Bernhard Langer makes history with latest PGA Tour Champions win, reflects on improbable journey

Bernhard Langer of Germany reacts on the 18th green during the final round of the Chubb Classic at Tiburon Golf Club on February 19, 2023 in Naples, Florida.

Bernhard Langer tied Hale Irwin for most PGA Tour Champions titles of all time.

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Even with the tournament in hand, meaning a historic win was within reach, Bernhard Langer didn’t slow down. Probably because, even at 65 years old, Langer just simply doesn’t know how to slow down.

With a two-shot lead in the middle of the 18th fairway at the Chubb Classic Sunday, Langer pulled driver off the deck and made birdie on the par-5 finisher to win the tournament by three. The win is No. 45 for the World Golf Hall-of-Famer, which moves him into a tie with Hale Irwin for the most PGA Tour Champions titles of all time. He also extended his own record for the oldest winner on the over-50 circuit (65 years, 5 months, 23 days).

In reflecting on the accomplishment, even Langer admitted he thought this win was unattainable.

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“It’s extremely special because we’ve been talking about it for so long it seems now,” Langer said. “When I first came out here, I thought, this is never going to happen. When I heard Hale Irwin had won 45 times, I’m going, this is awesome and amazing, and it still is and always will be.”

Langer admitted he wasn’t 100 percent sure of his position on the leaderboard while playing the 18th, leading to his decision to hit driver from the final fairway.

“I thought I had a one-shot lead and I needed to make par to win, and [my caddie] said, ‘You actually have a two-shot lead.’ And I said, ‘Well, I don’t trust leaderboards and all that,'” Langer said.

The birdie was the finishing touch of a 65 for Langer, the second time this week he shot, or bettered, his age after opening his title defense at Tiburon Golf Club with a 64.

He began the day with a one-shot lead over four others but was caught and passed early in the round. But the back nine was all Langer — he made five birdies while Padraig Harrington made a double and Dicky Pride bogeyed the final two holes. A 30-footer on 17 for birdie essentially sealed the victory.

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Langer became emotional when reflecting on the significance of the achievement, but admitted it still hasn’t set in.

“It will in the next few hours and days,” Langer said. “Just right now, I just feel relieved and grateful and thankful for everybody that’s been on my team and helping me through these years.

“For a German kid from a village of 800 people and starting as a caddie to do what I’ve done, it takes a lot of people to do that, not just one.”

Langer, who grew up self-taught on the golf course, was asked if his journey to this record was improbable.

“My whole life is an improbable story,” he said. “When you dive deep a little bit where I came from and what has happened in my lifetime, where I should have died as a kid, was extremely high fever, the doctors gave up on me — well, first of all, they told my mother not to have another child because when she got pregnant anyways. They told her to abort me, which she decided not to take the chance of killing herself and me, so we all survived.

“To make it just to earn a living was an incredible story, but then to make it to No. 1 in the world and to become one of the best players for many years, and what happened on the Champions Tour, we all know that, but a lot of stuff has happened in those earlier years that some people have no clue, and they were pretty miraculous.

“Maybe someday we can make a movie about it. It would be pretty cool.”

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