5 Takeaways From This Year’s PURE Insurance Championship
Bernhard Langer is a World Golf Hall of Famer, a two-time Masters champion, the original No. 1 player in the world when the rankings were established in 1986, and on his way toward the greatest PGA TOUR Champions career ever.
Shockingly missing from that resume? A win at Pebble Beach. He revised that with a dominant performance at this year’s PURE Insurance Championship Impacting The First Tee.
Here is what impressed us this week:
1. BERNHARD BAGS HIS FIRST PEBBLE BEACH WIN
Langer has been a PGA TOUR Champions force for a decade. On a tour where players between the ages of 50-55 have won 85% of all events, the 60-year-old Langer has shown no signs of slowing down. He entered the week with 33 career wins — including 10 Majors — but surprisingly none had come at Pebble Beach.
Until this week. Langer avenged a runner-up finish in last year’s tournament with a three-stroke victory over the streaking Jerry Kelly, who had won two of his previous three starts. Langer opened with a 7-under 64 at Poppy Hills before posting back-to-back 5-under 67s at Pebble Beach.
“For me personally, it’s a very important win,” Langer said. “I’ve dreamt of winning here, looking over the ocean and holding a trophy.”
2. LANGER SMASHES TOURNAMENT RECORDS
Langer fell one-stoke shy of Paul Broadhurst last year, but left no doubt this time. His 17-under 198 was three strokes better than the previous tournament record set by Craig Stadler, who shot it during the inaugural 2004 event. Langer also made 23 birdies, five better than when Broadhurst set the previous high-water mark last year.
The win was the 34th of Langer’s PGA TOUR Champions career, good for second all-time. Langer trails Hale Irwin by 11, but could gain on that deficit quickly. Langer’s win gives him five on the season, the third time he’s reached that plateau. Langer has needed just 18 tournaments to win five times in 2017, and is closing in on an unprecedented fourth straight Charles Schwab Cup.
“That man is truly inspiring,” Kelly said. “I mean, I told him the other day I’ve got so much respect for what he’s doing. Forget what he’s done, he’s doing it.”
3. EVEN RECORD ROUNDS COULDN’T PHASE LANGER
Every day was a broken record for breaking records. Scott McCarron set the Poppy Hills tournament record with an opening 8-under 63 on Friday, but it was only good enough to take a one-shot lead over Langer, who fired a 64 to also top the previous mark of 65.
Kenny Perry matched Stadler’s 2004 Pebble Beach tournament record on Saturday with a 9-under 63 that required just 22 putts. He eagled No. 6 and finished with birdies on four of the last six holes, but even so, he still trailed Langer by a stroke going into the final round.
And Kelly set an impressive PGA TOUR Champions mark for excellence during the final round, closing with a 5-under 67 for his 14th straight score in the 60s, eclipsing Irwin’s 1999 record. Kelly pulled even with Langer after an eagle at No. 6, and again with a birdie at No. 12. But Langer responded with three straight birdies on Nos. 13-15, while Kelly finished with six consecutive pars.
“I thought I need eight (under) today and that’s exactly what I needed,” Kelly said. “I was hoping that wasn’t the case, but when you’ve got Iron Man out there doing that stuff…”
4. THE PROS LOVE THIS WEEK AS MUCH AS THE KIDS
In his victory speech, Langer recalled when he was 16, and had the dream opportunity to play with Jack Nicklaus.
“It took me about nine holes to stop my hands from shaking,” Langer admitted.
The pros savor the opportunity to swap roles during this special week.
“It’s a treat for us to see the future generation, play with them, and invest in them,” Langer said.
Added Kelly, “There’s no way I would miss this tournament, because the kids are so inspiring, so cool.”
Langer also won the pro-junior portion of the tournament, making the week that much more unforgettable for Justin Portwola from The First Tee of Greater Portland.
“It was amazing to watching him play flawless golf, hit it to 8 feet every time, and then make the putt,” said Portwola, who then added with a laugh, “It was almost boring.”
5. PEBBLE BEACH WAS PERFECT
Stillwater Cove was sparkling all weekend, the weather sat in the mid-70s, and wispy clouds only appeared occasionally to brush the sky with some artistic contrast.
“It was a magical week,” Langer said.
The juniors playing here for the first time might think it’s always like this at Pebble Beach, but their pro partners can surely tell them some Crosby tales that will sound like fish stories after this week…
Top photo by Kent Horner/Getty Images