LANCASHIRE – Let's get this straight from the start: The golfers on the senior tours for the over-50s in America and Europe are not a bunch of geriatrics hacking the ball about.
Golf lends itself to longevity and a player of 50 can still be extremely competitive.
Yes, you may lose a bit of power off the tee but this game is also about finesse and touch and confidence and precision and skilful shotmaking, and these attributes don’t suddenly disappear once you turn 50.
Never mind just 50, though, because there’s also the amazing, age-defying Bernhard Langer who turns 62 next month but, genuinely, is still one of the world’s best golfers. In a brilliant display, he reminded us of this on Sunday at Royal Lytham when he won his fourth Senior Open and his 11th Senior Major.
In miserable cold, wet and windy weather on this fearsome Lancashire links he closed with a 66 for six-under-par 274 to win by two from Paul Broadhurst, with our own Retief Goosen sharing third one shot further back.
To put this performance into perspective: Langer’s aggregate is just one worse than the 273 scored by swashbuckling Seve Ballesteros when the great Spaniard won the 1988 Open Championship on this self-same course.
Up until not too long ago, Gary Player had the record of the most Senior Majors, which was nine (matching his nine regular Majors). Now Langer has his 11, including a Grand Slam of all five Senior Majors, and he doesn’t look like slowing down.
He’s hitting the ball further than he did 20 years ago.
Okay, equipment may have something to do with this. But the fact remains he is golf’s miracle man. The German finished his regular tour career with an astonishing 42 European Tour wins.
Now, after Lytham on Sunday, he has no less than 40 senior tour victories in the bag. Talk about German precision, Langer has it in bucketloads on the golf course.
Former champion golfer-turned commentator Tony Johnstone said on TV on Sunday evening that when Langer - 56 at the time - won the 2014 Senior Open at Royal Porthcawl in Wales by 13 shots, it was the best ball-striking he had ever seen.
And he wasn’t only referring to the “old boys”.
As most know, Langer is a devout Christian and after Sunday’s win he quoted a Bible verse: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
He then said, with a broad smile, that he needed that reassurance to cope with Lytham’s treacherous bunkers.
Finally a note on Goosen. He is, at 50, a rookie on the PGA Tour Champions in America. And he’s been a huge success so far. Earlier this month he won the Senior Players Championship, which is a Senior Major and adds to his two US Open victories on the regular tour. He still has so much game. He’s the Golden Goose and he’s going to make a mountain of money at senior level. Actually, he already has. Like $1,1 million (R15,614m).
Oh, and one more thing. Soon-to-turn-70 Tom Watson played his last competitive round on Sunday. He took part in 18 Senior Opens, won three of them and made the cut in every one.
He also won eight regular tour Majors, including five British Opens.