Golf

Second in SAS, Langer clear No. 1 on tour

CARY John Daly came on to the PGA Tour Champions this year, doing his John Daly thing, drawing big crowds.

As for Bernhard Langer, he kept doing his thing: shooting low scores, being the best player on the tour.

Flamboyant, unconventional, slightly outrageous? That’s Daly, always has been. Langer is the silent, stolid German consistently putting in the work, in contention to win on Sundays.

Langer, at 59, might be playing his best golf on the PGA Tour Champions. He has won four times this year. He’s leading the Charles Schwab Cup money list by more than $1 million.

It’s hard to say which was more surprising Sunday: that Doug Garwood won the SAS Championship or that Langer didn’t win it. Langer did have a two-shot lead entering the final round at Prestonwood Country Club and would have been any betting man’s choice.

Garwood’s 64 was good for his first career victory, beating Langer by four shots. All Langer could was tip his visor to him. Daly? He was a no-show this past week.

But Langer now has been in the top three 10 times in 19 tournaments. He’ll soon be after his third straight Charles Schwab Cup championship and the fourth of his career.

“I think my worst finish has been 13th, which is incredible,” Langer said Sunday. “I’ve never done that before in my life. It’s difficult to do because there’s not just 10 good players out there. There’s 60, 70 very good players.”

Langer is the best. Twice a Masters champion, he has 29 career wins on the Champions tour — tied with Lee Trevino for second all time behind Hale Irwin’s 45 — to go with more than 60 victories around the world.

When Langer turned 50 in August 2007, he came onto a tour for the 50-and-older set that had Jay Haas as its leading money winner and player of the year. Loren Roberts was the winner of the Schwab Cup and the rookie of the year was Denis Watson of Zimbabwe.

Langer earned his first seniors victory in October 2007, at the Administaff Small Business Classic at The Woodlands in Texas. In 2008, he won it again. The victories started coming in bunches — and major senior titles, including the U.S. Senior Open and the Senior Open Championship in 2010. Along the way, he also won the 2012 SAS Championship.

“All these years I’ve tried to improve,” Langer said. “I’ve tried to get better, whether it’s mentally or technique wise or putting, short game. There’s still many ways to get get better.

“If you can just tweak it a little bit here, fine-tune it a little bit there and stay healthy … obviously I’m going to get shorter as age catches up with me. I have to make that up with more precision, better thinking and better execution. That’s my philosophy.”

Langer was one of the players affected by the changes in the golf rules banning any anchoring of the putter. He was an outspoken opponent of the rules change, and it has been an adjustment, he said.

“Yeah, it was a change. It’s a little harder,” he said. “The last few weeks I’ve putted really well. Today was a bit unsatisfactory.”

Langer missed some a handful of 5- and 6-footers he normally makes.

Still, check the tour statistics and he’s No. 1 in putting average. He’s also No. 1 in scoring.

“It’s phenomenal what he’s done out here,” said Brian Henninger, who tied for 22nd in the SAS.

Asked Sunday what’s left for Bernhard Langer at 59, he broke into a grin.

“To try to become the best Bernhard Langer that I can be,” he said. “There’s always goals and challenges. Every year you want to win more majors and win tournaments. Win the money list, win the Schwab Cup.

“There’s plenty of goals out there to achieve. It’s fun to compete at the very highest level.”

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