Bernhard Langer is not only trying to become the oldest major champion in history, the two-time Masters champion is trying to eviscerate the record by more than a decade.
Julius Boros is the current record holder, having won the 1968 PGA Championship at the age of 48 years and four months.
Langer is 58 years and seven months old, and his 2-under 70 Saturday in the third round of the 80th Masters at Augusta National Golf Club has him in a tie for third at 1-under 215, two shots behind leader Jordan Spieth.
“It would be one for the old guys,” Langer said. “For a 58-year-old, it’s fun to be in this position and play with the best in the world. … I’m just trying to have fun, enjoy my last few years as a professional golfer and do the best I can.”
Langer, who won the Masters in 1985 and 1993, is also vying to become the oldest player to ever finish inside the top 10 in the Masters.
The Champions Tour member, who has 26 wins on the senior circuit and leads the tour’s points race again this year, would displace six-time Masters champion Jack Nicklaus as the oldest top-10 finisher. In addition to being the oldest winner at the age of 46 in 1986, Nicklaus recorded a top-10 in 1998 at the age of 58 years and 2 months.
Langer received loud cheers and a couple standing ovations as he approached tees and greens.
“You get goosebumps,” Langer said. “It’s just such a wonderful atmosphere out there, and when the people acknowledge what you’ve just done, it’s pretty neat.”
Langer began the third round in a tie for 15th at 1-over 145 and birdied two of his first five holes to move into the top five at 1 under. His round was up and down from there.
Langer bogeyed the sixth, birdied the eighth and bogeyed the ninth and 12th holes to fall to 1 over. He rallied with birdies on 13, 14 and 15 to reach 2 under and pull within a couple shots of the lead, and got up and down from well behind the 18th green to salvage a bogey to close his round.
Langer will be playing with Hideki Matsuyama in the penultimate group Sunday.
Defying his age at Augusta National is nothing new for Langer, who tied for eighth two years ago when he was 56. That finish is just one of three in the past 10 appearances in which he’s made the cut, however.
Langer has played 113 competitive rounds at Augusta National in 33 Masters starts, and estimates he’s played another 80 to 90 practice rounds.
“I know the place well. But is that a real advantage?” Langer said. “Well, only to a few, because the other guys have played plenty of times, as well. They know the place. The caddies spend a lot of time out there. That’s really the only advantage [I might have].”
Langer admits he’s playing a different game than nearly all of his competitors, hitting sometimes much longer clubs into most greens.
“There’s different ways of getting there, and obviously it’s a lot easier for these young guys, hitting a lot less club into some of the greens and they can stop the ball, while mine sometimes release,” Langer said. “But when I play really, really good, when I bring my A Game, I can still compete, and even on a very long golf course like this.”
Until anchoring was banned this year, Langer had anchored a long putter for nearly two decades. He now still uses the long putter but doesn’t anchor it on his chest, and needed just 27 putts Saturday to match Danny Willett for the fewest on the day.
“I’ve tried all sorts of putters, different lengths, different grips,” Langer said. “I probably have 20 new putters, 25, 30 new putters at home I’ve tried the last three months with different grips. I’ve tried this way, I tried that way, regular, cross‑handed, and some of them work pretty decent.
“But at this time, at this moment in time, I’m still the most comfortable by just not anchoring because I’ve done this for 18, 19 years now.”
Langer reflected on Tom Watson’s near miss at the age of 59 in the 2009 British Open when asked about contending this weekend.
“Sooner or later, it’s going to happen. One of the over-50s is going to win a major,” Langer said. “We have guys right now – Davis Love, Vijay Singh, Fred Couples – these guys are still long enough to compete on any golf course. The guys are staying fit. They are more athletes. They are taking care of themselves.”