Bernhard Langer still a Champions pacesetter at 62 as tour lands in Michigan
One former Masters champion is looking to resurrect his career, while another admits he's pondering if the end might be near.
Among the 81 players in the Ally Challenge field this week at Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club in Grand Blanc are Mike Weir, who is making his Champions Tour debut, and Bernhard Langer, who has accomplished practically everything he can on the 50-and-older circuit, with 41 Champions Tour wins, four shy of Hale Irwin's record.
Langer, 62, still is getting it done, of course, with five Charles Schwab Cup championships, including four in the last five years.
He was the season money leader, as well, when the season shut down in March.
"Yeah, nowadays, it's more and more on my mind as I'm getting to that age group where there's not too many around anymore," said Langer, who in his prime played mostly the European Tour; he won just three times on the PGA Tour, including the Masters in 1985 and 1993. "I always said, as long as I'm healthy and enjoy the game and somewhat successful, if those three things are present, there's no reason to stop. But if your health goes, you can't do what you want to do, you can't do it the way you want to do it, if I'm out here finishing 40th every week, then I'll probably think about quitting, because that's not what I want to do. I want to be in contention and to have a chance to win.
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"If I finish 40th, 50th, week after week, I don't think I'm going to be out here that much longer."
Don't hold your breath on that happening anytime soon.
Langer, in five tournaments before the shutdown, finished in the top six four times, including a win at the Cologuard Classic in Arizona. He's also played twice on the PGA Tour during its restart, making the cut at the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head. He's made the cut in three of his last four Masters, tying for 24th in 2016 at the age of 58.
Langer is known as one of the hardest workers in professional golf, particularly when it comes to staying in shape — physically, mentally and even spiritually. During the shutdown, he held Bible-study sessions over Zoom.
Langer is one of the oldest players in this week's field, while Weir is tied for second-youngest. Weir and Jim Furyk share a birthday, May 12, and both turned 50 this year. Furyk and K.J. Choi (May 19) also make their Champions Tour debuts.
Weir is a pseudo local in the field, too, having grown up in Bright's Grove, Ontario, near Sarnia, just across the Blue Water Bridge from Port Huron. He first played Warwick in 1992 as a Monday qualifier. It was his second PGA Tour tournament.
Eleven years later, he won the Masters, the sixth of his eight PGA Tour titles. He hasn't won on the PGA Tour since 2007, hasn't had regular status on the PGA Tour since 2015, and has made just three of his last 20 PGA Tour cuts.
Weir warmed up for this week with three Korn Ferry Tour starts, making the cut in one.
"We have one week off next week, and then it kinds of gets into the full mode of the season," Weir said. "I was trying to anticipate that and be ready for that physically, to play eight of nine weeks or something like that. I haven't done that in years. I played a couple of events in a row, had a month off, played one event, had a couple weeks off. That's kind of how my schedule's gone the last five, six years probably.
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"So it will be nice to get in the flow of tournaments and playing week after week. That's when you really get to see where your game's at and where you need to tweak it and kind of keep moving forward.
"I would love to get in contention and see how I handle that, because it's been a while."
Where: Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club, Grand Blanc
Purse: $2 million (winner: $300,000)
TV: All days on Golf Channel. Friday — 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Saturday — 2-4:30 p.m. Sunday — 3-5 p.m.
Tickets: None; because of COVID-19, fans are prohibited.
Defending champion: Jerry Kelly