The secret to Bernhard Langer’s remarkable longevity? This swing change
Bernhard Langer may have won twice on the PGA Tour Champions last season, but it might have been a down year by the 65-year-old’s standards.
For just the third time since 2008, the two-time Masters champion was not the over-50 circuit’s leading money winner.
A drop would be expected from just about every other 65-year-old senior tour player. But not Langer, who is now just one win away from tying Hale Irwin’s all-time PGA Tour Champions wins record of 45.
“I don’t feel any extra pressure [to reach the record], to tell you the truth. I really don’t,” Langer said Friday ahead of his title defense next week at the Chubb Classic in three weeks. “I just try to be the best that I can be and play the best golf every day that I can, and deep down, I think I know and feel if I do play to my best, I can still win tournaments, even though there’s a lot of younger guys— when I first came out on the Champions Tour I was top 10 in the driving distance every year. Now I’m about 60th or 70th.”
As for how much longer Langer can keep on winning, his lack of a major injury history seems to be in his favor.
“I’ve always said if I’m healthy if I enjoy the game and have fun doing it and I’m somewhat successful if those three things are present, I’m going to probably continue,” he said. “I’m fairly healthy. Do have my aches and pains, but I still enjoy being out there with my colleagues and playing golf under competitive circumstances, and I’m still fairly good at it.”
Aside from perhaps the understatement of the century right there, the 44-time PGA Tour Champions winner attributes his lack of major injuries to swing change instigated by his late longtime coach nearly 40 years ago.
Willy Hoffman coached Langer for almost 50 years but passed away early last year.
“I think I was in my 20s or 30s, I can’t recall the day exactly, he said something like, we’re going to have to change your technique a little bit because I still want you to play well in your 40s and your 50s and your 60s and your 70s,” Langer remembered.
The issue was Langer’s reverse “C” finish, a common feature in many golf swings during the 70s and 80s where the player arches the back on the follow-through, creating a reverse “C” with the back and the trail leg.
Hoffman told Langer the tendency was causing further back problems related to an injury he had as a teenager.
“I hurt my back when I was in the Air Force at age 19, had a stress fracture and a bulging disc, so it’s a miracle that I’m even playing professional golf,” Langer joked.
Gradually, Langer said the pair worked on eliminating the reverse “C” from his finish.
Forty-some years later, Langer is still elite on the PGA Tour Champions (and even sometimes at Augusta).
“I think that’s down to Willy Hoffman’s foresight, and he’s taught me a swing, I think, that will go on for a long time,” he said. “I’m more rounded, I’m not reverse C where you put a lot of pressure on the spine, and takes pressure off my spine the way I swing now and makes me able to play the game probably as long as I live.”