Bernhard Langer not slowing down at 60 on Champions Tour

6:16 p.m Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018 Sports
Bernhard Langer is one of the headliners for this weekend’s Boca Raton Championship, which begins Friday at the Old Course at Broken Sound in Boca Raton. (Bill Ingram / Palm Beach Post)

Bernhard Langer turned 60 last August, an age when history tells us even the best players on the PGA Tour Champions can no longer compete at the consistently high level needed to win. So, it might be asked, do his fellow competitors at this weekend’s Boca Raton Championship, which begins today at Broken Sound, expect him to quietly fade into oblivion?

“That would be a little bit of a tactical error on everybody’s part,” Jupiter’s Olin Browne said. “So no, I do not expect that.”

With good reason. Langer had the best season of his 10 years on the Champions Tour in 2017, winning seven times - including three majors - to become the Tour’s leading money-winner for the eighth straight year.

Nonetheless, Langer faces the same historical roadblock at 60 that New England quarterback Tom Brady faced when he reached 40, also last August. In the 38-year history of the 50-and-over tour, only 27 tournament winners have been 60 or over. Langer already has three of those wins, tying him with Hale Irwin for the lead in that department.

“He’s stronger at 60 than he was at 55,” said Scott McCarron, who won at Boca last year. “He’s really set the standard on working out, practicing, playing and taking apart golf courses. It’s pretty impressive.”

Langer sees no reason why Father Time should catch up to him anytime soon.

“I look at it that I was one of the dominant players between 50 and 55 and one of the dominant players between 55 and 60, and if I can do that, why shouldn’t I be still one of the dominant players when I’m 61 or 62 or whatever it may be, unless I hurt myself. And I’m planning on not doing that.”

For all his success last year, however, Langer’s 2017 season did not have a happy ending. The Tour instituted a new format for its season-ending Charles Schwab Cup in 2016 that is similar to the FedEx Cup playoffs on the PGA Tour, designed to add drama to its Cup race. After winning the first two events, Langer finished 12th in the final one and Kevin Sutherland, who hadn’t won all year, won to climb from fifth to first.

Langer subsequently called the new system “unfair” and McCarron more recently said the format “needs tweaking.”

“I think we should look at it, yes, because we had a system that worked phenomenal for a very, very long time,” Langer said. “Then we changed … and I’m not sure it really works out all that great for our Tour. We’re looking at it, tweaking it and possibly changing it.”

While missing out on what would have been his fourth straight Charles Schwab Cup didn’t sit well, it did nothing to his legacy, which puts him among the most accomplished golfers of all time.

A native of Germany, he won 42 times on the European Tour, second all-time, and earned the green jacket emblematic of being Masters champion in 1985 and 1993. He is one of only five players to have won on all five continents on which golf is played - Gary Player, David Graham, Irwin and Justin Rose are the others - and has won 10 senior majors, breaking the record of eight held by Jack Nicklaus.

Asked what accomplishment he’s been most proud of, Langer pointed to his 10 senior majors and 110 tournament victories worldwide.

“Over 100 victories worldwide and 10 senior majors, nobody else has done that so far,” he said. “So maybe those two stand out, but I’d like to win a few more. I’m not done yet.”

While that could happen this weekend, Langer’s record in Boca has not been the best. He’s won once in 10 tries, in 2010, and while he’s had five top-10 finishes in that time, he’s also failed to finish in the top 25 in two of the last three years, finishing 26th in 2015 and 37th last year.

“I’ve had a couple of close shaves, and sometimes I either just didn’t play good enough or didn’t putt well enough,” he said. “You have to play really well here to avoid the hazards and hit a lot of greens, and if you hit a lot of greens, you still have to make some putts. You really have to have your whole game. That’s how strong the Champions Tour is nowadays.”

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BOCA RATON CHAMPIONSHIP TEE TIMES

Friday’s First Round

1st Tee

10:00 a.m: Scott Verplank, Wes Short, Jr., Brad Faxon

10:10 a.m: Glen Day, Bob Tway, Billy Mayfair

10:20 a.m: Corey Pavin, Scott Parel, Michael Bradley

10:30 a.m: Joey Sindelar, Bart Bryant, Tom Byrum

10:40 a.m: Dan Forsman,Mike Goodes, Brad Bryant

10:50 a.m: Colin Montgomerie, Tom Lehman, Scott McCarron

11:00 a.m: John Daly, Miguel Angel Jiménez, Bernhard Langer

11:10 a.m: Jesper Parnevik, David Toms, Kevin Sutherland

11:20 a.m: Doug Garwood, Lee Janzen, Paul Broadhurst

11:30 a.m: Gene Sauers, Billy Andrade, Joe Durant

11:40 a.m: Mark O’Meara, Hale Irwin, Jay Haas

11:50 a.m: Stephen Ames, Tom Pernice Jr., José María Olazábal

12:00 p.m: Steen Tinning, Lance Ten Broeck, Tommy Tolles

10th Tee

10:00 a.m: Tim Petrovic, Rod Spittle, Tommy Armour III

10:10 a.m: Mark Brooks, Scott Dunlap, Todd Hamilton

10:20 a.m: Larry Mize, Jeff Sluman, Fred Funk

10:30 a.m: Steve Lowery, Steve Flesch, John Harris

10:40 a.m: Trevor Dodds, Russ Cochran, Jay Williamson

10:50 a.m: Michael Allen, Esteban Toledo, Larry Nelson

11:00 a.m: Kirk Triplett, Rocco Mediate, Jeff Maggert

11:10 a.m: Sandy Lyle, Ian Woosnam, Woody Austin

11:20 a.m: David Frost, Jerry Smith, Olin Browne

11:30 a.m: Marco Dawson, Paul Goydos, Brandt Jobe

11:40 a.m: Mark Calcavecchia, Duffy Waldorf, Carlos Franco

11:50 a.m: P.H. Horgan III, David McKenzie, Fran Quinn

12:00 p.m: Charlie Rymer, Ken Tanigawa, Kent Jones