Posted December 18, 2023 in "Watts" In The Bag by Tom Brassell
By The Associated Press
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Tiger Woods was an 18-year-old senior in high school when he made his first cut in a professional event at a European Tour event in Thailand. That also was the first time he played with Bernhard Langer.
Thirty years later, the ageless Langer is still going strong.
Langer capped off his memorable, record-setting year when he teamed with his son, Jason, to produce a 13-under 59 in 30 mph wind for a two-shot victory over David Duval and his son.
Langer tied the PNC Championship record with his fifth title — three with Jason, two with older son Stefan — held by Raymond Floyd.
Woods and 14-year-old son Charlie shot 61 in the scramble format to tie for fifth, a day that included one shot so audacious that Woods could only laugh. He missed the green on the ninth hole at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club well to the left, and the son of the 15-time major champion chipped it in for birdie.
It wasn’t just the chip-in — it was the stare, the sideways walk, the raised finger point, the fist pump and the roar. Woods watched all this and couldn’t smile any wider, especially when he looked over at Steve Stricker.
“To see his reaction … it happened right in front of me,” Woods said. “He got excited and I looked over at Stricks and he was shaking his head. It was great.”
The PNC Championship, which puts major champions with family members, is geared around moments like that. Brady Duval, who plays at Coastal Carolina, hit a 6-iron to 2 feet on the final hole for eagle to lock up second place and his father, a former world No. 1, couldn’t have been more proud.
But the day — really, the year — belonged to Langer, a 66-year-old German and two-time Masters champion who never seems to stop. The signature moment for Langer this year was winning twice on the PGA Tour Champions to bring his victory total to 46, breaking the senior record of Hale Irwin once thought to be out of reach.
The 46th win was no less than the U.S. Senior Open.
Langer and his son, who works in investment banking in New York, started three shots behind Matt Kuchar and son and played so well they had the lead after four holes and never slowed. They didn’t make par until the the par-3 eighth and had 10 birdies through 11 holes.
Jason’s work doesn’t allow him to play as much, but he came to Florida early for a little practice and whatever time he spent on the greens paid off. He hardly missed.
“Watching him put, it was unbelievable,” Langer said. “The ball started on line every time. If it missed, that’s because I misread the green. Otherwise he probably would have made them all.”
The difference between Langer and Floyd and their PNC titles is longevity. Everything seems to be that way with Langer. He won his first PNC Championship in 2005, and 18 years later he again was wearing the Willie Park Trophy, a red leather champion’s belt.
Floyd won five of the first seven PNC Championships.
Woods knows all about the German’s longevity. He recalls the Johnnie Walker Classic in Thailand, playing in his mother’s homeland, and being grouped with Langer, the reigning Masters champion.
“First time I’ve ever seen anyone work in meters. That was different for me,” Woods said.
“To see what he’s done since then, and what he does each and every year and what he’s battled with on the greens, the different styles he keeps fighting through, it just goes to show the personality, the determination that he has and the type of person he is to be able to stick through everything,” he said.
Langer remembers a rail-thin teenager with extraordinary speed, power and “a hunger for the game. And you just knew he was going to more than most, and he certain has.”
Woods finished his year with two tournaments — 72 holes in the Bahamas, 36 holes in the PNC Championship, walking all but one round in Orlando — with no pain in his ankle, just other parts of his injury-wracked body.
But there was hope for 2024, and he remains set on trying to play once a month.
“I’ll be able to walk and play,” he said. “We’ve been working out hard, been able to recover. We’ve been training every day, which is great. It’s been nice to knock off a lot of rust and some of the doubt that I’ve had because quite frankly, I haven’t hit a shot that counted in a long time.
“Having to post a score and hit shots on the right number, and hit shots with consequence, it’s been nice.”
Langer was walking up the 18th fairway when his son-in-law, who was caddying, asked the location of the forward tee used for 84-year-old Lee Trevino and Will McGee, the 12-year-old son of Annika Sorenstam.
His son-in-law raised the notion that Langer might be up on those forward tees one year “with one of the grandkids, chasing it.” This made Langer smile.
“We’ll see,” he said.
Check out “Watts” in Bernhard Langer’s bag below.
Driver: Ping G400
3-wood: TaylorMade Stealth 2 Plus
Hybrid: Adams Idea Pro
Putter: Odyssey White Hot 2-Ball Long
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x