How do you put Bernhard Langer’s amazing Senior career in perspective?

Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.

Jin Young Ko won again on the weekend for her fourth LPGA victory in just seven starts this year and the win will move her past Nelly Korda into #1 spot on the Rolex World Rankings. Ko’s opening round of 71 at the BMW Ladies Championship ended a remarkable run of 14 consecutive scores in the 60’s. At home Ko is a rock star but in the North American market she has flown somewhat under the radar until now when she’s too big to ignore. She’s but one of a dozen or more exceptional Asian players who don’t get the attention they deserve. How do you see it?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): It’s so unfortunate that American golf fans — including broadcasters — do not give the Asian players the credit they’re due.  I’m not accusing anyone of racism, but American xenophobia is thicker than molasses.  Even though Asian women have been a major, and then dominating, force on the LPGA for 15 years, most Americans seem to think they’re some kind of anomaly that’ll go away before we know it.  I marvel at these young women… not only for their talent, but for their perseverance in not only becoming great players, but also overcoming the language barrier, the cultural differences, the ambivalence if not downright hostility that they’ve faced from fans, media, and even their fellow non-Asian LPGA colleagues.  Hey Lexi, why don’t you go over to Korea for a couple of years and get a taste of what these women face every week?

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): I see it just as posed, she doesn’t get the credit deserved. She’s a fantastic player, who really hasn’t snuck up the rankings, she’s been great for a couple of years now. 2019 was a great season for her (#1 on the money list), but 2021 has blown that season out of the water. I don’t see any flaws in her game, she’s rock solid all around. I predict she continues to dominate and be a top 3 player in 2022.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada:  Unfortunately, we are heavily under the influence of USA Media coverage. North Americans are among the most underserved people in the world regarding any and all news. If the story isn’t about an American it goes deeper into the ‘paper’. Anything that doesn’t protect American interests and their need to keep ‘growing the bottom line” is viewed as unimportant. The rest of the world is trying to work more closely with each other after the Past President revealed what everyone already knew but was reluctant to take the step around them: “America First”. Culturally, Americans have little interest or desire to broaden their knowledge in anything outside their borders unless it brings in more $$$$$. Believe it or not, there is a wonderful world out there just waiting to be discovered.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): Sadly, the Korean players don’t get the attention and it may be their own doing because there are so many great Korean players.  When it was just Se Ri Pak, we all knew her.  They certainly deserve more attention but given the language barrier for many and the lack of exposure each of them get in North America through advertising, it’s tough.  I believe that will change as more Korean players get comfortable with the US media and living in the US.  The LPGA could benefit greatly from these great athletes.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Unfortunately, the US TV networks are obsessed with celebrities, mostly of the American variety. Consequently, we know everything about Lexi Thompson, Nelly & Jessica Korda, Michelle Wie West and a few others but know virtually nothing about the top Asian players who have dominated the LPGA for more than 20 years. Since Se Ri Pak burst on the scene in 1998, Asian women have won 45 of 104 majors, including 34 by South Koreans. In the same time period, Americans have won 26. The LPGA is truly an international tour, but you’d never know it by the way it’s presented in North American media.

Hideki Matsuyama won the Zozo Championship in Japan on Sunday for his first PGA Tour victory on home soil. In his victory speech he credited the fans with providing abundant energy to motivate him to the win. How important do you think a “home” crowd can be to a player’s chances?

Deeks: Not having played a match or tournament before a gallery of more than zero, I can’t really imagine whether fans cheering me on would make me play better or put so much pressure on me that I’d top my next drive.  But fan support — or lack thereof — is just one of the many aspects of professional tournament golf that pro’s have to learn. As you say above, Jin Young Ko is a rock star in Korea; I would imagine that Hideki reached certified GOD status in Japan, after his Masters victory.  And now that he’s achieved bonafide star status on the PGA Tour, it would be hard not to be fully energized and buoyed by the fanatical hometown fans… all 125 million of ‘em.  I can’t imagine anything more satisfying than winning at home, especially if home is not America.

