It’s looking more and more likely that one of golf’s most incredible records could fall in the coming months: Hale Irwin’s stunning 45-win tally on the PGA Tour Champions.
Bernhard Langer, who at the spry age of 64, just notched his 43rd Champions Tour win at last week’s Chubb Classic, is now only two wins away from matching the seemingly unmatchable.
Langer has won at least once in each of his fourteen seasons on the Champions Tour. In most of them, he won twice. And in some others, he won as many as seven times (2017).
Age is simply a number for Langer, and what he’s managed to accomplish as a senior player has left many of his peers shaking their heads in admiration.
“He’s a freak,” said 1988 PGA Champion Jeff Sluman at this week’s Cologuard Classic in Tucson. “It’s unbelievable what he’s doing and it’s a shame that he’s not getting recognized more in the national and world golf press for what he’s doing. If you try and compare at our age ourselves to him, I mean, you’re going to end up on the short end of the stick all the time.”
Sluman is the same age as Langer, and has six senior tour wins himself.
“I can still play the game a little bit, but his consistency, that’s the phenomenal part,” Sluman said of Langer. “He does it week in and week out. If I’m doing it every other week or every other month or whatever, I mean, it’s not easy to do even when you’re 50 out here let alone at his age. I don’t think we’ll ever see again at that age, how he can compete and still win. He doesn’t hit it near as far as he used to and he just, he doesn’t make mistakes. He hits it in the middle and he makes a ton of putts. It’s phenomenal to watch.”
Langer has a reputation as one of the tour’s hardest workers. And at 64, he still believes he can improve.
“I believe I can, yes,” he said at his pre-tournament press conference in Tucson. ” I know I’m not going to get longer or I’m never going to hit it 300-plus, but I can still get straighter, I can still become a better short game player. You know, if I make one more putt a week, I’m one shot better. That could be enormous over a period of, you know, 25 tournaments or something like that. If I could chip one ball closer or hit one more green with my irons, if I could get that one stroke better a week or half a stroke better, it would have tremendous outcome over the period of the whole season.
“I think golf is very much a mental game as well as it is technical, so you can work on your technique like I just mentioned, but you can also work on your mental side,” he continued. “If you’re mentally stronger and believe that you can do it and don’t get overwhelmed with the situation that we get ourselves in when you get in contention, yes. So that’s the long answer of yes, I believe that I can still get better.”
Irwin, now 76, won his 45th Champions Tour title in 2007, the year Langer joined. Will Langer climb one tournament closer with a win this week? He’s currently lurking in Tucson, four shots back, with two rounds to play.