The PGA Tour Champions circuit sidles into suburban north Houston today for the opening round of the Insperity Invitational. Golf great Bernhard Langer will seek to win the tourney for the fifth time. A victory would bump Langer up to 44 wins on the senior circuit, just one shy of the all-time record held by Hale Irwin.
Twenty years after being inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, Langer, a six-time winner of the season-long Schwab Cup, remains an indelible fixture on the top page of the leaderboard on the senior circuit where he has earned over $32 million dollars—that’s three times his PGA Tour career tally.
The long-standing joke is that Langer, the oldest winner in PGA Tour Champions history, is the living embodiment of the Aliyah track ‘Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number.’ The visor-wearing, broomstick putter clutching German golf legend ticked off yet another box on his golfing bucket list last summer when he shot a 64 on the day of his 64th birthday.
“It’s pretty neat to shoot that kind of score on the day you were born and it actually had been my goal, the last two or three years, to shoot my age” Langer says.
“I came within one shot two or three times but never quite got there and then it happened exactly on my birthday, it was pretty cool,” he adds.
At this year’s Masters tournament, earlier this month, Langer was the eldest player in the field. And while he seemed to drink from the fountain of youth in year’s past, finishing T29th in 2020, ahead of the likes of Tiger Woods and Collin Morikawa, continually lengthened holes have put shorter hitters like him at a serious disadvantage. While he shot back-to-back rounds of 76 at this year’s tourney and failed to make the cut, he still fared better than players many decades his junior.
The two-time Masters champion certainly hit the genetic lottery but despite being pretty spry for a man his age, he’s still only human and knows he won’t be playing in what is his hands down favorite tourney much longer.
“It’s becoming a real challenge. The course is getting longer and longer. The fairways are mowed into you so the ball doesn’t roll as much and I’m not used to playing 7,500 yards. I’m hitting 3 woods into some of the par-4’s like on 5, 11, and 18. That’s not necessarily fun but it’s a challenge,” Langer explains.
“It’s going to be maybe another couple of years or so and then I think I’ll know when to quit. I wouldn’t enjoy shooting 80s or something like that, then it’d be time to play somewhere else,” he adds.
As for any lingering golf resume gaps he still hopes to fill, Langer doesn’t fixate on any and is content contending on the senior circuit week in and week out, although he did once feel he had another major in him.
“Well, I’m certainly at the back end of my career, there’s no doubt about it. I would have loved to win a British Open. I always thought I had the game for it and it just didn’t happen, but I’ve had a tremendous run on the Champions tour the last fourteen and a half years and this is where I enjoy playing golf,” he says.
“I love the Champions Tour. There’s wonderful camaraderie, great golf courses and it’s a lot of fun. I’ll be out there for a few more years as long as I’m healthy, somewhat fit and have fun doing it and then it’s probably time to hang up the boots as we say.”
While Langer is celebrated as an anomaly for his vaunted longevity, he believes in the future extended careers will be the norm due to an increased focus on health and fitness
“In the past, kids that are very gifted and talented, they might have tended to go toward American football, basketball or baseball. We are going to get some of those athletes to go into golf and the average guy is going to be taller and stronger. They’re going to have better nutrition, going be fitter, and take care of themselves better which will give them longevity,” Langer says.
Man In Demand
Most 64-year-old athletes don’t have new sponsors batting down their door, but companies continue to line up for Langer. Last year he signed a new multi-year deal with building products distributor U.S. LBM and also joined Tour Edge’s staff.
“It feels fantastic. It feels great. I’m still fairly visible on T.V. quite a bit. When you are in contention, they show you on T.V. and there is still a high demand. It’s exciting to see that companies are still interested in me and on top of that, I’ve matured, I’ve aged, and I think I know what they are looking for and I can give back,” Langer says.
“I can talk to these CEOs much better than a 20-year-old could I suppose because I’ve been around, I’ve had my own businesses and understand a little more what is going on in their lives so we have more in common and it’s a whole lot easier and I enjoy it,” Langer explains.
His longest standing partnership is with Mercedes-Benz. The German automaker hitched their wagon to Langer over 30 years ago and it’s quite conceivable that relationship will outlast his playing days.
“He has done a lot for golf and enjoys a very high status around the world. This will certainly continue beyond his active career” Claudia Merzbach, manager of sports and branded entertainment communications at Mercedes-Benz AG, comments.
“We of course hope, that Bernhard Langer will remain involved in active golf for a long time to come and wish him many more successful appearances on the PGA Tour Champions, at Senior Majors and of course at the Masters. Currently Bernhard Langer has an existing contract with Mercedes-Benz as an international brand ambassador and there will certainly be talks if Bernhard Langer decides to stop playing professional golf,” she adds.