Wind, rain, par, laryngitis and 143 of his closest peers.
Bernhard Langer defeated them all last week at the Senior British Open in Wales to secure his record-extending 10th major golf championship on the 50-and-over circuit.
Less than 48 hours after hoisting the trophy, Langer and his daughter strolled up the ninth fairway at TPC Twin Cities during a quiet practice round almost unnoticed.
“Believe me, I’m not the only one who saw that,” PGA Tour Champions rookie Steve Flesch said, standing a 9-iron away from the green. “He’s so structured, disciplined and focused.
“There are a lot of guys taking two days off after flying back. This guy? He’s out there grinding. His mind is so sound.”
That’s not good news for the 77 players trying to slow down Langer this week at the 3M Championship in Blaine. Even without putting in early work, odds are he’s going to wind up in the mix. His numbers have been otherworldly.
All told, Langer has held at least a share of the lead after 10 of 20 rounds at the senior majors this season. His win at Royal Porthcawl tied him with Jack Nicklaus for most major titles (three) in one year.
If not for a rare double bogey on the 17th hole on the Sunday of the Senior Players Championship, Langer would have a fourth big trophy — and big paycheck — in 2017.
Mathematically, his spot atop the Champions Tour money list can be usurped with still seven events left to play. But his lead is a whopping $977,930 over Scott McCarron.
Two Blaine victories
You’d think that would bring some sense of satisfaction — or, heck, maybe an extra day off.
Not for Langer. There is not one thought of slowing down.
In eight appearances here, he has collected more than $1 million in earnings with two victories, two runner-up finishes and a third-place finish.
“I’m continually striving to get better in all aspects of the game,” he said.
Langer added: “My hope is to win more, but you just don’t know. You can’t predict wins. You just keep trying and enjoy the process. It’s been incredible so far, no doubt about it.”
Even when things go awry, Langer usually finds a way to turn heads.
During a 3 a.m. fire alarm at a player hotel during one event, Langer came outside fully dressed with a sweater tied around his shoulders and a packed briefcase in tow.
“I didn’t want to walk out in pajamas,” he said matter-of-factly. “It’s very simple. No big deal. It took one minute.”
It’s that kind of go-getter attitude Langer has embodied his entire professional career.
‘Best we have out here’
Despite a raw throat and playing in “conditions as bad as I’ve experienced in 42 years on tour” last week, Langer managed to win by three over Corey Pavin. Only a lengthy birdie putt on the final hole enabled Pavin to join Langer as the only players under par for the tournament.
“He’s the best we have out here and he makes us all better just by competing against him,” said Rocco Mediate, who finished six shots ahead of Langer in winning the 2016 Senior PGA Championship. “He’s exceptional at what he does and has been his whole career. If you go out and beat him, you’ve done good.”
Langer turns 60 on Aug. 27. A strict workout regimen that includes long periods of stretching, light cardio and weight training keeps him among the fittest players on tour.
“I tell you what, the guy is unreal. A machine,” Kenny Perry said. “But he’s also a friend, and I’m happy for him. A great player and a great champion. He’s earned everything he’s gotten.”
Last week’s illness prevented him from answering too many questions — “Made my caddie happy, I suppose, and maybe my wife, too,” Langer deadpanned — but with each victory he inches closer to senior golf’s hallowed marks. With that comes inquiries about where he stands in the all-time conversations.
Langer has won 33 of his 200 starts on the Champions Tour, 12 shy of Hale Irwin’s record.
The two had dinner Wednesday night, but Langer doesn’t revel in public discussions about possibly leapfrogging Irwin.
“It’s not probable, but it’s possible,” Langer said with a shrug. “If I want to get there, I better put my foot on the pedal and keep pushing. I’m not going to win five tournaments a year when I’m 65.”
Others might beg to differ.
“It’s every year,” Perry said. “The stuff he’s doing is unreal.”