Bernhard Langer has played golf all over the world. He has won 116 professional tournaments, at least one on six different continents. At 62, he dominates the PGA Tour Champions with 41 titles in 14 years.
But Langer estimates it’s been about 50 years since he’s played such little golf in a six-week period.
And he misses it.
Langer, like professional athletes around the world, is finding ways to stay occupied and stay fit while following social distancing protocols amid the coronavirus pandemic. But beckoning Bernhard outside his home at the Woodfield Country Club in Boca Raton is a wide-open, barren golf course.
“You got to look at the bright side, there are good things that come out of this. We have our son at home, and we can spend more time at home,” Langer said.
“But do I miss golf? Yes, I do! It was kind of nice to have a break for a week or two. Then I got a little itchy. I certainly would love to play, practice, or even compete. It’s very strange to live on a golf course and not be able to play golf or practice.”
Langer played a couple of rounds about two weeks ago in Naples. Prior, he played a round or two at Woodfield before it closed March 25 and in Myrtle Beach the second week of March while there to watch his son, Jason, a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania, play in a tournament.
This is a man who has not allowed age to slow him down. He plays 20 to 25 events on the Tour Champions alone, five this year from mid-January to early-March, finishing in the top 6 in four and winning the Cologuard Classic in Tucson. He and Jason won the Father-Son Challenge in Orlando in December.
While he enjoys spending more time with Vikki, his wife of 36 years, Langer is ready to get back into the swing of golf. After all, he can only produce so many “Burn Baby Bern” videos – his attempt to become more active on social media with exercise videos that typically end with him in his pool. The videos appear on Langer’s and the PGA Tour’s social media sites.
— Bernhard Langer (@BernhardLanger6) April 16, 2020
“I think golf is an ideal sport to do social distancing because you have wide-open spaces,” said Langer, who was born outside of Munich, Germany, but has lived in Boca for nearly 40 years. “You can carry your bag or use a pull trolley. Even if you’re in a cart by yourself, you can wipe down a cart.
“There’s really hardly any chance of getting exposed to the virus.”
Langer is “actually questioning” why courses are closed, believing few sports like golf can be played while social distancing and remaining safe. As for tournament golf, Langer is in step with at least the PGA Tour, which became the first professional sports league to announce a plan to return, saying Thursday the season would resume the second week of June with tournaments scheduled every week through Dec. 6, except for Thanksgiving weekend. That plan is dependent on health guidelines.
Langer, whose two PGA Tour majors’ victories are the 1985 and 1993 Masters, said he “absolutely” believes golf can lead the charge for sports returning.
“We don’t have physical contact,” he said. “In football, you got to hit each other. In basketball, they’re going to have to hit each other. In soccer, they’re going to have bodily contact. Baseball, they’re going to run into each other.
“We’re one of the few sports where we don’t. I really don’t need to go near anybody if I don’t want to. Golf is different in that regard. Absolutely.”
That plan, he believes, will include tournaments without spectators at least to start.
“Just do it for television,” he said. “It would give the people something to watch. People get bored at home. They’re just sitting around watching the news or reading books, which is good. they’re getting closer to their families, so there’s good things as well.
“But I think people are hungry for live sport and we could provide that.”
Langer is monitoring the pandemic in two countries. He has family members, including his mother and a brother, and friends in Germany. That nation issued some of the world’s tightest restrictions about a month ago and has one of the lowest mortality rates among the largest countries in the world. Chancellor Angela Merkel announced Wednesday the country would slowly pull back on social-distancing rules starting next week.
As for the guidelines the last month, Langer said his family and friends have lived life in Germany in similar fashion to the way we have in United States.
Langer’s 41 Tour Champions titles are four shy of the record held by Hale Irwin. He is the tour’s career money leader with more than $29.1 million. All events on the Tour Champions through June have been canceled with the Senior Players Championship, one of five majors on the tour, still on for early July in Akron.
The biggest challenge for a 60-something to return after a long absence is in the more delicate part of the game.
“The good thing for me, who has been doing this for 44 years, it shouldn’t take me too long to get back to whatever I was doing,” he said. “The part that suffers the most is the short game. Longer game comes back quicker.
“When we get notice that things might start again, I’m going to have to focus on my short game.”
And continue that assault on golf courses around the world.
Tom D’Angelo is a staff writer for the Palm Beach Post, part of the USA Today Network. Follow him on Twitter: email@example.com