Bernhard Langer legend grows: Pro shoots 68 — but can’t pick up ball because of pain

Bernhard Langer on Thursday on the 18th hole at Phoenix Country Club.

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Editor’s note: If you already believe Bernhard Langer isn’t actually human, you know how this ends. If you continue to marvel at the 64-year-young, read on.

On the 9th at Phoenix Country Club, in so much pain was he in after his greenside bunker shot, that he took one step out, then had to be lifted out by caddie Terry Holt. Two holes later, so debilitated was Langer before his drive, that he bent down from both knees, placed his ball on his tee, bent back up, then hooked his drive left. Langer let his driver go on his follow-through, before gingerly grabbing first his tee, then the club. 

Throughout Thursday’s first round at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, Langer marked his ball on the greens in much the same careful fashion as he displayed when fastening ball to tee. Holt picked his boss’ ball out of cups, too. 

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“You can tell his body is just not moving the way it normally does,” analyst John Cook said on the Golf Channel broadcast, after the tee shot on 11. “That stopped right there, and that normally means that those arms and those hands kind of come from the inside and kind of flip over. Hate to see that with Bernhard. You see where the upper body stops a little bit, arms take over, ball starts to the left, he’s in the left rough.

“But he’s Bernhard.”

But he’s Bernhard. From the two-time Masters champ who, after 50, brought you 42 Champions Tour victories and five season points titles and records for oldest to win on the senior circuit and oldest to make the cut at Augusta, comes this:  

Despite being in so much lower-back pain that he considered withdrawing after the second hole, Langer birdied five times, shot a three-under 68 and is just three shots out of the lead. 

“Yeah, it was the most pain I’ve had playing golf in 30 years,” said Langer, who said he initially tweaked it during Wednesday’s pro-am. “It was pretty bad. I told Terry I probably shouldn’t even be here right now, but somehow I started praying out there that the pain would subside and I managed to make it through, but it’s not good. Not sure I can do this for four days. 

“Hopefully I’ll feel better tomorrow.”

Remarkably, it would maybe be difficult to score better. The leader (again) in the season points race entering the final event of the year, Langer’s tied for 15th after round one. On the par-3 13th at Phoenix CC, he hit to within 8 feet and birdied. On the par-4 16th, he hit his approach to 5 feet and birdied. And then he was soon off for treatment. 

But if there’s an indication of the challenge ahead, it was on 16’s second shot. There, Langer awkwardly followed through with the 9-iron as he tried to maintain the proper angle. 

“What he mentioned and what I thought earlier the easiest club for him to hit is the driver. That’s not going to cause him issues,” analyst Lanny Wadkins said on the broadcast. “The problem is with the short clubs, staying in your spine angle. You have to bend over physically and then hold that position. That is the position that he is having a hard time with. He hit a couple of weak short irons because he couldn’t stay in that angle. 

“It’s going to be interesting to see how he can manage it going forward. He’s a gutty player. I don’t see him pulling out. I don’t care how bad it is. I think he’s going to give it everything he’s got.” 

As Wadkins’ fellow analyst, Cook, said:

But he’s Bernhard.    

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Nick Piastowski

Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor

Nick Piastowski is a Senior Editor at Golf.com and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories across the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to wash away his score. You can reach out to him about any of these topics — his stories, his game or his beers — at nick.piastowski@golf.com.