Langer to miss Senior PGA title defense for son's graduation
By DOUG FERGUSON
Bernhard Langer has compiled 36 victories and just over $25 million in earnings on the PGA Tour Champions, and he is a seven-time player of the year. It might help the others if the 60-year-old German takes a week off every now and then.
"Sometimes they say, `Why don't you take a week off?' I joke back and say, `If you pay me some disappearance fee, I might.' But I haven't received any yet," Langer said Monday while previewing the Senior PGA Championship in Benton Harbor, Michigan.
Leave it to Langer's son to arrange that.
Langer revealed that he won't be able to defend his title on May 24-27 because his youngest son, 18-year-old Jason, is graduating from high school that weekend.
"Family always comes first in my life, so I've got to be there to support him, to celebrate him moving on to college," Langer said.
He said his son will attend Penn's Wharton School of Business and plans to play golf.
"I wouldn't want to miss that," Langer said. "I'm going to miss competing for this, but hopefully, there will be more chances in the future."
Langer won last year at Trump National outside Washington to complete the career Grand Slam on the 50-and-older circuit.
A year ago, Phil Mickelson sat out the U.S. Open at Erin Hills when his oldest daughter graduated from high school. Corey Pavin nearly had the same conflict in 2005 for the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2, but he flew cross-country after his opening round Thursday and caught a redeye back to North Carolina for his second round.
Patton Kizzire already has two PGA Tour victories this season and is No. 2 in the FedEx Cup. That still might not be enough to avoid qualifying for the U.S. Open.
The USGA in 2012 eliminated its exemption for multiple winners on the PGA Tour from the previous U.S. Open when it revamped its criteria that focused more on the top 60 in the world ranking. Kizzire is at No. 57 this week.
The cutoff for being among the top 60 is on May 21, after the AT&T Byron Nelson. There also is another cutoff for the top 60 on June 11, the final ranking going into the U.S. Open on June 14-17 at Shinnecock Hills.
Chief among the prominent names not yet eligible is Adam Scott, who has played in 67 consecutive majors dating to the 2001 British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. Scott, who missed the cut last week in the Texas Open, is at No. 64.
Alexander Levy of France moved up 19 spots to No. 47 with his victory last week on the European Tour, and that might be enough to secure his spot.
Among those near the top 60 with three tournaments remaining - the Zurich Classic in New Orleans does not offer world ranking points as a team event - are Luke List and Thomas Pieters (tied at No. 54), Bernd Wiesberger (No. 60), Ryan Moore (No. 62), Charles Howell III (No. 63) and former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel (No. 65). Schwartzel has played in every major dating to the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black.
The winner of The Players Championship in three weeks gets a three-year exemption.
Joaquin Niemann already has shown a knack for the big occasion this year.
The 19-year-old from Chile thought he was playing his final round as an amateur in January until he shot a 63 in the last round to win the Latin American Amateur Championship, which got him into the Masters.
He delayed turning pro to play at Augusta National. And in his pro debut, Niemann shot 67-67 on the weekend to finish sixth in the Texas Open. The top-10 finish will get him into the Wells Fargo Championship next week at Quail Hollow, along with giving him a big start toward earning special temporary membership on the PGA Tour and having access to unlimited sponsor exemptions.
He has 100 FedEx Cup points and needs 365 to earn special temporary membership. Niemann says he already has received exemptions for the AT&T Byron Nelson and the Memorial.
"I think this is going to give me a lot of confidence to try to do my card for this year," Niemann said. "Thing is, I've got a couple more tournaments coming and I just can't wait for it."
Niemann also is exempt into the final stage of U.S. Open qualifying. He gave that up from his Latin American Amateur victory by turning pro, but the U.S. Open exempts Mark H. McCormack Medal winners (No. 1 in the world amateur ranking) into sectional qualifying if they no longer are amateur.
Adam Scott tends to play less rather than more, though he's not opposed to making it up as he goes along depending on the mood and the game. That's one reason he chose to play the Texas Open coming off a 70-71 weekend at the Masters.
It didn't work out as Scott played in the windy side of the draw in San Antonio, didn't play particularly well and missed the cut.
But it reminded him of an occasion 10 years ago, when he tied for 25th at the Masters with a reasonable performance. He flew home to Australia and played golf with some of his friends. And he was playing well.
"And I'm like, `Why am I wasting my good golf on you guys?'" Scott said. "So I flew back the next week to Dallas and won the Byron Nelson. Kind of one of those things where you can't be so stubborn. I'm trying to be really in tune with where my game's at and identify why I'm just not having better results. To change that, I've got to change something. Otherwise, I'm just going to do the same thing."
Luke Donald is stepping away to try to heal an ailing back. Donald, a former world No. 1 who hasn't won since the end of 2013 in Japan, said on Twitter that he has been trying to play with back pain for the last few months and has decided to get treatment and take time off to recover. "Gutted about this but I'm fully committed to getting back out onto the course," he tweeted. ... CBS broadcaster Jim Nantz will receive the Ambassador of Golf Award this year at the Bridgestone Invitational. He joins two former colleagues, producer Frank Chirkinian and lead analyst Ken Venturi, in receiving the award. ... The LPGA Tour is back in Los Angeles and San Francisco, giving California 12 tournaments on the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions combined. ... Inbee Park has returned to No. 1 in the world in women's golf. Five players were at No. 1 since Park last topped the ranking in October 2015.
The Zurich Classic is the first time the four reigning major champions are at the same tournament since the Tour Championship.
"I feel like a veteran right now. I feel like a tour player now. I know I can beat these guys and just going to wait for my week and try to win." - Joaquin Niemann after finishing sixth in his professional debut at the Texas Open.
This story has been corrected to show that it was Phil Michelson's oldest, not second-oldest daughter, who graduated from high school last year.
Updated April 24, 2018
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