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Len Ziehm On Golf

PGA Tour Champions rivals don’t have a prayer against Langer

There isn’t much more Bernhard Langer can accomplish as a golfer. Last week he became the career money leader on PGA Tour Champions, surpassing Hale Irwin.

Thanks to his $255,000 payday for winning the Oasis Championship on the Old Course at Broken Sound, Langer has $27,120,554 in career earnings on PGA Tour Champions. He needed just $179,050 to climb ahead of Irwin, who – at 73 – plays only a limited schedule now.

Irwin still leads Langer in wins on the 50-and-over circuit. Langer has 39 — six behind Irwin – and hopes to reduce the number by winning another Florida tournament this week. The Chubb Classic tees off on Friday at Lely Resort in Naples.

Don’t be surprised if Langer wins there, too. He already has been the champion three times in Naples – in 2011, 2013 and 2016. Broken Sound was 10 minutes from his home in Boca Raton. The Chubb site isn’t very far, either – less than a two-hour drive from Boca. Langer relishes those few home games available to globe-trotting golf stars.

His win in Boca Raton was another family affair. It came with Jackie Langer John – his married oldest offspring – as his caddie. Jackie was the last of Langer’s four children to carry the bag during one of his victories. Stefan, Christina and Jason already had experienced that thrill. Jackie also lives in Boca Raton.

“I know it meant lot to her, especially with the home crowds, lots of friends and family members around who follow us and cheer us on,’’ said Langer. “She had only caddied three times for me. We had a second, lost in a playoff and now a first – so that’s a pretty stellar record for her.’’

Talk about stellar records, consider Langer’s. He’s 61 now, and Champions Tour players usually see their games start to fade after they turn 60. Langer’s has shown no signs of that. In 11 years on the circuit he has topped the money list 10 times and been Player of the Year eight times. His latest win was one of his most impressive.

Starting the final round with a one-stroke lead Langer made birdies on five of the first seven holes and won by five strokes over Marco Dawson.

“One of my best starts ever,’’ said Langer, who didn’t cool off much after that. His 19-under-par 197 score for the 54 holes was a tournament record and he became the first player in the event’s 12-year run to win it twice.

“He lives like on the putting green here, doesn’t? Isn’t that where is house is,” chided David Toms, who also was in contention through 36 holes. “Obviously he has a lot of experience out here, and he’s a great player. He plays with confidence all the time and he’s won so many tournaments it’s kind of second nature.’’

Langer’s rivals in Boca Raton included nine members of the World Golf Hall of Fame and 17 former major champions. Some had better records on the PGA Tour than Langer, who was a late-bloomer.

Of his 113 world-wide professional victories only three came in PGA Tour events. They included his only two wins in majors, at the 1985 and 1993 Masters. He followed the first Masters win with his only other PGA Tour victory, at the Sea Pines Heritage Classic, the following week and that hot streak was a big reason he became golf’s first official No. 1-ranked player when the Official World Golf Rankings were created for the following year.

Born in Anhausen, Germany, Langer posted the bulk of his wins on the European PGA Tour. He won there 43 times, 29 of which came before his second win at the Masters.

“The key to success is a lot of things,’’ said Langer. “You’ve got to be healthy, and a lot of guys at age 61 aren’t healthy anymore. They had this operation or that operation or a hip replacement. I’ve been fortunate enough not to have any major surgeries besides my thumb in 2011.’’

He believes his strong religious beliefs are a factor too. He carries a Bible verse in his pocket during many of his tournaments. That included his latest win.

“I felt very calm out there and very peaceful, and that enabled me to do the best I could,’’ said Langer. “That doesn’t mean I’m going to win every time I put a Bible verse in my pocket, but it just makes golf less important and something else more important.’’

Category: Morning Read