For the last 10 years Bernhard Langer has ruled the PGA Tour Champions, but Steve Stricker has established himself and could try and knock off Langer from the top of the hill.
The season began strong for Langer as he looked to extend his dominance. He won once, and finished no worse than a tie for fifth in the other three events. Then he injured his back, and had to take nearly a month off to heal.
“I got off to a great start,” Langer said. “I played the first three tournaments winning one event, losing in a playoff in another and finished third in the third, so got off to a great start. Then hurt my back, had to withdraw from a few tournaments, and I had to then find my way back.”
It has been a rough road. Langer has played in six events since coming back from the injury, and his best finish was a tie for sixth. He has not had any other top 10s, and for the first time since the 2010 PGA Senior Championship, Langer had a finish outside the top 20. He finished 24th at last week’s US Senior Open. Langer said it might take some time to get back to the form he has enjoyed for more than a decade.
“The body is holding up pretty good,” Langer said. “I’ve recovered from my injury, and I’m feeling good again. So I can work on my game and look forward to the rest of the season.”
Stricker Takes Advantage of Absence
Though Stricker is only playing part time on the PGA Tour Champions, he is becoming a force. In only eight events in 2019, Stricker has been in the top 10 five times. He also broke through this year, winning his first major championship at the Regions Tradition. He followed that up with his second major a month later at the US Senior Open.
“Any time you can win, you can draw on those experiences and hopefully use them the next time, especially when you come to another major,” Stricker said before winning the US Senior Open.
Stricker doesn’t believe he is the new No. 1 on the senior circuit, especially since he is trying to continue to play both the regular tour and the PGA Tour Champions.
“I’ve talked to other players that have gone through the process of trying to play both, and they say the same thing, too; it’s hard,” Stricker said. “They told me that you’ve got to commit to one or the other, and I have not done that. I want to, but I still feel that desire to play both places.”
Best on Tour Will Wait
So Stricker is happy at the moment competing in two places, though he has had far more success on the PGA Tour Champions. In addition to being pulled in those two directions, he also has responsibilities that need to be met as the Ryder Cup captain.
“You know, I still enjoy playing on the regular Tour, and I enjoy competing and playing out here, as well,” Stricker said. “That’s been the toughest part, the two or three years that I’ve played out here. I haven’t played a full schedule out here yet. I’ve been still bouncing back and forth, mainly because of my Ryder Cup duties next year. Being the captain, I feel like I need to continue to be out there, see the guys. I’ve played with a few this year that potentially could be on the team.”
Challenging Langer for the No. 1 spot might have to wait a year, but the way Langer is going, he’ll still be out there taking on all comers.
“What keeps me going is loving the game, loving to compete,” Langer said.