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Why Bernhard Langer Is So Good

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Bernhard Langer is in pursuit of an unprecedented fourth-straight Charles Schwab Cup. At the age of 60, he is having his best season ever, already having won a personal best seven times in only 21 starts in 2017. He now ranks No. 2 all-time with 36 Champion’s Tour Victories. Only Scott McCarron has a reasonable chance to win the Schwab Cup, but he must win the Charles Schwab Cup Championship this weekend to do so.

I’m blessed to call Bernhard one of my best friends. Over the years, we’ve spent a lot of time together, both on and off the course. We share a love for the mountains; we are both avid skiers. Our families have had many winter ski trips together. We’ve also played a lot of practice rounds together, even though both of us otherwise prefer to play practice rounds alone.

We first met in 1980 when John Cook and I traveled to France to play in the Cacherel World Under-25 Championship, a tournament in which Bernhard had a breakthrough win the year before. Winning by 15 shots was noteworthy enough, but more important was that it meant Bernhard had overcome his first case of the putting yips.

When we were paired together in the first two rounds in the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, his yips were returning. Bernhard missed the cut, and I finished third (behind Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus). It was there that people noticed we looked alike. We both had long, curly, dirty blond hair and a similar build.  Bernhard still laughs about how often people would approach him and ask, “Hey Bobby, can I have your autograph!” It didn’t take long before the reverse became much more common.

That summer of ’82, Bernhard failed to qualify for the British Open at Troon. He loaned me his caddie, Peter Coleman, and we proved to be a good combination. I went on to set the then-36-hole British Open scoring record with a 67 and 66 that opened up a five-stroke lead. Unfortunately, I struggled on the weekend and finished four strokes behind Tom Watson.

In April of 1985, Bernhard and I had made a date to play a practice round together on Tuesday at 10 a.m. at Hilton Head the week after the Masters. I had not qualified for the Masters that year, and when Bernhard won, I wasn’t sure he would remember. But true to Bernhard, he showed up at 9:55 a.m., a big entourage following the first No. 1 player in the Sony Rankings, which would become the Official World Golf Rankings. Several tour players asked to play with us, but we politely told them our group was full. We both liked it that way because then we could get some good work done. There would be more time to hit extra shots, especially around the green.

Not only have discipline and perseverance played a very important role in Bernhard’s success as a golfer, but his faith has given him a grounding and steadiness that explains the deepest “why” for what he does for a living and who he is as a person. I’ve never seen Bernhard upset or angry. I’ve never seen him throw a club. I’ve never seen him treat a human being unkindly. I’ve never even seen him raise his voice at his children. He lives his life in a very consistent fashion, full of routine, discipline and a focus on healthy things. He gets his eight hours of sleep every night, he works out everyday, he drinks his vitamin smoothie every morning, and he reads his daily devotional. No wonder his golf game is so consistent. It is a mirror of his life.

When I think of Bernhard, the word “humility” always comes to mind. He fully appreciates everything good that happens to him. I believe that the fear of being poor again has served Bernhard well and explains partially why he works so hard at his golf. He’s always thinking about ways to get better. It also explains why he never quits. I’ve never seen Bernhard not give a shot 100 percent, no matter what. He could be missing the cut or in the middle of a bad slump, but he’s still giving every shot his all.

Looking at Bernhard’s success, my opinion is that his character has been the leading contributor. How this carries over to his golf game gives us five key principles that we can all benefit from to improve our own games.

1. Analyze Your Game

Bernhard isolates the variables of his game and studies each one. He knows his strengths and weaknesses well, and he practices his weaknesses the most. Over the last two years, he had to figure out how to get around the “no-anchoring” policy set by the USGA. He made an inordinate effort,  trying at least a dozen different styles of putting before settling on the one he uses now, the closest to his putting form before the anchor ban. No one makes a higher percentage of six-foot putts in the game currently than Bernhard. Perhaps that missed six-footer at the 1991 Ryder Cup has motivated him to never let that happen again!

2. Analyze the Course

Bernhard, along with his caddie, Terry Holt, out-prepare other players when it comes to charting the course and detailing the greens. They both work separately with their notes, then come together when playing the course. In 2013, I encouraged Bernhard to play the First Tee Open at Pebble Beach, a tournament he hadn’t played since his rookie year on the Champions Tour. Bernhard knew I was knowledgeable about the course, so we played a practice round together. After the round, we headed back to my house where Bernhard sat at the dining room table with his yardage book and mine. My wife and I had to leave for a dinner, so we left Bernhard by himself, working at the dining table. When we returned four hours later, Bernhard was still at the table. “Where do you think the grain is on the back left of the 17th green?” he asked. That was a classic Bernhard moment!

