By Travis Puterbaugh, Curator
At the 2020 Masters, Bernhard Langer became the oldest golfer to make the cut at Augusta National at the age of 63, breaking the mark set by Tommy Aaron in 2000 by 33 days. Langer, who shot an opening-round 68, finished T-29 and shot 3-under for the tournament. In the final round, Langer also finished two-strokes ahead of his playing partner Bryson DeChambeau, shooting a 71 to the pre-tournament favorite’s 73.
Langer remains one of the hardest-working golfers at any level of the sport, and his success at the Masters came as little surprise to those who have followed his career and observed his success on the PGA TOUR Champions. With 41 wins and a record 11 Senior Major Championships to his credit, Langer is regarded by many as one of the greatest senior golfers of all time.
A two-time winner of the Masters, Langer’s decade of dominance on the Champions Tour began 10 years ago. Although the German star had already won 10 titles by the summer of 2010, he had yet to capture his first Major as a senior.
Langer took care of that in short order. In late July, he won the Senior Open Championship at Carnoustie Golf Links, with a one-stroke victory over Corey Pavin. Langer had been knocking on the door in his previous two Senior Open appearances, finishing fourth in back-to-back years, and finally broke through while never trailing en route to his victory in 2010.
“I’ve always wanted to win an Open Championship trophy,” Langer said, “and I know this is not The Open Championship, but it’s the same thing at the senior level.”
His third win of the 2010 campaign and 11th overall in 57 career starts could have portended a letdown the very next week, when the Tour wasted no time in contesting the U.S. Senior Open in Seattle, Washington, normally a 13-hour flight across eight time zones. For Langer, however, it took a little longer.
“Nobody likes to do that long trip,” he said. “It took me 20 hours on Monday to travel from Scotland to here. That alone takes it out of you, and then an eight-hour time change. I haven’t been sleeping good the last two nights… you’re up at 2 or 3 in the morning. Tomorrow I have a 1 p.m. tee time, which for my body is 9 p.m.”
Langer battled the effects of jet lag for days, but his opening round scores of 69 and 68 told a different story altogether. Only three golfers – Bruce Vaughn, amateur Tim Jackson and Loren Roberts – posted a better number than Langer’s opening round of 69, yet none of them followed up with a better second-round score (Vaughn and Jackson alone went a combined +16 in the second round). As the tournament went on, Langer only got better.
Perhaps a great obstacle to overcome than jet lag, however, was local hero and fellow Masters champion Fred Couples. A rookie on the PGA TOUR Champions, Couples had taken the Tour by storm in winning three of his first four events and finishing T-2 at the 2010 Senior PGA Championship, losing in a three-way playoff to Tom Lehman.
Matching rounds of 70 on Thursday and Friday gave way to a tournament-low round of 65 on Saturday, catapulting him into a tie with Langer headed into the final round. The stage had been set for a thrilling Sunday, with an entire state behind Couples.
Despite their career overlaps, the two had never been paired together on a Sunday. The galleries clearly came out in favor of Couples as well, although Langer joked before the round that he probably would have his own contingent of “12 Germans” cheering along for him.
Couples took a quick lead after the first hole with a birdie, but on the second, it quickly came apart. On his third shot on the par-five hole, Couples hit his approach wedge shot into the water, flew his fifth shot over the green, and eventually settled for a triple-bogey. A one-stroke lead instantly turned into a one-stroke deficit against the hottest golfer on the planet. That little edge would be all Langer would need to maintain distance with Couples all day.
Couples settled down with a birdie on the following hole and played two-under golf the rest of the way, but the damage had been done. Langer shot his best round of the week with a five-under 67 and held on for a comfortable three-stroke victory. With the win, he became the first golfer to win back-to-back Majors on the PGA TOUR Champions since Tom Watson in 2003.
“It felt like a Ryder Cup atmosphere,” Langer said. “I knew I was going to be up against that, but when you pull through that and you win in difficult circumstances, it just means that much more.”
Langer’s winning streak in Washington would continue, amazingly, just three events later when he won the Boeing Classic at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge for his fifth and final win of 2010. The next 10 years would feature nine more Major Championships and 28 total victories, a decade of dominance that shows no signs of slowing for Langer as he continues to rewrite the PGA TOUR Champions record book.