Bernhard Langer has less reason than most to bemoan the age restriction, but every so often he feels a hitch.
Last year, as he reached 65, that meant a slightly shrinking number on a spreadsheet. ‘They keep averages of almost everything these days,’ he told Sportsmail.
‘I saw it in my driving distances. I was at 280 yards for most of the first 10 years on the seniors circuit, so from 50 to 60, but I’m at 275 this year. Age, it gets you.’
Bernhard Langer continues to eclipse records on the over-50s PGA Champions Tour
He can laugh about it and for good reason. Few in the sport can bring out the Indian summer like a golfer and no golfer has made as much hay as Langer.
It seems that while his wider profession changes by the day, burning beneath the surface of the bung fight between tradition and LIV, Langer is a picture of consistency. He won the truck back in the day and he won the truck now as the oldest swinger in town over 50s on the PGA Champions Tour.
Last month, that meant recreating his own record as the oldest winner of a senior tour event at age 65 and next up was the almost unbelievable feat of catching Hale Irwin as the most dominant figure in the history of circuit.
Irwin won 45 titles on the oldies tour, the last of which came when he was 61. Langer had 44, capturing 11 senior majors to go with two Masters crowns and 45 more wins he collected on the PGA and European Tour. as a younger. man As a body of work, with 120 global victories spanning 1980 to 2022, it must rank among the most impressive compilations in any sport.
The 65-year-old celebrated 120 victories around the world between 1980 and 2022
‘I never really thought I’d get close to Hale until the last couple of years,’ Langer said.
‘It’s getting closer, but I’m getting old. The younger guys coming out today hit the ball a little farther than me but I think there’s still a bunch of courses where I can win.
‘Recently I’ve been shooting my age a few times and before that — I shot a 64 on my 64th birthday. The other week, I shot 64 when I was 65.
‘I don’t know how long I can go on but three things have to be there for me — I have to be healthy, it has to be fun and I have to have success. If one of those is missing, put the spikes.
The German has won 44 titles, taking 11 senior majors to go along with two Masters crowns
‘But none of this has anything to do with Hale’s record.’
It was an accidental point of symmetry that Langer was once again chasing Irwin, who happened to be his opponent on one of the most famous days of his career.
Although Langer is a two-time Masters champion and became golf’s first official world No 1, the German faces daily reminders of the 1991 Ryder Cup, when he battled from two down with four played in his singles against Irwin, but then couldn’t match the six-footer on 18 that would have kept the trophy for Europe.
‘Here we go again — I’m still chasing him but in a different way,’ Langer (below) says. That Ryder Cup at Kiawah Island remains seared in Langer’s memory, not only for the way it ended, but also for the week’s battles, which became known as the ‘War on the Beach’.
The shenanigans include a local radio station giving out the European team’s hotel room numbers, leading to calls at all hours of the night, and the unsolved mystery of how the tight ended up on the fairway remains. that tied Irwin at 18. ‘Hale and I actually went back there a few years later and made a company day,’ Langer said. ‘Neither of us knew much about it. I was told that the ball hit someone and bounced back. I don’t know if a fan might have kicked it but it ended up in a good place.
Langer played with his son Jason, 22, at the PNC Championship in Orlando last week
‘A lot happened that week and not all of it was good. There are war headlines, which are in really bad taste, and it’s all very lively. I believe there was some heckling between Paul Azinger and Seve Ballesteros also — they did not agree. And of course my putt, that comes out every now and then!
‘But it’s the Ryder Cup. Whatever happens, it’s one of the biggest events in sport and that’s why we love it.’
It’s a sound theory but one that is currently being tested as ever. Entering a Ryder Cup year, golf was in an unprecedented state of turmoil due to the LIV invasion, which led to Langer’s frustration with the actions of his former rival, Greg Norman, prompting the breakaway .
In other acts of disruption, one of Langer’s successors as European captain, Henrik Stenson, was poached.
Langer, a 10-cup veteran who also gave current European captain Luke Donald his debut, said: ‘I really don’t like it. I don’t think it’s good for the game. I think it’s more divisive than anything else.
Langer missed a crucial putt against Hale Irwin that would have kept him in the 1991 Ryder Cup
‘I can see the argument on both sides where some players are offered so much money that it’s hard to refuse. But if they decide to go that route, they can’t expect to come back and have the best of both worlds.’
Like many, Langer didn’t see the need for golf’s various shortcomings to be addressed by such drastic changes.
‘I didn’t think it was necessary at all,’ he said. ‘If you ask most of my colleagues, they’re quite happy with what they’re earning and what’s going on with a system that’s been proven for years. I didn’t think it needed to be changed that much.
‘Greg said he was trying to grow the game. I don’t see it happening, not with what he’s up to at this point in time, but the future will tell.’
This is. But some uncertainties are easier to figure out than others. LIV? That’s a tough one. Langer better than Irwin 31 years? That’s a safer bet.
Bernhard Langer, an ambassador for Mercedes-Benz, speaks at the Mercedes Trophy World Final.