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Len Ziehm On Golf

Can Langer continue his domination in Senior Players tourney?

If ever there was a player who could dominate a tournament it’d be Bernhard Langer at the Constellation Senior Players Championship.

The 60-year old German star won the tournament in 2014, 2015 and 2016 and finished second to Scott McCarron last year. Langer will try to get back on the winning side when the 36th staging of the event tees off on Thursday at Exmoor Country Club in Highland Park.

Unlike some of the major tournaments, the Senior Players changes courses each year. That hasn’t bothered Langer in the least. He’s finished in the top 10 nine times in his last 10 starts in the tournament.

“It’s obviously been a lot of fun,’’ he said after his first look at Exmoor on Tuesday. “I’m having great memories, especially playing different golf courses. Sometimes you get to a golf course that you really enjoy and you play very well, but in this instance they were all different venues. I was just fortunate enough to play some really good golf on different venues.’’

He likened Exmoor, a Donald Ross design that dates back to 1896, to the Phildelphia Cricket Club. He won the Senior Players there in 2016, but Langer has been able to win most anywhere.

“He’s still the guy,’’ said long-time rival Fred Funk. “He’s 60-plus and still special, with no weaknesses. His strength is his mind. He went through the yips, then the ban of anchor putter.’’

Those putting-related issues didn’t bother Langer for long He is still the only player to win all five majors on PGA Tour Champions and his 10 wins in those events is also a record..

“This season has been good, though it started a little bit slower than some of the other years,’’ said Langer. “ I got it back on track and had a number of opportunities for victory before finally pulling one off in Houston.’’

That title at the Insperity Invitational is his only win of this season, but Langer lost two other tournaments in playoffs. He is fourth on the Charles Schwab Cup money list with $1,076,346, trailing David Toms, Jerry Kelly and Miguel Angel Jimenez.

The 78 players competing at Exmoor, though, comprise the toughest field of the season on PGA Tour Champions. It features 49 of the top 50 on the current money list, the only absentee being Steve Stricker who is competing in the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic instead.

Besides Langer, five other past winners of the Senior Players Championship are in the field – Jay Haas (2009), Hale Irwin (1999), Mark O’Meara (2010), Kenny Perry (2013) and Loren Roberts (2007). Seven members of the field are in the World Golf Hall of Fame – Irwin, Langer, O’Meara, Tom Kite, Sandy Lyle, Colin Montgomerie and Vijay Singh.

Fifty-six members of the field have accounted for 328 PGA Tour victories and 52 of them have accounted for 258 titles on PGA Tour Champions. Twenty have at least one win on both the regular tour and Champions circuit.

Langer, even at 60, isn’t limiting himself to senior golf. He leaves Chicago on Sunday for the British Open at Carnoustie. That’s not the Senior British Open, it’s the third of this year’s four majors in all of golf. Langer won the event at Carnoustie in 1999.

“A brutal course,’’ he said. “I don’t know how it’ll be set up, but when I played there it was the worst setup I’ve ever seen in a British Open. That wasn’t much fun.’’

But Exmoor could be. He called the course conditioning “phenomenal.’’

“If you play well you can win on most courses, so it’s not so much the course or the setup,’’ said Langer. “But I do like this golf course. It’s all right there in front of you. There’s no trickery about it.’’

Category: Features