If history repeats itself at the Cologuard Classic by Exact Sciences, then making history bodes well for Bernhard Langer.
The 2020 Cologuard Classic champion returns to Tucson’s PGA Tour Champions event — which tees off Friday at Omni Tucson National — on the heels of winning his second straight Chubb Classic in Naples, Florida, tying Hale Irwin for most wins (45) on the premiere senior golf tour.
“When I first came out I thought, well, that record will not be broken. But sooner or later, all records are broken,” Langer, 65, said. “I (am) very fortunate to have had a wonderful career so far on this tour, and (I’m) hoping to continue for a few more years.”
The record for most tournament wins on the Champions Tour became realistic for Langer “probably three or four years ago.”
“When I had a season where I won seven times,” he said, referring to 2017. “It became more and more clear that if I stay healthy in a few more years I might have a chance to catch Hale or even surpass him. Well, it took me this long, until 65, but I’m glad to be here.”
Here’s another perspective on Langer’s unprecedented dominance on the Champions Tour: Fellow 60-plus-year-olds Fred Couples (63) and Jay Haas (69) have combined for 32 total wins. Steve Stricker would have to win an average of three or four tournaments over nine seasons to catch up to Langer.
After winning The Senior Open Championship just before his 60th birthday, Langer has won 12 tournaments, including the Cologuard Classic. That total represents nearly a third of all wins (38) by players 60 and older.
Langer, who has already shot his age or better twice this season, has a 16-year window from his first win on the Champions Tour to his most recent. That has come on the heels of him collecting 45 combined wins on the PGA and European tours, including two Masters. Langer is also the oldest winner in PGA Tour Champions history.
“I didn’t think I would have this type of success on this tour,” Langer said. “I was hoping when I turned 50 and decided to play on the PGA Tour Champions to be one of the top five or 10 guys out here and win some tournaments, win a few majors. That was the goal.”
Langer’s success is “just consistency at such an old age,” joked PGA Tour Champions cohort Jerry Kelly. But there’s a dash of truth to every joke. Promoting the Champions Tour’s newest event, The Galleri Classic, colleague and friend Fred Funk, who is also competing in the Cologuard Classic, told GolfWeek that Langer “doesn’t do anything spectacular, he just does everything really well.”
“A couple years in a row when he won the Schwab Cup, he led the field in greens in regulation and (was) No. 1 in putting,” Funk said. “That’s usually No. 1 in stroke average, which is game-set-match. You can’t beat a guy who’s won those two stats. He’s just that good.”
It might take several years — or decades — before anyone breaks or comes close to the record Langer and Irwin currently share. But, Langer said, “I’m sure somebody will come along.”
“They may already be out here, they’re just not 60 yet,” he said. “There’s certainly guys that are healthy enough and strong enough to compete into the 60s.
“You look at Steve Stricker, if he stays healthy, he’s got plenty of game. “
But Langer’s around-the-clock dedication to his craft could conceivably put him in a category by himself: the only Champions Tour player to reach 50 wins.
“He’s the first one at the golf course, and he’s the last one to leave Monday through Sunday,” Kelly said. “He’s used to leaving last because he’s usually having a champagne toast as the tournament champion as well.
“I had a front-row seat to Bernhard’s tying (win). I have not seen Hale since then, but I will say, and I’ve told Bernie this as well, I am going to try as hard as I can not to let him get that 46th.
“But we all know there’s really no stopping that man. He is going to keep going.”
Stricker better than ever
A little over a year ago, Stricker wasn’t sure when he’d play golf again — or if he’d even live.
In November 2021, the 2018 Cologuard Classic champion and former Ryder Cup captain was diagnosed with pericarditis and an irregular heartbeat. The condition kept him from playing golf for six months, and he lost 25-30 pounds in about a four-month span. During his recovery and treatment, Stricker lost the physical strength he benefitted from while playing golf.
“You don’t realize how many muscles you use in your body until you lose a lot of your body weight and muscles,” Stricker said. “That’s been an ongoing process, but I kind of used it as a reset.”
Now Stricker says he’s “stronger than I was going into the illness.”
