Bernhard Langer is golf’s ageless wonder of the PGA Tour Champions

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Bernhard Langer’s bar is a bit higher than us mortals.

In the past 15 months, the Boca Raton resident won for a 43rd time on the PGA Tour Champions, becoming the oldest champion on the tour. He also captured his record sixth Charles Schwab Cup. He not only shot his age twice – the first time coming on his 64th birthday – but beat his age with a 63.

When asked about his year entering the 2022 TimberTech Championship, which starts Friday at Royal Palm Yacht & Country Club, Langer was lukewarm in his assessment – some good moments but not as many as the last dozen or so years when he’s dominated the 50-and-older circuit.

“It’s been a solid year, not quite as good as the last 12 or 13, they were exceptionally good,” Langer said.

You could call him a victim of his own success.

Now 65, Langer is in his 50th year of professional golf, the last 15 as the best player on the PGA Tour Champions. Best player in the world over 50? That’s stretching it because of the natural decline at his age.

But the best player in the world over 60? No question.

“He’s somebody I would admire the most as a pro,” said 51-year-old Padraig Harrington. “He’s the most professional out there, he’s gotten the most out of his game. It doesn’t surprise me what he’s doing. He’s fit and strong.”

Langer won $10.76 million in three decades on the PGA Tour. Since joining the PGA Tour Champions, he has added $33.33 million to his wealth. His 43 wins are two fewer than record holder Hale Irwin but his 11 majors on the Champions circuit is the standard, four more than Irwin.

With two TimberTech titles, Langer is the only golfer to win that event more than once.

So why would he ever consider a life of mah-jongg and early bird dinners? Or transition his competitive juices onto a pickleball court?

He isn’t … just yet.

No retirement plans in Langer’s golf bag

“I’m getting closer to where I’m thinking about it,” Langer said about putting away the sticks. “So far I really haven’t thought about it much. I always said if I feel good and I’m healthy, I enjoy what I’m doing and I’m somewhat successful, I’ll continue.”

Few play or look as good as Langer at 65. He’s in extraordinary shape and dedicated to his conditioning. Langer started producing “Burn Baby Bern” exercise videos during the pandemic that typically end with him in his pool.

Langer admits his priorities are changing — he was anxious to get home Thursday to have pictures taken with his four grandchildren — but the drive is still there. He is disappointed he is seventh in the Schwab Cup standings and has no chance of winning the championship this season.

2021 Charles Schwab Cup Championship
2021 Charles Schwab Cup Championship

Bernhard Langer celebrates after winning the season long Charles Schwab Cup after the final round of the 2021 Charles Schwab Cub Championship at Phoenix Country Club. (Photo: Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports)

As for his game, he accepts things are different. How can they not be?

“It’s a little bit of everything,” he said when asked where age is catching up the most. “The body starts to ache here and there. Different parts of the body, it’s not always the same.

“It could be two percent here, two percent there. I noticed I’m getting a little bit shorter. That makes a different. If you’re 10 yards shorter off the tee you’ve got to hit an extra club more into a green and the other guys are already farther so if they’re hitting 7-iron and I’m hitting 4-iron, that’s every hole, it’s hard to make that up. You’re going to hit a 7- or 8-iron closer to the hole than a 4-iron just about every time.”

But Langer’s 4, and every other, iron still is better than most.

On Aug. 27, 2021, Langer shot his age at the Ally Challenge in Michigan … on his birthday. Less than three months later, he beat his age with a 63 during the Schwab Cup Championship at the Phoenix Country Club. He called it his best round ever.

Langer believes he’s equaled his age about five times, but does not remember thinking about it as much as on the day he turned 64.

After all, he was reminded of his age all day.

“Usually I don’t think about stuff like that but I was aware of it,” he said. “Since it was my birthday people were yelling from the stands and singing Happy Birthday.”

Since then, Langer has celebrated one more, which means shooting his age could become easier as each year passes.

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PGA Tour Champions
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Story originally appeared on GolfWeek