Bernhard Langer turned professional almost 50 years ago. He started out teaching others in Germany how to play the game.
Fifty years later, he’s one of the best to ever play it.
Langer tapped in for birdie on the 18th hole to win the Chubb Classic by three strokes on Sunday at Tiburón Golf Club at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort’s Black Course.
Langer bogeyed No. 17, but had a two-shot lead so he was able to enjoy the 18th.
“I hit a super tee shot and hit as good a 2-hybrid as I can to the middle of the green,” he said. “Took all the pressure off and was able to celebrate all the way down here, which doesn’t happen very often. Usually have to play until the very last ball drops.”
It’s the record fourth victory in Naples for Langer, 64, and 43rd win for him on the PGA Tour Champions, putting him two behind record-holder Hale Irwin, who also had won three times in Naples.
“I’m coming after you, Hale,” Langer said.
“Years ago I thought, ‘Yeah, well, that’s almost impossible to reach that,'” he added later. “… I can’t wait two or three years. I got to do it fairly soon.”
Chubb Classic notebook: First Tee of Naples/Collier wins First Tee Champions Challenge
If Langer plays like he did this week, it just might be. Langer shot his age with an 8-under 64 in the first round, never trailed in 54 holes, and hit 39 of 42 fairways over three days of varying winds in a show of precision.
“Germans win the gold again, jeez, unbelievable. Shocker.” said Tim Petrovic, a Calusa Pines Golf Club member who finished second at 3-under 203.
Retief Goosen was another shot back after birdies on three of his final five. Brian Gay, making his tour debut, was fourth at 10 under.
“Bernhard’s playing unbelievable today,” Goosen said. “I think he had one bad shot.”
“It’s pretty normal, right?” said Gay of Langer being atop the leaderboard. “Except I’m not used to being out there with him. Pretty unbelievable. He just keeps going.”
Miguel Angel Jimenez, Robert Karlsson, Steven Alker, Jerry Kelly, and Scott Parel all tied for fifth at 9 under. Jimenez (2019) and Parel (2020) are former champions.
Karlsson said he first played with Langer in 1990 or so. Thirty-plus years later, there’s not much difference.
“He’s older so he doesn’t hit it very far, but he keeps the ball in play all of the time and putts fantastic,” he said. “It’s fantastic to see. It’s the same type of game. He doesn’t give away anything, so few mistakes. That’s why he wins.”
“It would be amazing if he was 50 and played as consistently as he does,” said two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen, a former winner in Naples. “I haven’t looked at all the numbers, but it seems that he’s played better closer to 60 and older than he did before.
“He’s rock-solid inside 10 feet, which is a great thing to be good at. A guy like Langer, he’s been great going on 50 years. … And then he played with (Bryson) DeChambeau at the Masters two years ago and beat him. They should do a (ESPN) ’30 for 30′ on that one.”
More Chubb Classic coverage: Padraig Harrington happy to be playing following late travel
Petrovic, playing in the group in front of Langer, tried to keep the pressure on. He made a birdie putt at No. 9, but Langer thought that it may have been for eagle, and that turned into the decisive shot.
Langer already had a good drive on the par 5 — he joked about being up there with his playing partners Goosen and Parel — and decided to hit a 3-wood from 231 yards and go for the green.
“He was creeping closer to me so I had to get up there and get out and conquer that one and answer by making birdie or maybe an eagle,” Langer said. “I was very happy with that golf shot.”
Langer missed the 15-foot eagle putt, but made the birdie and carried a three-shot lead to the back. Petrovic stuck iron shots on Nos. 13 and 14 to get to 13 under, but Langer birdied No. 13 and 15 to stay up by three.
And when it was over, Langer was up again.
He has 42 victories on the European Tour, three on the PGA Tour, and others on the Japan Golf Tour, Asian Tour, Australasian Tour and Tour de las Americas.
Langer had no idea what to expect when he decided to play professionally after winning his first tournament in Germany at 17.
“So I figured, well, I would love to try playing golf for a living, but I didn’t have any money and I didn’t know if I was any good compared to players from overseas,” he said. ” There were no Germans on the Tour. I was the first full-time pro that played tournament golf, so I had no one to compare myself with.
“Anyway, we know the rest. It all turned out for the better. I didn’t have to go back for teaching, and as you say, almost 50 years later I’m still here.”
And still winning.
Greg Hardwig is a sports reporter for the Naples Daily News and The News-Press. Follow him on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter: @NDN_Ghardwig, email him at [email protected] Support local journalism with this special subscription offer at https://cm.naplesnews.com/specialoffer/
This article originally appeared on Naples Daily News: Bernhard Langer wins Chubb Classic 2022 in Naples on PGA Tour Champions