3. Match Your Clubs with Your Swing

Bernhard spends a lot of time working on his equipment, especially when it comes to the driver. Over the years, driving was a weak point in his game and explained his lack of success on the narrow fairways of the U.S. Open, PGA Championship and British Open. In addition to refining his swing after turning 50, he has found a driver configuration that allows him to work the ball both ways, launch at just the right trajectory (12.5 degrees) and produce just the right spin rate (2300 rpm).

4. Perfect Your Short Game

Bernhard spends a lot of time chipping around the greens and hitting bunker shots in practice rounds. He is continually working on how to best use the bounce of the wedge, creating the ideal angle of attack to increase consistency around the greens.

5. Focus on Impact

Bernhard knows his swing style is a bit unusual. He doesn’t care. His focus is on his impact. He is always aware of his angle of attack, his path, his clubface and where he is hitting the ball on the face. His swing adjustments are always related to creating better impact. He exemplifies what it means to be an impact-oriented player.

Of course, the brilliance of Bernhard Langer goes beyond his greatness as a golfer. He is also one of the best humans I’ve ever known.

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For students wanting to experience how improving their impact will improve their games, Bobby suggests coming to his next Signature Golf School, creating your own private school for your own group, and/or signing up for a private lesson. Simply go to: www.impactzonegolf.com or call 239-236-5536. For those instructors who want to learn "Impact-Based®" instruction, Bobby Clampett now has a fully developed Advanced Level One online training fully supported by the PGA and LPGA with continuing education credits. For those who complete, Bobby and Impact Zone Golf are developing a Certification Program and ultimately a masters Program. Impact Zone Golf is ready to build an army of good golf instructors and rid the epidemic of frustrated golfers victimized by "style-based" instruction methods. Bobby Clampett is a well-known PGA Tour Winner and Longtime CBS Golf Broadcaster, but perhaps he will be best known for his discovery of Impact-Based® Instruction. His two golf academies are in Naples, Florida: Indoor Performance Studio (1040 Collier Center Way, Unit 14, Naples, FL 34110) and at the Tiburon Golf Club at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort. Bobby is the first golf instructor in history to be a PGA Tour winner and earn PGA Master Professional in Teaching and Coaching. He and his team of Impact-Based® Academy Trained instructors offer year-round Golf Schools, Private Lessons, Women’s Programs, Annual and Seasonal Coaching Programs, Competitive Junior Training and much more. He now offers Instructor Training and Certification approved by the PGA and LPGA. Visit: https://impactzonegolf.com or call: 239-236-5536.

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. dave

    Sep 3, 2018 at 1:28 am

    I wish they’d let steriods, PEDs, HGH, adderal, drugs, blood spinning, platelet rich plasma treatments, etc etc be legal in pro sports. It seems like each time they ban one, the top players find another. Or a loophole for an existing one. Maybe then it would be an equal playing field, and we wouldn’t need asterisks for stats.

    Yes, he still grinds hard on the fun tour. But his doctor is #1 on his own over 50 tour as well.

  2. SK

    Nov 12, 2017 at 6:13 pm

    ****crickets**** from Clampett …. wotta fraud !!!

  3. Steve Wozeniak

    Nov 11, 2017 at 12:13 am

    Funny all this time he has spent with Bernhard and still has NO CLUE what he does in the golf swing……guess it’s why they are so far apart in wins and ability……sad……

    Steve Wozeniak PGA 425 533 4711

    • etc.

      Nov 11, 2017 at 12:22 pm

      Clampett was the tour picture player for The Golfing Machine which purported to scientifically analyze the golf swing. I don’t see any mention of Homer Kelly or TGM in Clampett’s golf life story. Wonder why not?

  4. Tom

    Nov 10, 2017 at 12:43 pm

    Thanks for this article. I don’t like slow play and have always disliked Langer because he plays so slow. Really I had no other justification for how I felt. Now I feel bad to find out he’s such a good guy and devoted Christian. I appreciate him after having read this.

    • etc.

      Nov 11, 2017 at 12:24 pm

      Maybe he silently prayed a lot while competing on the golf course. 😉

  5. Acew7iron

    Nov 10, 2017 at 9:38 am

    Good article and I have admired Bernhard’s game for years mainly because you can tell he is was nit just “gifted” a great swing or short game but rather had to work hard to get what he has accomplished.

    Ive often said Id rather have Bernhards swing rather than Tigers 2000 game…why?
    Bernhard is still a force,still active in the game & obviously has a swing that does not punish his body ala Tigers prime swing.

  6. Ronny

    Nov 10, 2017 at 1:59 am

    Bobby, I perused your Impact Zone Golf website and there is no mention of the contribution that Homer Kelley’s TGM made to your deeper understanding of the golf swing.
    Are you still a TGM GSED instructor?

