PGA Tour Champions had become a showcase for Bernhard Langer the last few years, especially at its Constellation Senior Players Championship. That’s no longer the case.
At 60 Langer isn’t the dominant player he once was, and Sunday he wasn’t up to the task with another chance to win one of the circuit’s most prestigious major events at Exmoor Country Club in Highland Park. Starting the day in a tie for fifth place, Langer faded to a 74 and a tie for 17th place.
Langer had won the Senior Players – the circuit’s major with the strongest field each year – three times in a row from 2015-17 and was runner-up to Scott McCarron last year. This time the title went to Vijay Singh in a two-hole playoff with Jeff Maggert.
While the day started with a crowded leaderboard at the top, it turned into a two-man duel between Singh and Maggert. Playing partners in the next-to-the-last group to tee off, they finished at 20-under-par 268. Then Singh made a par and decisive birdie in the playoff, and that was good enough for his first major title on the 50-and-over circuit. The World Golf Hall of Famer won both the Masters and PGA Championship in his younger days.
“This is a little different,’’ said Singh, now 55. “It’s a senior major, but any time you win a tournament, no matter what it is, it’s an accomplishment. I feel like I played well, and it’s a win. A win is a win.’’
Yes it is, and this one – in addition to the $420,000 paycheck — carries an added perk for Singh, who won 34 times on the PGA Tour and 22 more times in international events.
The winner of the Senior Players gets a spot in The Players Championship – one of the premier events on the regular PGA Tour. It’ll be played at Florida’s TPC Sawgrass in March, and that’s Singh’s home course.
Maggert had plenty of chances to win. As was the case in Saturday’s third round, he led most of the final 18 but dropped back into a tie with Singh when he tee shot at No. 16 hit a tree in front of the green.
“Of all the bounces you could have gotten, that was probably the worst one you can possible imagine,’’ said Maggert, whose ball bounced 40 yards back in the fairway. He chipped on and missed an 18-foot par putt, setting up a duel with Singh for the next four holes.
Maggert had birdie putts inside 15 feet twice, but missed them both, and Singh salvaged par after his drive sailed in the trees and thick rough at No. 17. He got the birdie he needed on their third trek down No. 18 in the second hole of the playoff. Singh put his approach to within 18 inches, Maggert missed his birdie chance and the tournament was over.
“Not making the 15- to 18-footers was the difference,’’ said Maggert. “Vijay’s round was kind of the same. We both birdied all four of the par-5s. The only difference is he didn’t make a bogey. I made one, with five birdies.’’
Singh made just one bogey the whole tournament, at No. 8 on Saturday. Maggert hit 17 of 18 greens in regulation on Sunday and finished the week hitting 66 of 72 – the best in the field by four. The only green he missed on Sunday was at the critical 16th.
“Fortunately for me Jeff missed a couple of makeable putts on the last hole, so it gave me a chance to win,’’ said Singh.
Singh became the seventh different player to win in the Champions’ last seven major tournaments. Still splitting time on the PGA Tour, he has three top-10s on the Champions circuit this year and that includes a win at the Toshiba Classic.