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The Best Golfer in the World

14 NOV 2017

By Dave Kaplan

Even though Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas are the three top ranked players in the Official World Golf Rankings at the moment, I think that Bernhard Langer might actually be the best golfer on the planet!

Yes, I understand how bold of a claim it is to coronate a 60-year-old Champions Tour player as the pre-eminent talent in the entire sport. But, if you take an objective look at the German’s statistics from this past season, I think you’ll find that it’s difficult not to agree…

For the second straight season, Langer absolutely dominated the senior circuit. He won seven tournaments in 22 starts, including three majors and two consecutive playoff events, and racked up 16 total Top 10 finishes without missing a single cut! And with the exception of only one tournament in February, he finished in a tie for 18th place or better in every event.

During that time, Langer earned a Champions Tour record total of $3,672,359 in winnings. That amount would have ranked him 18th overall on the PGA Tour money list this past season, ahead of Sergio Garcia, despite the fact that the average winner’s cheque on the Champions Tour is usually only one-third of the payout awarded on the PGA Tour.

Langer also led the tour in just about every important statistical category this past season. He was first in all-around ranking, ball striking, greens hit in regulation, three-putt avoidance, scoring average, birdie average, and putting average!

And his 1.685 putting average wasn’t just the best amongst his peers — it was the best of all time! Or, at least the best putting average by a professional player since the statistic was first introduced in 1986. In the thirty-one years since, only two other players have ever breached the 1.7 mark (Spieth averaged 1.699 in 2014/15 and Thomas averaged 1.694 this past season) — and Langer bested them both by a significant margin. Not even Tiger Woods, in his prime, rolled the ball like Langer did this past season.

Langer also possesses the type of killer instinct on the golf course that you rarely see from PGA Tour superstars these days (Spieth’s final round performance at Royal Birkdale, notwithstanding). And that mindset only seems to be getting sharper with each season. Coming into the year, Langer had converted 58% of his 54-hole leads on the Champions Tour. This past season, however, the sexagenarian converted on five of six 54-hole lead opportunities and has now carded an under par final round in his last 29 consecutive non-major tournaments!

Moreover, if the points system for the Charles Schwab Cup had not been reformatted two years ago, Langer would have automatically clinched this year’s trophy without even having to take a single swing in the tour finale last week. That is how much of a lead the Hall of Famer had built up in the standings over the course of the regular season and the playoffs! Unfortunately, those points were reset before the finale and Langer came up just short of eventual winner Kevin Sutherland, who won his first Champions Tour event tournament in four years on Sunday. Had Langer won, it would have been his fourth consecutive and fifth overall Charles Schwab Cup in just 10 years on the circuit. 

And yet, despite playing heads and shoulders above the rest of his colleagues this past season and putting better than anyone else has in the history of the game, Langer is still not satisfied with his overall game. In fact, he is determined to get even better this offseason.

“The main goal is to improve myself, to have a better technique or to have better chipping, putting, whatever it is,” he told reporters after play concluded on Sunday. “If I can continue to improve, I’m going to have a good chance to win tournaments, to win majors.”

That’s the type of motivational attitude that makes me want to schedule a weekly practice routine for myself at the driving range this winter. But, unfortunately, I lack Langer’s commitment and drive. More than likely, I will spend my offseason glued to the couch, living vicariously through Langer’s success instead.

Dave Kaplan is a Toronto-based freelance writer and golf fanatic who is sneaky long off the tee. Follow him on Twitter @davykap