60s and hopefully win a bunch of events. I have already won once this year, and I have lost in a couple of playoffs that could have gone a different way, so I am knocking on the door.”
Langer has three second-place finishes this year. And if he can’t catch Irwin, it would seem that Mike Fetchick’s 23-year-old record of being the oldest player to win on the Champions Tour (winning on his 63rd birthday) could be in danger in a couple of years.
Langer said he is not looking that far ahead. As for this week, he will be getting here a couple of days later than normal. He usually spends Tuesday getting in a practice round, but he and his wife will spend this Tuesday and Wednesday taking their son to college. He will be a freshman at Penn.
“Family comes first, and I know the golf course from the past, so there shouldn’t be too many surprises,” Langer said.
Not after coming here for a decade, to a place Langer really likes.
“I love Seattle,” he said. “I enjoy the beauty of the place. The golf course, it always has fast greens, which I enjoy, the golf tournament is run well and it’s a nice place to spend the week.”