Keeping Score

Rivals don’t have a prayer against Langer

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

With his $255,000 payday for winning the Oasis Championship in his adopted hometown of Boca Raton, Fla., Langer has $27,196,504 in career earnings on the senior tour. Irwin, who at 73 plays a limited schedule, still leads Langer in victories on the 50-and-over circuit, with 45 to Langer’s 39. But Langer, a 61-year-old German, can pull closer to Irwin this week at the Chubb Classic in Naples, Fla. (tee times). Langer already has won three times in Naples: 2011, 2013 and 2016.

It’s not quite as close to home as last week’s Oasis Championship, but the trip to Lely Resort on Florida’s Gulf Coast is less than a two-hour drive for Langer. He relishes the rare home game that professional golf affords a globetrotting player.

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A seemingly ageless Bernhard Langer keeps winning into his 60s, and he points to two keys: his fitness and his faith.

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

“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,’’ Langer said. “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.’’

Any talk about stellar records on this tour should focus on Langer’s. When players reach 60 on the Champions Tour, their games typically fade. Not so with Langer. In 11 seasons, he has topped the money list 10 times and been named Player of the Year eight times. His latest victory 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 197 score for the 54 holes set 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 he? Isn’t that where his house is?” David Toms said jokingly. “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, a late-bloomer. Of his 113 worldwide professional victories, only three came in PGA Tour events, but two of them were Masters titles, in 1985 and 1993. One week after winning his first green jacket, he won at Sea Pines, leading to the inaugural No. 1 ranking when the Official World Golf Ranking was introduced in 1986.

Langer, a native of Anhausen, Bavaria, in southern Germany, posted most of his professional victories on his native European Tour, where he won 42 times.

“The key to success is a lot of things,’’ Langer said. “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 [left] thumb in 2011.’’

Langer also credits his born-again Christian faith as a factor. He carries a Bible verse – Philippians 4:6-7, Do not be anxious about anything … – in his pocket during many of his tournaments. That included his latest victory.

“I felt very calm out there and very peaceful, and that enabled me to do the best I could,’’ Langer said. “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.’’

Len Ziehm spent 41 years as the golf columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times before his retirement in 2010. He is in his ninth year as golf columnist for the Daily Herald chain of Chicago suburban newspapers and in his 29th year as golf columnist for Chicagoland Golf, a monthly publication. He also contributes to Chicago District Golfer, the Illinois PGA website and operates lenziehmongolf.com. Email: lenziehm@gmail.com; Twitter: @ZiehmLen


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