Bernhard Langer is trying to stay ahead of Father Time and catch Hale Irwin.
Don’t count him out.
Langer recorded the 37th victory of his PGA TOUR Champions career at the Insperity Invitational last month. Irwin’s record of 45 victories, once considered untouchable, now seems within Langer’s grasp.
The two-time Masters champion, 60, returns to the Principal Charity Classic and Wakonda Club this week with a chance to get one step closer to Irwin’s milestone.
On the eve of last year’s Principal Charity Classic, Langer looked to be chasing an uphill dream. He had 32 victories at the time.
Asked if he had a chance to catch Irwin, Langer said, “I might have a shot but it’s very unlikely.”
But after getting himself in contention at Wakonda and ultimately finishing fourth in Des Moines, Langer caught fire. He won four more times in 2017, with three of those victories coming after he turned 60 on August 27.
In addition to his recent victory at the Insperity, Langer has lost in a pair of playoffs this season and also finished second to 2015 Principal Charity Classic champion Mark Calcavecchia at the 2018 Boca Raton Championship. Twelve of his 37 victories have come since 2016.
Langer’s first two appearances at Wakonda, however, didn’t suit his taste. He tied for 31st in 2013 and 48th in 2015. But his 66-71-67 effort in 2017 shows that he might have figured out Wakonda’s old-school challenges.
Langer enters tournament week second on the PGA TOUR Champions money list, with earnings of $860,321. He’s won more than $2 million in each of the last six seasons.
This year’s Principal Charity Classic will include 42 of the season’s top 50 money winners, including Jerry Kelly (No. 3), Gene Sauers (No. 7), 2016 Principal Charity Classic champion Scott McCarron (No. 8) and David Toms (No. 9).
In addition to Langer and Calcavecchia, 2018 tournament winners in town will include Kelly (Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualulai); Scott Parel (Diamond Resorts Invitational), and Steve Flesch (Mitsubishi Electric Classic).
Brandt Jobe, the defending Principal Charity Classic champion, also returns and will attempt to join Jay Haas as a repeat winner. In 2017, Jobe shot rounds of 67-66-69, including a birdie on the final hole of the final round. That enabled him to finish one shot in front of McCarron (67-70-66), his college roommate at UCLA, and eventual Charles Schwab Cup champion Kevin Sutherland (66-69-68).
Joining Jobe, McCarron and Calcavecchia as former Principal Charity Classic champions in the field are Russ Cochran (2013), Jay Haas (2007, 2008, 2012), and Tom Pernice, Jr. (2014).
Meanwhile, Langer will see if he can sneak a bit closer to history at Wakonda. The reigning PGA TOUR Champions Player of the Year already created some buzz earlier this season.
When Langer won the Insperity Invitational last month, it marked the 12th consecutive season in which he’d won at least once PGA TOUR Champions event – an unprecedented feat.
Langer had shared that record with one other player who won at least one tournament for 11 consecutive seasons (1995-2005).
His name was Hale Irwin.
By Rick Brown, Principal Charity Classic Senior Reporter