When Bernhard Langer said his victory at the San Antonio Championship “was just a matter of who was going to close the best,” he could just as easily have been talking about the Charles Schwab Cup.
It’s no surprise that Langer’s second victory of the Champions Tour season further tightened the Charles Schwab Cup race. For weeks now, the competition between the top three – the last three with a chance – has been too close to call. It was destined to be that way to the end.
“It kind of looked like it would come down to the last tournament, anyway, unless Colin (Montgomerie) or Jeff (Maggert) would have won one of these two or three tournaments,” Langer said. “Then, they would have jumped way out there. As it turns out, it’s going to be a fairly close race, and whoever does best in the Schwab Cup tournament will probably win the Schwab Cup.”
With 270 Charles Schwab Cup points for the win in San Antonio, Langer now has 3,012 and trails Colin Montgomerie by just 66 points. Jeff Maggert is second, 27 points ahead of third place.
At this late stage, there is a twist in the plot. Maggert withdrew from the San Antonio Championship after aggravating a muscle in his right calf, an injury he originally suffered nearly two months ago.
“I felt I could play (in San Antonio) but the calf tightened up on me and with the Toshiba Classic and Charles Schwab Cup Championship coming up, I didn’t want to risk it any further this week.”
Langer saved his best for last in San Antonio. He wiped out a three-shot, 36-hole deficit with a closing 65, which included eight birdies, to finish at 12-under 204. He edged Scott McCarron by three shots. The victory was Langer’s second this year and could give him a momentum boost going into the final two events.
The penultimate event on the 2015 Champions Tour calendar is next week’s Toshiba Classic at Newport Beach (California) Country Club. The season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship is Nov. 5-8 at Desert Mountain (Cochise) in Scottsdale.
Fred Couples will defend his title at the Toshiba Classic, where he birdied the final two holes last year to win by a shot over three golfers – Langer, Montgomerie and Steve Pate. Montgomerie closed with 62 so both he and Langer should feel right at home at Newport Beach CC. Langer also finished second at the Toshiba Classic in 2012 behind Loren Roberts.
Langer is looking for his second straight Charles Schwab Cup, and third since 2010. He also posted back-to-back runner-up finishes in 2012 and 2013 in the annual season-long competition for the $1 million bonus.
Langer is No. 1 in all-time Charles Schwab Cup earnings ($3.5 million).
Nobody has ever won the Charles Schwab Cup three times. Six golfers have each won twice. In addition to Langer, they are Tom Watson, Tom Lehman, Hale Irwin, Loren Roberts and Jay Haas.
“Just shows that it’s difficult to do because there is a lot of talent out here,” Langer said last year at Desert Mountain.
Through 22 tournaments this year, Langer has not been leader of the points race in any week. Montgomerie has led 10 weeks and was tied another with Maggert, who has topped the list by himself on two occasions.
In 2012, Langer teed it up in the final event at Desert Mountain with the points lead. Lehman needed a victory to eclipse Langer. Lehman won the tournament and the Charles Schwab Cup.
A year later, Langer lost the San Antonio tournament in a playoff against Kenny Perry, who maintained the points lead with the victory. Perry clinched it by winning the Charles Schwab Cup Championship at TPC Harding Park.
Langer thrives on challenges and he has used a busy non-Champions Tour schedule this year for some motivation. In addition to the Masters Tournament, where he is a two-time champion, Langer qualified for both The Open Championship and THE PLAYERS Championship on the PGA Tour as winner of the senior version of those events in 2014.
He anticipated that those tournaments might cost him a couple of appearances this year on the Champions Tour but believed that if he played well enough he might still have a shot at another Charles Schwab Cup.