U.S. Senior Open

Bernhard Langer, 65, defying age, wins U.S. Senior Open to surpass Hale Irwin with record 46th Champions victory

July 02, 2023

Patrick McDermott

It was to have evolved into a race against time for Bernhard Langer in his pursuit of Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record for victories, yet time stood no chance. Langer on Sunday, two months shy of his 66th birthday, posted his record 46th senior victory in a dominating manner, on the senior game’s biggest stage, the U.S. Senior Open.

Players his age are not supposed to win. Irwin was 61 when he produced the last of his 45 senior victories. Until Langer came along, the oldest to win on the senior tour was Scott Hoch, at 63 years and five months. This victory by Langer at SentryWorld in Stevens Point, Wis., advanced that record for the fifth time.

And he did so while having to contend with Wisconsin’s favorite sons, Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly, on their home turf. He carried a two-stroke lead over Kelly, three over Stricker, into the final round, and though he bogeyed his final three holes, he still won by two over Stricker, the runner-up, and three over Kelly.

“It's been a long time coming, but I’m very, very happy,” Langer said. “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 grounds, is a very special feeling. Very grateful.”

It was his record 12th senior major championship, to go with two Masters titles. It was his second U.S. Senior Open victory, 13 years after his first. It also marked his record 11th season with multiple victories, his having won the Chubb Classic earlier this year.

Langer closed with a one-under-par 70 that largely was mistake free until the closing holes. He completed 72 holes in seven-under 277. Stricker, seeking a third straight major championship this season, shot a two-under 69, while Kelly posted an even-par 71.

At the end of play on Saturday, Langer leading by two, Kelly sensed the task ahead for both Stricker and himself was ominous. “You know he's going to be tough,” he said. “He's smelling 46 right now.”


Patrick McDermott

As if on cue, Langer opened with birdie-birdie for the second straight day, added another birdie at six and at one point led by as many as seven. Over four rounds, Langer led the field in fairways hit (49 of 56) and greens in regulation (52 of 72), usually a winning formula in a USGA championship.

“I knew it was going to be a tough day just because Steve Stricker has been in top form,” Langer said. “He's winning basically every time he tees up or thereabouts. 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.”

In the immediate aftermath, he was asked how long he could keep going, and he cited aches and pains that weren’t there a decade ago.

“I've got two bad knees, for those of you who don't know, and it hurts bending down and staying down,” he said. “When I have dinner and I sit for an hour or something and get up, it's hard to get up. That's just been that way for a number of years.

“But I've got good news. I have my mother that's going to be 100 on Aug. 4, so I think I have good genes. Hopefully I'll be around a few more years.”