It’s not Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak. It doesn’t really compare to LeBron James becoming the all-time leading scorer in NBA history. It’s not the same as any of the 61 NHL records held by Wayne Gretzky.
But still, seemingly when – not if – Bernhard Langer sets the mark for most wins in PGA Tour Champions history, it’s going to be a record that will likely stand for years.
When Langer won the Chubb Classic in Florida two weeks ago, he earned career victory No. 45 to tie Hale Irwin, whose last title came in January of 2007. Langer then had a special message for Irwin.
“Hale, if you’re watching, congratulations,” Langer said. “You’re a great champion, and I’m honored to have tied your record. We need a toast for the glass of champagne or something.”
Looking at the top 10
A look at the rest of the top 10 winners reveals no active golfers.
|T-7||Chi Chi Rodriguez||22|
When taking a look out to the top 25 on the all-time wins list, a few current players show up, but they’re well down the list.
|T-21||Miguel Angel Jimenez||13|
Jay Haas checks in as the next highest active player. He has 18 wins, 27 back, but he’s 69 years old. Then there’s Fred Couples with 14 win, 31 back, but he’s 63, just two years younger than Langer.
Miguel Angel Jimenez (13) and Steve Stricker (12) have piled up some wins in the last couple years and they’re a threat to win again any time they tee it up but the reality is they’re simply not on a pace to catch Langer.
It might have to take one of the Champions tour’s relative newcomers the next decade or more to track Langer down. And that’s assuming Langer doesn’t push the mark to 50 or beyond before he’s done.
Jim Furyk has three Champions wins and he’s 52. Padraig Harrington, 51, has four senior wins already.
Maybe it’ll be Steve Alker, a career journeyman who instantly found a home on the senior circuit when turned 50 in 2022. In his 35 Champions starts, he already has five wins. That’s still 40 back of Langer but Alker likely has a lot of competitive years left.
It’s not just about winning a lot and over several years, though.
No, there’s another element in play.
“We all have to find our own path at that stage to keep us motivated when we get older,” Harrington said after Friday’s round at the PGA Tour’s Honda Classic last week.
The Champions tour is great chance to pad one’s retirement account. But many golfers in that age bracket are also becoming grandparents with outside interests. Stricker, for example, loves to hunt in the fall and has skipped tournaments in order to not miss out on the hunting season.
Whenever Langer slows down and stops winning is anyone’s guess. He’s already won 12 times after turning 60 and has shot his age or better five times already. Never the longest hitter, Langer has survived on accuracy and determination.
“He hits it well, he hits it in the middle of the clubface,” Harrington said. “He’s just not long. A lot of golf courses are going to beat him up so his opportunities are so few. … if you realistically look at the tournaments that he has a good chance on he’s probably won 50 percent of them. That’s impressive, to know a course suits you and then turn up and deliver. … it gives hope to everybody.”
Long-time friend Fred Funk, who attended media day at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California, on Tuesday to promote the upcoming new Champions event, The Galleri Classic, says Langer “doesn’t do anything spectacular, he just does everything really well.”
He added that Langer is really good in two key categories.
“A couple years in a row when he won the Schwab Cup, he led the field in greens in regulation and No. 1 in putting,” he said. “That’s usually No. 1 in stroke average, which is game-set-match. You can’t beat a guy who’s won those two stats. He’s just that good.”
Stricker, who has 12 wins in six years on the senior circuit, including five in the last two seasons, says what Langer has done, and is doing, is amazing.
“He continues to amaze us all. He just keeps going, and he stays in shape. He’s just incredible, really,” he said. “Forty-five wins, and he keeps winning, 65 years old, shot his age this week. I don’t know, there’s not much else you can say about him. And he’s a nice person, too. That’s, I think, the coolest part is he’s a good guy, a nice guy, and to see the success that he’s had is pretty cool.”
Langer can get career win No. 46 this week in Tucson. If he doesn’t do it in the Arizona desert, just wait. It’ll likely only be a matter of time until he does.
“There’s no question he’s going to win at least one more,” Funk said.