Bernhard Langer wore orange pants for the final round of the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, not that he needed a bright color to stand out.
As the 2018 PGA TOUR Champions schedule came to a conclusion at Phoenix Country Club on Nov. 11, Langer was in a very familiar position: atop the season-long race for the Charles Schwab Cup for a record fifth time.
Langer had been one of six golfers who arrived in Arizona with a mathematical chance to win the $1 million bonus annuity that was his in 2010, 2014, 2015 and 2016 before Kevin Sutherland swept the season-ending event and season honors last year. Langer and Scott Parel were in position to lock up a victory in the Charles Schwab Cup if they won the tournament, regardless of how others fared.
“I think each one is very special because it’s a long road, it’s very difficult to do,” Langer said. “There’s a lot of competition out there, a lot of tournaments. You just never know how it’s going to end up …”
Langer tied for 13th in Phoenix, good enough to take his fifth Charles Schwab Cup with Scott McCarron, Parel, Vijay Singh and Miguel Ángel Jiménez rounding out the top five and earning annuities from $100,000 to $500,000 each.
Sixty-one was a good number—not only Langer’s age but the final-round score Singh shot to come from six strokes behind after 54 holes to win the Charles Schwab Cup Championship. It ties the largest come-from-behind victory in tournament history, matching the rallies of Raymond Floyd in 1994 and Tom Watson in 2005, and is the lowest final round in the event’s history.
After shooting 67 each of the first three rounds, Singh really hit his stride on Sunday, finishing at 22-under 262 to defeat Tim Petrovic by four and Wes Short Jr. and McCarron by five for his third victory of the season.
“I really didn’t think I had any chance,” Singh said of his mindset starting the final round. “The guys, the way they were scoring all week, I thought if I get to 20 [under], I may finish in the top five. You don’t really think about a score when you go out there, but when it happens you just go with the flow.”
McCarron had a one-stroke lead with 18 holes to play and, given Langer’s result, would have won the Schwab Cup with a tournament victory. But McCarron played his last 11 holes in 1-over.
Singh had 11 one-putts on Sunday as he became only the third golfer to win both the TOUR Championship and Charles Schwab Cup Championship, joining Tom Lehman and Watson. While practicing his putting late Saturday afternoon, Singh experimented with a more crouched putting setup that he used in winning the 2017 Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf at Big Cedar Lodge with partner Carlos Franco.
“Graham Marsh told me the week before that I should crouch down a little bit more,” Singh said. “Look at [Jack] Nicklaus, what he does. He’s always there. He putted so well and won. Last night on the putting green I told my caddie I should just try that, it worked that week so well. It worked today. The putter just caught fire, and I started making a lot of putts.”
Singh, 55, needed a hot putter, given the quality of competition on PGA TOUR Champions, where he has competed while still playing some events on the PGA TOUR, where he is a 34-time winner.
“The guys over here are tough,” Singh said of PGA TOUR Champions. “They are great players and they’re fighters. Seems like they get better as they get older.”
Langer certainly fits that description, given that in addition to the Charles Schwab Cup, he won the money title for the seventh consecutive year—and 10th time in his 11 full seasons on PGA TOUR Champions—and had the Tour’s best scoring average (69.01) for the fifth year in a row. Langer won twice, giving him 38 victories in his Champions career, second to Hale Irwin’s 45, and had six runner-up finishes.
“I felt like I didn’t have my best putting year this year,” Langer said. “I struggled with my putting for a number of months. I still managed to get on top of the money list and the Schwab Cup standings. And that gives me encouragement for next year, actually, that if I can improve my putting a little bit and if I keep playing similar to the way I have been, I might still be in contention next year too.”
Still motivated. Still looking to improve. And still the man to beat.
This article first appeared in the PGA TOUR December 2018-May 2019 issue, which can be read here.