Credit to Bernhard Langer. His tear through the Senior Tour the last nine years gives life to the debate over whether the PGA Champions Tour in the USA will ultimately and officially recognize Gary Player’s three Senior Open victories as Majors.
The key word in the matter is consistency. Every Major Championship on the Regular and Senior Tour is counted by the US PGA Tour as a Major from its inception. Their only exception is the Senior Open Championship, in which 16 championships (1987-2002) are not “officially” considered Majors. This is where they are inconsistent. Here they slight greats like Gary Player and Sir Bob Charles.
Golf media and personalities around the world reacted positively to the Black Knight’s interview with Jaime Diaz of Golf Digest. The question of interest: Should the Senior Open Championship be counted as a Major retroactively from the beginning like all other Majors?
Diaz sided with Player saying, “Langer’s current run into the record books makes now the right time to give Player an official stamp for three more senior majors, and at least one more for 10 other deserving players.”
But why does Gary Player, one of the greatest golfers in history whose influence and legacy will live in sports forever, care about three Senior Open wins? He did not bring his family out of poverty as a young man by staying satisfied with the status quo. Everything in his life was and is still earned – including his nine Senior Major Championships.
Player said, “What I have learned about myself is that I am animal when it comes to achievement and winning. There is never enough success for me.”
There is no error in Player’s craving to have his success at the Senior Open rightfully counted in every history book worldwide. The European Tour, R&A and World Golf Hall of Fame all currently recognize his nine Senior Majors.
The competitive fire still burns deep within his spirit. He has played in three PGA Champions Tour events this year, winning the Insperity Greats of Golf with partners Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino. And Player is scheduled to compete in more than 20 tournaments in 2017, including six Gary Player Invitational events around the world. Clearly, the 81-year-old’s thirst for competition has never waned and he remains very active in the world of golf today.
Why the PGA Champions Tour chooses not to recognize and honor one of the most influential players in the history of golf is baffling especially when one considers his support of the US Tour for more than 60 years. It’s important to note that Bernard Langer’s two Senior Open wins are counted toward his Major total.
ESPN’s Jason Sobel agreed with Player’s claim to nine Senior Majors stating, “But as for Langer’s senior major “record” of nine? I’m on Gary Player’s side here. The Black Knight contends that his three Senior Open Championship titles should be considered among his total — and he’s absolutely right. Tough to see how there can be such a loose guideline on senior majors that it allows for five in a year and two on back-to-back weeks, but it’s so stringent that it won’t count actual major titles from the past.”
Fans on social media also voiced their support for Player’s claim at the top when the Champions Tour’s Instagram account was flooded with comments asking why they do not acknowledge Player’s Senior Open Championships. The World Golf Hall of Fame congratulated Langer on Twitter for matching Jack Nicklaus’s “record” of eight Senior Majors, but the Tweet was soon deleted and an apology to Player was issued.
Columnists and contributors from media outlets such as CBS, FOX, BBC, Yahoo!, MSN and others also chimed in their support.
When we posed the question about counting the Senior British Open as a Major retroactively to the European Tour, they responded, “The European Senior Tour recognises all five Senior Major Championships, however, the PGA Champions Tour did not recognise the Senior Open Championship as an official event until 2003. With this in mind, according to their records, Bernhard Langer equaled Jack Nicklaus’s total (a Champions Tour record) with his win at the Regions Tradition last week. If Bernhard were to win this afternoon, he would equal Gary Player’s record (as recognised by the Senior Tour) of nine Senior Major Championships. The Open Championship itself was indeed first recognised by the PGA TOUR as an official event in 1995, however, they have retroactively classified all wins before this as PGA TOUR wins – this has yet to happen with the Senior Open and TOUR Champions.”
The PGA Tour did not immediately respond to our query.
Any argument the PGA Champions Tour might present will certainly revolve around the strength or size of the field assembled for each Senior British Open between 1987-2002. But this is flawed as the record books indicate names such as Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, Billy Casper and Bob Charles vied at the Senior British Open for what they each considered a Major. Any Major played today would be hard pressed to secure a field with names of that caliber.
As far as the total number of participants? More than 120 received invitations and/or exemptions to play including past Major Champions. Not too far off from today’s field size of approximately 140.
Player said, “Every tournament has to start somewhere, and then it evolves. The Masters in 1934 was not what it is today, but every player who has won it is recognized as a Major winner. I remember Arnold Palmer, telling me it was ‘bullsh–’ that the Senior Open Championship wasn’t an official major in the states. He so regretted not winning the championship when he was playing senior golf, because playing on an old links where golf began was very special for him. I wonder, what would the status of the championship be if Arnold had won it three times?”
So why does the PGA Champions Tour, and for that matter the PGA TOUR, discount Player’s Senior Open Championships? They have counted the Senior PLAYERS Championship, U.S. Senior Open, The Tradition and Senior PGA Championship from their beginning. The inconsistency is, quite frankly, baffling.
It’s unclear if there is any motive behind the stalemate in updating the record books in the USA, but the fact remains, Gary Player’s name is on the same trophy that is presented to each year’s winner and is recognized by the entire golfing world except the PGA TOUR and PGA Champions Tour. The time has come to set the record straight.