Langer Finally Catches Irwin as Winningest Player on Champions Tour

Bernhard Langer now shares the honor of being the winningest golfer in the 43-year history of PGA Tour Champions. This great accomplishment was a long time coming.

In winning the Chubb Classic. Langer notched his 45th win on the 50-and-over circuit to pull even with Hale Irwin. Irwin. who very rarely plays any more, won for the last time in 2007. That was the same year that Langer earned earned his his first Champions win, And. more will be coming.

The Chubbs was only the third of 28 events on the 50-and-over circuit this season so it figures Langer will have the cherished record all to himself in the very near future.

“He continues to amaze us all,” said Steve Stricker, one of Langer's top rivals in every tournament. “He just keeps going. He stays in shape, and he's a nice person, too. That's the coolest part; he's a good guy.”‘ That showed immediately after Langer's final putt dropped at the Chubb . t wasn't just his playing partners, Steven Alker and Jerry Kelly, who were quick to give Langer their best wishes. Scott McCarron, one of Langer's fellow ambassadors for Illinois-based club manufacturer Tour Edge. waited long after he had finished his round to congratulate Langer.

Also on hand was Langer's wife, daughter, grandson and Bobby Clampett, the long-time tour player who introduced Langer to a Bible study group. The has had far-reaching positive effects for Langer.

The 36th playing of the Chubbs, again at the Greg Norman-designed Black Course at Tiburon Golf Club, was like a home game for Langer. He has been a south Florida resident for over 30 years and has won the Chubbs five times. He came into his record-tying victory as the event's defending champion.

Moving ahead of Irwin is, of course, his next challenge but Langer wanted to savor win No. 45 first. “It was extremely special because I never thought it would happen,” said Langer, who extended his record of being the oldest Champions Tour winner to four events. He was 65 years, five months 23 days old for his latest win. Irwin got his 45 victories in 217 starts and Langer did it in his 319th. Though the latest was officially a wire-to-wire win, it didn't seem that way. Fred Couples, Padraig Harrington, Alker and Dicky Pride all at least shared the lead before Langer wrapped it up with four birdies on the last five holes. It helped that Harrington, Alker and Pride all made major mistakes down the stretch, though Langer wasn't really aware of their problems.

“We didn't have any problems. We were just trying to make birdies, and we did,” he said. “I played solid, but didn't set it on fire. All of a sudden I made those birdies coming in. That's when you have to do it, when everything is on the line.”

Langer was tied for the lead after the first round and led by one after the second. He bettered his age in posting a 64 on Friday and matched his age with a 65 on Sunday. His 17-under-par 199 score for the 54 holes resulted in a three-stroke victory margin but the historic win wasn't that easy.

Couples knocked Langer out of the lead by making four birdies in the first six holes. When he cooled off, Harrington shot 29 on the front nine to take the lead and Pride, in the field as a sponsor's exemption, used a hole-in-one at No. 10 to also move into the top spot.

Langer wasn't aware what was happening to them as the back nine unfolded, but it was to his benefit. Harrington put his tee shot near a pond at No. 14 and needed three more shots to just
get out of the hazard. That led to a double bogey that doomed Harrington's chances. Alker threatened until putting a fairway bunker shot into the water at No. 13. That also meant a double bogey that stymied Alker's hopes. Pride hit his tee shot deep into the woods on No. 17 and finished bogey-bogey. That left Langer a stroll to the finish , where the gallery piled in behind him in appreciation of his accomplishment.

“My whole life has been. an improbable story,” said Langer after the celebrating had died down. “I should have died asa kid when I had an extremely high fever. Doctors told my mother not to have a child, but she got pregnant anyway. They told her to abort me, but she decided not to take a chance ofl killing herself and me. We both survived.'

Then came his start in golf. “I was just a German kid from a village Of 800 who started as a caddie,' he said. “Nobody started. career in golf in Germany. They thoughtl was crazy. Just to earn a living at it was incredible. Maybe some day we can make a movie about my life. That would be cool.”

The movie may take a while, as Langer has no intention of cutting back on his tournament schedule any time soon. And. in the end, those who might watch that movie could well find it hard to believe. The Langer story might well seem too good to be true.

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