Make more room in the record books for Bernhard Langer.
Not only did the 65-year-old German become the oldest champion – by eight years – in the U.S. Senior Open on Sunday at SentryWorld, he surpassed five-time USGA champ Hale Irwin as the winningest player in PGA Tour Champions history with 46 titles.
One of the fittest players on the 50-and-over circuit, Langer belied his age by dissecting the challenging Robert Trent Jones Jr. design. He played 7-under-par golf over the final 54 holes, including a final-round 70, to post a two-stroke victory over Steve Stricker.
“It feels awesome,” said Langer, who finished at 7-under 277. “It’s been a long time coming, but very, very happy. Never thought it would happen at a U.S. Senior Open, but I’m very thrilled that the record of 46 wins happened this week.
“It’s certainly one of the greatest tournaments we ever compete in, and to beat this field, where everybody was here, especially Stricker and Kelly on their home [turf], is a very special feeling. Very grateful.”
The owner of a record 12 senior major titles, including a pair of U.S. Senior Opens 13 years apart, the World Golf Hall of Famer surpassed Allen Doyle as the oldest winner of this championship. Doyle was just shy of his 58th birthday when he successfully defended in 2006 at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Kansas. Langer will turn 66 on Aug. 27.
"You always figure records are made to be broken," said Doyle via a text from his home in Georgia, "but this guy is taking it to a new level. He put on quite a show."
Coincidentally, the trophy that Langer hoisted on Sunday bears the name of the individual who owns the largest gap between wins in the same USGA championship. Francis Ouimet, the 1913 U.S. Open champion, claimed the U.S. Amateur in 1914 and again in 1931.
Just as in 2010 at Sahalee Country Club outside Seattle, when Langer edged hometown favorite Fred Couples for his first Senior Open triumph, the two-time Masters champion had to fend off Badger State heroes in Stricker and Jerry Kelly. Langer expected and encountered a Ryder Cup-like atmosphere on Sunday as droves of fans came to cheer on the two Madison residents.
Stricker, the 2019 champion, took too long to get going, posting a 2-over 37 on the outward nine before playing the second nine in 4-under 32 to finish solo second for a second consecutive year. He shot a final-round 65 in the 2022 championship to come up one stroke shy of Padraig Harrington at Saucon Valley.
“I was very excited about today,” said Stricker, who was vying for a third consecutive senior major of 2023 and now has four wins and five seconds in 12 starts this season. “I told [my wife/caddie] Nicki we're going to have to shoot a good one. Five under was my goal to get to 8 under.
“That's disappointing because I’ve been playing well. I never really put two good nine holes together this week, and that really ended up being the killer. It seemed like I had a poor nine holes in there every day, and that just ended up costing me the tournament.”
Kelly, a two-time runner-up, started the day two strokes behind Langer but went out in 36 and home in 35 for an even-par 71 and solo third, three behind Langer.
“That was very special,” said Kelly, who was paired with Langer in Round 4 and accompanied the champion on the walk to the 18th green at Langer’s invitation. “I’m happy to be a part of it. He deserves it. It was incredible watching him pick apart the golf course methodically and making birdies. [He] got a good break on 5, but other than that, it was all him. Hats off to him. Nice job.”
Brett Quigley (66) and former club professional Rob Labritz (69) shared fourth at 2-under 282. It was the second consecutive top-4 finish for Labritz, who was the head professional at Glen Arbor Golf Club in Bedford Hills, N.Y., for 23 years before joining PGA Tour Champions last year.
Steven Alker, whose 65 was the best round of the week, Dicky Pride (69) and two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen (71) shared sixth at 283.
Langer played the kind of golf that wins USGA championships, leading the field in fairways hit (49 of 56) and greens in regulation (52 of 72), while tying for fourth with Stricker and Bob Estes in birdies made (16).
Speaking of birdies, he posted 3s on SentryWorld’s opening two holes for a second consecutive day, draining a 30-footer on the 501-yard, par-4 second, which ranked the second-toughest in Round 4 (4.42). On the par-5 fifth hole, Langer hit his second into the penalty area short of the green, and instead of taking a drop, he took off his shoes and socks and executed a remarkable recovery to 5 feet to set up another birdie. Then he came within 6 inches of acing the 201-yard, par-3 seventh before rolling in a 15-footer on No. 10 to take a six-shot lead.
Three consecutive bogeys to finish didn’t damper Langer’s spirits as he raised his arms to congratulatory applause from the Wisconsin fans.
“I knew it was going to be a tough day just because Steve Stricker has been in top form,” said Langer. “He’s winning basically every time he tees up. I knew he would want to have his streak going of three majors in a row, and I knew he was going to give it his all.
“The same with Jerry Kelly. He’s one of the best ball strikers, very underrated golfer. I knew he would do well because he is one of the straightest hitters. The key this week, I think, was hitting the fairways. If you could keep it out of the cabbage, you had a chance. I think that's one of the reasons I did so well.”
“It’s one of the best golf courses I’ve ever played. Condition of the golf course was fabulous all week long. Beautiful fairways, great greens. The ball rolled really nice. Bunkers were good. Rough was a bit juicy, but it’s the same for everybody, and it’s a U.S. Open. My hat’s off to the greenkeeping staff, to the owners of SentryWorld. They’ve got a jewel here.” – Bernhard Langer
“The crowds were unbelievable here this week. Way more people than what I expected. They were so gracious, so supportive, showing me so much love and support. It was really cool. It was something we don’t experience … very often. It was a testament to Wisconsin golf, Wisconsin people, and they really put on a good show.” – Steve Stricker
“I know I was way too amped up. I was trying to be settled and calm, but I was talking more than I have all week. I’m really tired. I didn’t have the strength as much today to stave off that. We want to push our mind and our bodies into those uncomfortable spots and see how we do in them. I did well without my best stuff today.” – Jerry Kelly
“The guy is a class act. He works out, he’s still got the vision, the drive to try and win events. He’s been what, 15 years on the Champions? That’s impressive. That’s all I can say.” – Steven Alker on Langer
“Once you get by Friday and make the cut, it begins a whole new ballgame. And we had a great time out there. Today I didn’t look at any scores. Just did my own thing, and when we putted out on 18, I asked how we did, and [my caddie Ted McKeeth] said we did it. I didn’t want to know.” – Mark Strickland on earning low-amateur honors
“Being home at Newport, that’s special. Rhode Island is really special, loves golf. Newport Country Club, first [U.S.] Open, first [U.S.] Amateur there. Really cool stuff. I know they’re excited for that championship, and certainly I am, too. I get goosebumps just thinking about it.” – Brett Quigley
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.