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There’s not getting any credit for being one of the best athletes in the world – and then there’s Bernhard Langer. Age adjusted, quite possibly the best athlete in the world.
Three weeks ago, Langer became the oldest winner in PGA Tour Champions history when he won the Dominion Energy Charity Classic. How old? As of that Sunday, he was 64 years, 1 month, and 27 days. And oh, by the way, it was his 42nd victory on that tour. His ninth win since passing the 60-year mark.
This past Sunday, the Boca Raton resident and native of Germany won his sixth Charles Schwab Cup.
Langer is now in the rarified air of … just himself.
Keep in mind, that tour has been in existence for over 40 years and nobody has ever accomplished the feats Langer is pulling off.
Bernhard Langer celebrates after winning the season-long Charles Schwab Cup after the final round of the Charles Schwab Cub Championship at Phoenix Country Club. Photo by Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports
Didn’t this used to be called the ‘Senior Tour’?
“But,” some might be tempted to say. “He’s winning on the PGA Champions tour. Didn’t they used to call that the ‘Senior Tour’ – as in the guys over 50 years of age circuit – until recently.
Okay. Let’s go to the PGA Tour. Better yet. Let’s go back to the 2020 Masters Tournament at Augusta National. As in a Major Langer won twice when he did play on that tour regularly.
At that Major full of 20-something phenoms, the then 63-year-old became the oldest player in golf history to make the cut at Augusta National. Something he also did at 62 and 61 years of age. Collectively in the process, he beat many players who were three or four decades younger than him and hitting drives at least 50 yards longer than him.
Those 20-something phenoms missed the cut and went home while the 63-year-old lived to excel another day.
Body and fitness-wise, if someone were to evaluate Langer, he looks – and is – in better shape than a great many players not only on the PGA Tour, but in other sports around the world as well.
Of course, he isn’t Superman. Langer flew to Germany Monday where he will have surgery on his knee and won’t be hitting balls for six to eight weeks. After rehab, his goal is to play in Hawaii for the start of the 2022 season, which will be his 15th on PGA Tour Champions.
CALGARY, AB – AUGUST 13: Bernhard Langer of Germany smiles as he walks to the green on the eighteenth hole during round one of the Shaw Charity Classic at Canyon Meadows Golf & Country Club on August 13, 2021 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
Tom Brady can only hope to emulate Langer
Younger athletes have knee surgery all the time. To put it another way, 44-year-old Tom Brady hopes he can be in the shape Langer is now when he reaches 64 years of age and will seemingly be playing for his 15th Super Bowl ring.
Phil Mickelson, 51, played in the tournament won by Langer last month and got crushed by the 64-year-old. Said Phil a couple of days before Langer beat him by 14 shots: “Obviously, Bernhard Langer is the gold standard, right? That man at 64, what he’s been doing is incredible. That’s the guy to look up to to elongate your career, have a great quality of life.”
Of course, to Phil’s credit, he just won the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship as Langer was winning the points title.
To Mickelson’s greater point, Langer has proven to be the “Gold Standard” for every athlete in every sport to emulate if they hope to have a long and successful career. One of his fellow players on the tour just called him an “Anomaly.” He is that and should be recognized as such.
There is no one like him. Langer sits alone atop the pyramid for an athlete his age anywhere on the planet. Period.
He has won over 100 times world-wide and exactly like Brady, Langer is highly competitive, loves his sport and sees no reason to stop. He knows he can still dominate and win in his mid-60s and so do the guys 15 years younger than him.
The “anomaly” has more to prove and deserves much more recognition and praise from a sporting world often fixated on youth over experience.
Langer is the G.O.A.T for his age.
Douglas MacKinnon is a former White House and Pentagon official and an author.