Bernhard Langer may seem like an timeless wonder, still winning golf tournaments at 65 on the PGA Tour Champions. But even a golfer who seems ageless admits time is catching up with him.
“It’s not much fun, but it’s reality,” Langer said at the Galleri Classic in Rancho Mirage, California, last week. “It catches up with everybody sooner or later, it’s a proven fact.”
More than some players, Langer is acutely aware of the impact of technology on his game. In 1993, Langer won his second Masters, but in doing so he was the last winner of a men’s major to use a persimmon driver. Never considered a long hitter in his storied career, Langer knows it is technology that has kept his game competitive as well as the games of others on the PGA Tour Champions.
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“I don’t know because I’m not playing persimmon clubs anymore or balata balls, so I don’t know where I would be with that equipment, but I’m sure it helped me in many ways,” Langer smiled. “Alone, just the hybrids are phenomenal and everything, the driver especially. The golf ball is totally different. The shafts, we used to have all steel shafts, now we have graphite shafts, many of us do in our drivers and 3-woods and all that. Yes, it has come a very long way.”
Through the Galleri Classic, the sixth event on the PGA Tour Champions schedule in 2023, Langer was averaging 265 yards on his drives. That’s 64th on the tour, eight yards below the Champions tour average and a full 10 yards shorter than the German star’s average of just five years ago. While Langer marvels at long hitters like Padraig Harrington (313 yards on measured holes at the Galleri Classic last week), Langer has remained a force on the senior tour because of technology.
“For me personally, I think it helped me to hit the ball the same distance with my irons throughout my whole career, except the last four or five years I started to lose some distance,” Langer said. “Up until then my irons were pretty much the same and my driver went further, say five years ago or 10 than when I was in my prime. That’s definitely done to equipment, not to fitness or anything else. It’s been beneficial to me and to everyone else that plays golf.”
While Langer is certainly fit, especially for a 65-year-old man, he says he might have missed out on some things that can help a player keep distance in their game.
“I think what we’ve learned about speed training and all that the last sort of 10 years is going to bear fruit for many,” he said. “I’ve kind of missed that boat I think, I never did heavy weights and any of that stuff. I have certain injuries where I can’t even do some of the things that you’re supposed to do.”
What athletes are learning about fitness and extending careers may soon make today’s fitness routines as obsolete as Langer’s persimmon driver from 1993.
“I’m just going to continue with what I have done, but there will be guys like Vijay Singh, for instance, he still hits it very, very far, but he’s a very big, tall guy and very flexible and strong,” Langer said. “If you’re a certain body type, you have an advantage in that regard. You know, science will teach us more and more how to slow down the aging process and how to maintain strength and clubhead speed and all the rest of it.”
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