Even for Bernhard Langer, a walking Masterclass in consistency, the number appeared otherworldly.
Hale Irwin’s record of 45 PGA Tour Champions titles was one that most assumed would never be broken. Irwin’s incredible stretch started in 1995 when he captured the Ameritech Senior Open and extended through the 2007 MasterCard Championship at Hualalai. Along the way, Irwin captured seven major titles, including two U.S. Senior Opens.
So when Langer, now 66, held off a crowd at SentryWorld in July to put the finishing touches on the 2023 U.S. Senior Open and his 46th win on the senior circuit, even he was in awe of what had been accomplished.
On Wednesday, in advance of the Ascension Charity Classic at Norwood Hills Country Club outside St. Louis, Langer reflected on the win and the milestone he never thought he’d reach.
“It’s incredible, really amazing. I didn’t think it was achievable when I came out here first, and then as I came closer and closer to it, I said, oh, well, maybe, outside chance, but you never know if you get hurt or if your game goes south or whatever the case may be,” he said. “I got closer and closer, and thought, well, it’s definitely possible now.
“But the way it turned out, to win it with maybe one of the biggest events that we have with the U.S. Senior Open and to do it in the fashion I did it, having a seven-shot lead with a few holes to go, was pretty amazing. I couldn’t have dreamt it up any better. It was a great victory, great venue, and had a few friends there to celebrate with me.
“Now everything else is just gravy, whatever comes.”
Opening the day with a two-shot lead at the U.S. Senior Open, the 65-year-old steadily held off Steve Stricker and others with a 7-under 277 for the tournament, capped by a solid 1-under 70 final round.
This week’s event is one of five remaining regular-season tournaments before the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs. Langer is looking for his third win of the season and currently sits third in the Schwab standings, but he added on Wednesday that he’s still enjoying looking back at passing Irwin. Respectfully, of course.
“We’ve had a good relationship, friendly one. We’ve known each other for many, many years, competed in the U.S. in other tournaments, mostly against each other in the Ryder Cup once or twice, I think,” Langer said. “But I believe we both have a lot of respect for each other. He used to be on the PAC Advisory Council for the two and so was I, so we spent some meetings together there. We share a lot of commonalities.
“He’s a great ambassador for the game of golf, great role model for all of us, and I still enjoy seeing him when he plays in the Legends or Tournaments of Greats they call it when they come out two or three times a year.”
And when Langer clipped Irwin’s record, did he hear from the now 78-year-old star?
“I did, yeah. He sent me a text congratulating me, and it was very nice to receive it from him because of the respect I have for him and what he’s achieved in his career. It means a great deal,” Langer said.