‘You have no IQ:’ Why this golf thought annoys a 2-time Masters winner

Bernhard Langer

Bernhard Langer two weeks ago at the U.S. Senior Open.

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Golf is a mental game, and to this, no one will argue. 

It’s just that not everyone agrees on the math, so to speak. 

To start here, Bernhard Langer is a dynamo on the 50–and-over circuit, having just recently set the PGA Tour Champions’ mark for most-ever wins (46), and the conversation around the 65-year-old German has been complex, though really just one word. How? It was no different ahead of this week’s Kaulig Companies Championship.

“You’re not the only one who’s asked that question,” Langer said. “It’s not one thing. You can’t say, well, I attribute my success to my caddie or to my wife or to my hard work or to my discipline or to the team around me or to my genes. No, it’s a whole conglomerate of things that is a part of it. There’s the coach, the caddie, the team, the family, but there’s the dedication, the discipline, the hard work.

“I work out every day and have been for many, many years. There’s too many things. I’ve been blessed by God with an incredible hand-eye coordination, and I’m good at any sport, have been always. So that will certainly help me, there’s no doubt about it in my mind.

“Whether I play tennis or pingpong or skiing or throwing something or catching something, I was always good at everything. That will help you to a certain level, but from that point on, it’s hard work and discipline, having the right people on your side, getting good advice and many other things.”

What about the motivation to continue on? Has that played a part?

“Yeah, that’s another thing not everybody has, and I think it was given to me,” Langer said. “The drive I have is very unusual. To be turning 66 in a month from now and still want to improve and get better and compete with the young guys out here, many people don’t have that. You look at Byron Nelson, his drive was to win enough money to buy a farm and be a farmer. So everybody’s different.

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“In my case, I love to compete, I love the game of golf and I’m healthy and good enough to do it, so I’m going to enjoy it.”

It’s at this point in the conversation where the talk started touching on the aforementioned mental game, so the following question was a good one. And Langer had some thoughts. 

One of golf’s most cordial souls, he also isn’t shy from telling it like it is.

“Just to follow up on obviously sports psychology,” a reporter started, “you of course mentioned the process, which is of course crucial. In your success this year, how much of your success would you attribute to your mental game?”

“That’s impossible to answer, sorry,” Langer said. “I hear people say well, golf is 90 percent mental, that’s just — if you say that, you have no IQ, I’m sorry. It is 90 percent mental if you put two players together with the same — at the same level of technique and experience and capability. Then it becomes very much mental because what is going to differentiate the two guys that are just playing at the very top of their game. So then I would agree.

“But if I take you on tomorrow or today, I don’t know how good you are but it doesn’t matter, you could be the best mental and I could be one of the worst, I’m still going to beat you out there just because of the difference in technique we have and the different experiences we have.”

From there, the questions turned to his golf swing. Notably, he said he played the first seven years of his career on a self-taught swing.

Is Langer correct? Depends on your point of view, right? Langer’s reasoning is solid, though the mind is a mysterious place. Who’s to say in Langer’s example what the outcome could be if the match were played in front of thousands of people, for millions of dollars? We’d at least be curious there. 

We’ll end things this way: So who actually came up with the saying? It’s been said many times, many ways, after all. 

It was likely baseball legend Yogi Berra, who phrased it this way:

“Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical.”

Nick Piastowski

Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor

Nick Piastowski is a Senior Editor at Golf.com and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories across the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to wash away his score. You can reach out to him about any of these topics — his stories, his game or his beers — at nick.piastowski@golf.com.

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