Bernhard Langer’s PGA Tour Champions reign is teetering, though not necessarily crumbling, and will require more than a strong performance in the Charles Schwab Cup Championship that begins on Thursday if it’s to be extended.
Langer, 62, has won the Jack Nicklaus Trophy as the tour's player of the year eight times, including the last five. He also has been the Charles Schwab Cup champion five times, including four of the last five years. And he has led the tour in earnings seven straight years and 10 of the last 11.
In all likelihood, either Scott McCarron or Jerry Kelly will be the player of the year, and Langer will have to win the Charles Schwab Cup Championship at Phoenix Country Club and receive help from McCarron and Kelly to win the season-long Schwab Cup competition and its $1 million prize.
McCarron and Kelly are first and second on the Schwab Cup points list, and should either win the tournament on Sunday, they’ll also win the Schwab Cup.
Langer, Colin Montgomerie and Retief Goosen are the only other players mathematically still in contention for the Schwab Cup. For Langer to win it again, he needs a victory on Sunday ... and for McCarron to finish tied for fifth or worse ... and for Kelly to tie for second or worse. In other words, Langer needs a few breaks.
As for the Jack Nicklaus Trophy, McCarron and Kelly each has won three times this year. McCarron also leads the tour in top 10s with 14 and earnings with $2,514,715. Kelly is second in both categories, with 13 top 10s and earnings of $2,318,925.
Langer has won twice, but with 11 top 10s and $1,695,809 in earnings, he can’t catch McCarron or Kelly in either of those categories.
Only victories really matter for Langer at this juncture of his World Golf Hall of Fame career. He has passed the age at which senior careers begin to decline, yet he remains a formidable presence who is five wins short of equaling Hale Irwin’s senior-tour record of 45.
Langer’s 41st career victory eluded him on Sunday, when he lost a playoff to Montgomerie by taking four shots to escape a greenside bunker on the first extra hole.
For Montgomerie to win the Schwab Cup, meanwhile, he'd have to win the Charles Schwab Cup Championship and have McCarron finish solo ninth or worse and have Kelly finish in a three-way tie for fourth or worse. For Goosen to win the Schwab Cup, he'd need a victory on Sunday and for McCarron to finish in a three-way tie for 12th or worse and for Kelly to finish T-5 or worse.