Loughry: I’d never bet against Hideki when he’s playing in Japan. He has 7 Tour wins and 3 are in Japan alone. I think the hometown crowd can play an advantage depending on the player. Some players put way too much pressure on themselves to perform for home fans (friends/family), others definitely thrive on it. Hideki is one that obviously enjoys the home cheers. Its great for golf too, and if you know anything about Japan, they LOVE their golf and golfers.

Schurman: The main reason this has such an impact is because of the rarity. The only men’s PGA golf tournaments consistently held outside the USA are the Open, the Presidents Cup and the Ryder Cup. Here we have a homegrown player playing on his native soil in a homegrown event. What this tells me is that Greg Norman was ahead of his time. There is the potential for a world tour with an event staged in 10 to 15 countries but if you read my answer in question #1, you will quickly realize it isn’t going to happen. It simply isn’t in America’s best interests.

Rule: It depends on the player I believe.  Mike Weir had tremendous support over the years at the Canadian Open, but he faltered in a few of them, and should have one at least the one at Glen Abbey that Vijay won in a playoff. Some athletes rise to the occasion and others succumb to the pressure of a home crowd.  In a sport like golf, adrenaline isn’t always a good thing.  A home crowd can lift up a hockey team by providing that adrenaline, but it can hurt a golfer who needs to stay calm in the moment.

Mumford: I think this is an after-the-fact thing – acknowledging the support of the home crowd, after a win or even after playing well. Professional golfers do everything possible to weed out any possible external distraction when they play so it seems unlikely this could be a positive. More likely, it’s added pressure that has to be overcome.

On the Senior circuit (PGA Tour Champions), Bernhard Langer set a record for oldest player to win, when he captured the Dominion Energy Charity Classic at the age of 64. How do you put Langer’s amazing Senior career in perspective?

Deeks: Go here: https://www.pgatour.com/champions/stats.html… and take a look at all the Champions Tour stats, and you’ll find Bernhard Langer’s name in the top 10 of almost every category except driving distance.  In most categories, he’s either number one, two, or three.  And this is a man who’s 64 years old.  He’s three victories short of Hale Irwin’s all-time record of 45 on the senior circuit, and I can only assume he’ll top that, eventually.  Pardon the self-service, but I wrote a column in Fairways seven years ago saying that Bernhard Langer may well be the greatest player in golf history.  If he wasn’t one of the blandest personalities of all time, I’m sure he’d be much better recognized for his incredible talent and longevity.

Loughry: Honestly, Langer is amazing. That’s 42 wins on the European Tour, and now 42 wins on the Champions Tour. I do wonder if his Senior Tour Career would get him into the Golf Hall of Fame on its own. Its impressive, its not like the fields don’t have good players, he certainly takes it very seriously. He also leads the Charles Schwab Cup points too (he’s played all 34 events this season). Honestly, this is impressive.

Schurman: Bernard Langer is the best player in the past decade on his tour!!!!!! No other person on any tour in the world can say the same thing. What is truly amazing is he has re-built his putting game three times. He is far from the longest hitter, the best short game, the best you name it. All he can do is manage his ball around the course week in and week out. He is seldom off the leaderboard. He isn’t flashy and given my answers in #1 and #2, if he was an American, he would be a folk hero. Instead, all he is, is one of the two finest Champions players of all time along with Hale Irwin. He reminds me a lot of Moe Norman, while he is here, we have no idea what we are seeing.

Rule: It’s hard to put into perspective.  I know he isn’t first overall in wins, trailing Hale Irwin by three (and the way he’s going, I don’t doubt he’ll top that record), but he has also faced much stiffer competition over his Senior career. The thing that amazes me is how competitive he has been at the Masters over the past decade.  His career will go down as the best over-50 career ever once he’s done.

Mumford: Alien? Maybe. Robot? Quite possible. There’s really no one to compare Langer to. Sam Snead was competitive well into his fifties and other players have shown flashes of brilliance as they approach 60 but Langer contends and wins on a regular basis and has for fifteen years on the Senior circuit after a Hall of Fame career on the regular Tour. It’s one thing to keep playing until age 64 but to keep winning is incredible. And to have the motivation to keep working so hard is legendary. Can you be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame twice?

The Round Table
The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

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