“I feel like my body’s better, I feel like I’m moving better than prior to that,” he said. “Yeah, I feel like I’m in better condition than I was going into it.”
To start off the PGA Tour Champions season, Stricker won the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai and tied for second at the Chubb Classic; he’s currently atop the Schwab Cup standings. Stricker has shot 17 straight sub-70 rounds dating to last season.
“I’m excited where my game is at and excited for this week,” he said. “I’ve won here before, I enjoy being here in Tucson and playing Tucson National. So I’m excited.”
Defending Cologuard Classic champion Miguel Angel Jimenez returns to the field after knocking in two aces to win the event a year ago. Jimenez had 14 top-10 finishes on PGA Tour Champions last season, including three victories.
Former Arizona Wildcat Jim Furyk returns to Tucson to compete in his third Cologuard Classic. He finished the 2020 tournament tied for 17th, then tied for 25th last year. Following the overnight winter storm in Southern Arizona, Furyk tweeted a photo of the snow-covered ninth hole at Omni Tucson National.
NBC’s “TODAY” show will broadcast live from the Cologuard Classic on Friday. The early-morning broadcast will include meteorologist and anchor Dylan Dreyer as well as colon cancer survivors attending the tournament. TODAY co-anchor Craig Melvin has been a national advocate to end the disease since 2017, when his brother, Lawrence Meadows, was diagnosed with stage IV colorectal cancer at the age of 39. Meadows passed away at 43.
Award-winning journalist Katie Couric will be a special guest at the Cologuard Classic opening ceremony. Charlie Rymer, golf broadcaster and colon cancer survivor, will emcee the ceremony, which begins at 9:20 a.m. Friday.
Where: Omni Tucson National Resort
TV: Golf Channel
Round 1 tee times
Tee times for Friday’s opening round of the 2023 Cologuard Classic at Omni Tucson National Resort:
NO. 1 TEE
10:08 a.m.: Billy Mayfair, Duffy Waldorf, Marco Dawson
10:19 a.m.: Jay Don Blake, Billy Andrade, Tom Pernice Jr.
10:30 a.m.: Y.E. Yang, Scott McCarron, Jeff Maggert
10:41 a.m.: Mark Hensby, Paul Goydos, Joe Durant
10:52 a.m.: Stuart Appleby, John Huston, Olin Browne
11:03 a.m.: Colin Montgomerie, Rod Pampling, Brett Quigley
11:14 a.m.: Scott Parel, Alex Cejka, David Toms
11:25 a.m.: Kirk Triplett, John Daly, Ken Tanigawa
11:36 a.m.: Mark O’Meara, Woody Austin, Tom Lehman
11:47 a.m.: Bernhard Langer, Miguel Angel Jiménez, Jerry Kelly
11:58 a.m.: Ernie Els, Stephen Ames, Steve Stricker
12:09 p.m.: Fred Couples, Jim Furyk, Retief Goosen
12:20 p.m.: Thongchai Jaidee, Paul Broadhurst, Justin Leonard
NO. 10 TEE
10:08 a.m.: Doug Barron, Ken Duke, Chris DiMarco
10:19 a.m.: Gene Sauers, Steve Flesch, Lee Janzen
10:30 a.m.: Brandt Jobe, Willie Wood, Glen Day
10:41 a.m.: Tim Petrovic, Scott Verplank, Dicky Pride
10:52 a.m.: Wes Short Jr., John Senden, Tim Herron
11:03 a.m.: Bob Estes, Scott Dunlap, Michael Allen
11:14 a.m.: David Frost, Harrison Frazar, Corey Pavin
11:25 a.m.: Shane Bertsch, Paul Stankowski, David Duval
11:36 a.m.: Mike Weir, Robert Karlsson, Brian Gay
11:47 a.m.: Sandy Lyle, Fred Funk, Notah Begay III
11:58 a.m.: Rob Labritz, Richard Green, David Morland IV
12:09 p.m.: Brian Cooper, David McKenzie, Brad Adamonis
12:20 p.m.: Mario Tiziani, Timothy O’Neal, Michael Castillo