KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship

Tuesday Notebook: 2024 KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship

May 21, 2024


Jeff Babineau

Langer looks to add to stellar KitchenAid record

Bernhard Langer has had so many accomplishments, and set so many records, that it is hard for him to even keep track of them all. For one, no player over 50 has won more than he has on the PGA Tour Champions (46 victories), and no player has won more senior majors (12) than he has. Last year, he won the U.S. Senior Open.

Here is one record (albeit unofficial) to add to the books for Langer, who will turn 67 in August: Quickest recovery time in history from a torn Achilles tendon. He tore his left Achilles on Feb. 1 playing a game of pickleball near home in South Florida. Langer  underwent surgery the next day, and was back playing golf ... the very first week in May? Impossible.

He rejoined the Champions Tour in Houston at the Insperity Invitational, and tied for eighth two weeks ago at the season’s first senior major, the Regions Tradition.

Langer applied for, and received, an ADA exemption at this week’s KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship and will be allowed to ride a cart in competition. (PGA Tour Champions allows players or their caddies to ride week to week on tour, but at the majors, players walk.

“If it hadn't been for that I wouldn't be playing golf anywhere right now, because I can't walk 18 holes,” Langer said Tuesday at Harbor Shores. “It's not just this week, it's every week for a few more months.”

Langer initially was told that such an injury sets most mortals back six, eight or 12 months. Sometimes longer. Langer proved once more, as he has so often in his career, that he is an exception to the rule. He had a procedure performed called a “speed bridge” that kept him from needing to wear a cast, and therein lies a key to his expedient recovery, he said. No muscle atrophy with his foot in a cast. Before long, he was back to work, something he loves like few others.

“Actually, I've been hitting balls for five or six weeks now,” Langer revealed Tuesday, “so I started hitting balls when I was about two months after surgery, which is pretty amazing.”

No shock there. He started his rehab two days after his surgery. This week marks the sixth playing of the KitchenAid Senior PGA at The Golf Club at Harbor Shores, and Langer has an amazing record at the venue though he has yet to win here. He tied for fourth in 2012; tied for third in 2014 and 2016; was unable to play because one of his children was graduating from high school in 2018 (though he was the tournament’s defending champion); and two years ago, entered the last round with a chance, shot 71, and watched Steven Alker walk off with the trophy.

Langer was asked if the golf course, which was designed by Jack Nicklaus, has grown on him through the years.

“I thought this was a great golf course from the very get-go,” he said. “I think from tee to green it's one of the best there is. Just some of the greens are a little bit severe, that's all. But it's always been in great condition and very well received.

“I think Jack Nicklaus-designed courses, they make you think, they make you play from one spot to another, not just necessarily hit it anywhere you want. If you get caught in the wrong side, you get punished. Also with the greens. So you really have to think your way and be precise and figure out if you can't hit the proper shot, where can you get it up and down from and where not.”

Langer tees off Thursday at 7:59 a.m. with Retief Goosen and Y.E. Yang.

Weinhart: In-N-Out and ‘In’ again at Harbor Shores

PGA of America Golf Professional Tim Weinhart of Georgia is playing in his third KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship. Two of them have been staged at Harbor Shores. So fortunately, he has a pretty good feel for the golf course.

“I’m very comfortable here,” Weinhart, part of the Corebridge Financial Team competing this week, said on Tuesday. “There is plenty of room to drive the ball. It’s a second-shot golf course. If you’ve got control of your irons, you can shoot a good number here."

A year ago at PGA Frisco’s Fields Ranch East, Weinhart had finished up his final-round 74 and already had driven off-property when he received an interesting call: It was a PGA of America official asking him if he could return to the golf course. Mark Brown of Florida had unexpectedly made double-bogey at the par-5 closing hole, and Weinhart suddenly was tied for Low PGA of America Golf Professional.

Weinhart, 54, likely is the first professional so honored after having to cut short a trip through In-N-Out Burger to receive his glass bowl for co-Low Professional. (He and Brown, who tied at 6-over 294, also were offered kitchen makeovers from KitchenAid.)

The final scene wrapped up what had been a long, strange week for Weinhart, an alternate who did not learn he would be part of last year’s KitchenAid field until the Monday of tournament week.

Weinhart said being Low Professional from such a deep and talented pool of PGA Professionals certainly is a source of pride for him. In addition to the glass bowl he received, his experience was priceless, and something he can pass along when he is teaching at one of the two Atlanta-area clubs where he works. Weinhart has been Director of Instruction at Heritage Golf Links in Tucker since 2015, and also teaches at Woodmont, in Canton. (“I’m blessed,” he said.)

“As an instructor, the biggest thing that I’m trying to communicate to all my students and players, the ones who are trying to get to college, I’ve got a couple who are trying to play on the mini-tours, is the preparation,” he said. “You can prepare, but don’t overprepare. It’s easy to stay out here (practicing) all day. I know when to shut down and go chill.”

Weinhart says his game has become more rounded since he began playing on the bigger stages, and he is pretty accomplished as a player. He was only 23 when he became a PGA of America member, and is only one of four players to have captured the Georgia PGA Grand Slam: Georgia Open, Georgia PGA, Atlanta Open and Georgia PGA Match Play. He was inducted into the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame in 2020.

At 54, he is encouraged by the improvements he continues to see in his game.

“I’ve been hitting it pretty good the last couple of years,” Weinhart said. “Prior to that, I practically lived and died on my putter. I figured a few things out in my golf swing, and it feels good.

“My ball-striking has been pretty consistent. When I putt good, it (my score) starts with a ‘6’ (meaning a score in the 60s), and when I don’t, it doesn’t.”

Bjorn is right where he wants to be

Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn has kept himself very involved with the inner workings of golf on the back end of his playing days on the DP World Tour, but now he has set most of that aside to concentrate on playing once again.

Bjorn, 53, who captained Europe to a resounding Ryder Cup victory over the U.S. in Paris in 2018, has been playing quite nicely when scattered opportunities arise among the 50-and-over set. This week he will make his sixth start of the season on PGA Tour Champions; already has a tie for second (Trophy Hassan II) and tie for third (Invited Celebrity Classic).

“I’m just trying to get things going,” Bjorn said Tuesday, readying for his second appearance in the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship. He tied for 15th at PGA Frisco in Texas last May.

“I’ve kind of withdrawn myself a little from all the politics of golf – at least I’m not as involved as I was – and I want to see if I can have a few years of playing some senior golf.”

What is good in his game these days? For Bjorn, tee to green, he likes practically everything he is seeing.

“I’ve been hitting it extremely good. I struggled on the Bermuda greens the last few weeks (at tour stops in Houston and Alabama), but in general it’s pretty good,” said Bjorn, a 15-time winner in his DP World Tour career. “I’m in a good space, positive about it.”

Bjorn says the game on the “main tour” has changed so much in the last five or six years that he no longer has the length to compete regularly among the younger set in Europe. He owns a couple of wins on the Legends Tour in Europe, a senior circuit, and won the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan last year.

On PGA Tour Champions, he likes the fact that his competitors are striking approach shots while standing in the same zip code as he is, and are not 25-30 yards up ahead. Mostly, he’s just glad to be seeing old friends and playing golf where he wants to be playing. If he gets the putter going, he is a player to watch this week.

“I don’t feel like I’m ‘catching up’ at the moment,” Bjorn said, “which is where I feel I’ve been for a while. I’ve felt I was behind. So I don’t feel like I’m catching up, I feel that I’m right where I want to be.”