Langer among top ageless wonders in sports history
November 11, 2021
By Randy Youngman, gushalin.com
- November 11, 2021
- 64-year-old Bernhard Langer last month became the oldest winner in PGA TOUR Champions history. (Tracy Wilcox/PGA TOUR)
The stars in the professional sports galaxy seem to be perfectly aligned in 2021.
During a calendar year in which 43-year-old Tom Brady became the oldest player in NFL history to win a Super Bowl, and three months later 50-year-old Phil Mickelson captured the PGA Championship to become the oldest major winner in golf history, it somehow seemed appropriate that 64-year-old Bernhard Langer last month became the oldest winner in PGATOUR Champions history.
History and Langer, of course, have been hand in glove since he became eligible to join the 50-and-over Champions tour in 2007. His latest victory in the Dominion Energy Charity Classic in late October achieved several more distinctions in his record-shattering career—oldest to win on PGA TOUR Champions, ninth win since turning 60, and 15th consecutive year with at least one Champions victory.
And this week in Phoenix, Langer—the leader in the 2020-21 wrap-around Schwab Cup points standings—has a chance to make more history during the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship at Phoenix Country Club.
If he holds on to win the gleaming silver Charles Schwab Cup trophy for a record sixth time—breaking his own record, of course—he’ll also become the oldest to win it, breaking the mark he set in 2018 at age 61.
What makes this season even more impressive for Langer is that he is accomplishing all of this against a tour that includes 51-year-old Jim Furyk (currently second in the points race) and 52-year-old Ernie Els (fourth in the points race), among others, and that he beat Mickelson, a 45-time PGA TOUR winner, by 14 shots during his Dominion Energy triumph. And now you know why fellow World Golf Hall of Famer Mark O’Meara recently called Langer the Tiger Woods of PGA TOUR Champions.
Most players on PGA TOUR Champions seem chronologically challenged after age 60, so Langer must be chronologically gifted. (Even Hale Irwin, the all-time leader with 45 career Champions victories, had only three titles after turning 60.)
And that’s why Langer truly is among the top ageless wonders in all of sports. A look at some of the others:
FOOTBALL: Tom Brady not only became the oldest quarterback (43 years, 188 days) to win the Super Bowl in Tampa Bay’s 31-9 conquest of Kansas City this past February, he was the oldest to win Super Bowl MVP honors. Other records: 10 Super Bowl appearances, 7 Super Bowl wins, 5 Super Bowl MVPs.
Special recognition: George Blanda played in the NFL until he was 48, mostly as a kicker, but he also came off the bench to play quarterback for the Raiders in his 40s.
BASEBALL: Nolan Ryan pitched an MLB-record 27 seasons, retiring at age 46 with a record seven no-hitters and a record 5,714 strikeouts. He was the oldest winning pitcher in the All-Star Game at 42 and pitched no-hitters at ages 43 and 44. His last pitch for the Texas Rangers was a 98-mph fastball—one pitch after tearing an elbow ligament, ending his career.
Special recognition: Satchel Paige pitched professionally for 40 years (most of them in the Negro Leagues), including three scoreless innings for the 1965 Kansas City A’s at the age of 59, thus making him the oldest player in MLB history. . . . Knuckleballer Phil Niekro racked up 121 of his 318 career victories after age 40 and retired at the age of 48.
HOCKEY: Gordie Howe, a 23-time All-Star nicknamed “Mr. Hockey,” was the only NHL player to compete in five decades (not including one ceremonial shift for the IHL’s Detroit Vipers in 1997 at age 69). In his final full season in the NHL, at age 51, Howe played in every game to help the Hartford Whalers make the playoffs in 1979-80, retiring with 1,850 points and 801 goals—NHL records later broken by Wayne Gretzky.
BASKETBALL: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer (28,387 points in 20 seasons) helped lead the LA Lakers to the NBA Finals in each of his last three seasons (winning two titles) and retired in 1989, at age 42.
BOXING: Twenty years after he had lost the title to Muhammad Ali, George Foreman—then 45—became the oldest fighter to win the heavyweight championship by knocking out 26-year-old champion Michael Moorer (then 35-0) on Nov. 5, 1994 in Las Vegas.
GOLF: Sam Snead, who set a record with 82 PGA-sanctioned career titles that Tiger Woods tied in 2019, had arguably the most impressive late-career accomplishments in professional golf history.
Unlike Langer, Snead didn’t have the opportunity to compete on PGA TOUR Champions, so he had to distinguish himself on the PGA TOUR as he got older.
Snead became the oldest player to win a PGA TOUR event when he captured the 1965 Greater Greensboro Open at the age of 52 years, 10 months and 8 days—a record that still stands. He was also the oldest to make a PGA TOUR cut (67 years, 2 months, 21 days in the 1979 Manufacturers Hanover Westchester Classic); the oldest to make a cut in a major (67 years, 2 months, 7 days in the 1979 PGA Championship); and the oldest to finish in the top 10 in a major (third in the 1974 PGA Championship at age 62). At 61, he also came close to winning the 1974 LA Open at Riviera Country Club, where he was tied for the lead going into the final round and one shot back with one to play before Dave Stockton birdied No. 18 to win.)
Special recognition: Vijay Singh won 22 PGA TOUR titles in his 40s (breaking Snead’s mark of 17 titles from ages 40-49), including nine wins in 2004 at age 41 on the way to temporarily overtaking Tiger Woods in the Official World Golf Rankings. At age 45 in 2008, Singh also won two playoff events to capture the FedEx Cup trophy and $10 million bonus.
Other age distinctions: Jack Nicklaus won the 1986 Masters at age 46 to become the oldest Masters champion in history. Julius Boros (48 years, 4 months, 18 days when he won the 1968 PGA Championship in San Antonio) was the oldest major champion in history, a mark that stood 53 years, until Mickelson (50 years, 11 months, 7 days) won the 2021 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island this past May.
At age 59, Tom Watson actually came close to winning One for the Ages—if not One for the Aged—when he led by one stroke on the 72nd hole of the 2009 British Open at Turnberry, but he bogeyed the 18th and lost in a playoff to Stewart Cink.
At age 58, Langer also had a close call in the 2016 Masters, playing in the next-to-last group on Sunday, two shots out of the lead. But he faded in the final round and tied for 24th.
Since then, Langer has dominated PGA TOUR Champions, and he has another chance to defy Father Time this week in Phoenix. Never bet against him, even at age 64.
As Sam Snead used to say: “The ball doesn’t know how old you are.”
And, as Langer likes to say: “Winning never gets old.”
If you’re not keeping score at home, here are the all-time leaders by age in PGA TOUR-sanctioned events:
Most wins in 20s Tiger Woods 46 PGA TOUR wins Most wins in 30s Arnold Palmer 44 PGA TOUR wins Ben Hogan 43 PGA TOUR wins Most wins in 40s Vijay Singh 22 PGA TOUR wins Most wins in 50s Hale Irwin 42 PGA TOUR Champions wins Most wins in 60s Bernhard Langer 9 PGA TOUR Champions wins