  7. Dirk Digger

    Nov 9, 2017 at 8:23 pm

    6. Get a putter shaft longer than your driver, hold the putter shaft close to your body as you can and wear loose clothing.

    • mlecuni

      Nov 10, 2017 at 3:59 am

      +1
      The rule about it should have been putters no longer than 40″.

  8. Hale Irwin

    Nov 9, 2017 at 7:06 pm

    I’m the one shank

  9. M-Herd4

    Nov 9, 2017 at 4:58 pm

    He’s the best! My wife and I met him at the Dick’s Open in Endicott this year just down the street from our house. Great guy and a great role model indeed!

  10. OB

    Nov 9, 2017 at 4:53 pm

    Very informative and inspiring article about Langer.
    I would like to know how much time he devotes to practicing his putting on the greens with his long putter.
    It’s my impression that tour players practice their putting stroke a lot to acquire and retain that ‘feel’ that can be carried back to the course.
    It seems like putting feel varies from day to day and must be constantly reinforced with extra practice time.
    Thanks.

  11. Dave

    Nov 9, 2017 at 4:35 pm

    How can you say ONLY McCarron has a chance to win the Cup. Any player in the top 5 has the same chance!

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Mondays Off: U.S. Open wrap-up | Steve plays against the new assistant pro

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Would Woodland have won the U.S. Open if he had to hit driver on the 18th hole? Knudson doesn’t think so. Steve loved the U.S. Open, but he didn’t really love the commentator crew. Also, Steve tees it up with the new second assistant pro at the club, how did he do?

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

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The Wedge Guy: What’s your short game handicap?

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Well, that was a U.S. Open for the ages, in my book. Hallowed Pebble Beach held its own against the best players in the world and proved that small greens can really give these guys fits. Kudos and congratulations to Gary Woodland for putting on quite a show and outlasting all the others. And to Brooks Koepka for giving us reason to believe a three-peat could really happen.

To me, of course, what stands out is how Woodland elevated his short game for this event. Coming in he was ranked something like 165th on tour in greenside saves but went 16-for-20 last week. Of course, that also means he hit 52 of those small greens in regulation, which certainly outdistanced most of the field. Justin Rose was putting on a scrambling clinic for three days, but his inability to hit fairways and greens finally did him in. So that brings me to today’s topic – an honest assessment of your own “short game handicap.” Regardless of skill level, I have long believed that the key to better scoring is the same for us as for these tour-elite players – improving your ability to get up-and-down.

Almost all reasonably serious golfers have a handicap, just to allow us to keep track of our overall improvement with our golf games. But wouldn’t it be more useful if that handicap was such that it told us where we could improve the most? Unfortunately, that’s not the purpose of the USGA handicap program, so I’ve devised my own “Short Game Handicap” calculation to help golfers understand that this is where they are most likely going to improve their scoring.

The premise of my short game handicapping formula is the notion that once we get inside short iron range, the physical differences between golfers is increasingly neutralized. For most of us, our physical skills and abilities will never let us hit drives and longer approach shots like the best players. But I believe anyone can learn to execute good quality chips and pitches, and even full swing wedge and short iron shots. It really doesn’t matter whether your full-swing 9-iron goes 140 or 105, if you can execute shots from there on into the green, you can score better than you do now.

So, the starting point is to know exactly where you stand in relation to “par” when you are inside scoring range…regardless of how many strokes it took you to get there. Once your ball is inside that range where you can reach the flag with a comfortable full-swing 9-iron or less, you should be able to get up and down in 3 strokes or fewer almost all the time. In fact, I think it is a realistic goal for any golfer to get down in two strokes more often than it takes more than three, regardless of your skill level.

So, let’s start with understanding what this kind of scoring range skill set can do for your average score. I created this exercise as a starting point, so I’m encouraging you guys and ladies to chime in with your feedback.

What was your last (or typical) 18 hole score? ______

_____ Number of times you missed a green with a 9-iron or less
_____ Number of times you got up and down afterward
_____ Number of other holes where you hit a chip or pitch that ended up more than 10’ from the cup

Subtract #2 from #1, then add 1/2 of #3. That total ______ is your short game handicap under this formula. [NOTE: The logic of #3 is that you can learn to make roughly 1/2 of your putts under 10 feet, so improving your ability to hit chips and pitches inside that range will also translate to lower scores.]

I believe this notion of a short game handicap is an indication of how many shots can potentially come off your average scores if you give your short game and scoring clubs the attention they deserve.

I would like to ask all of you readers to do this simple calculation and share with the rest of us what you find out.

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Hot & Cold: Where strokes were won and lost at the U.S. Open

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In “Hot & Cold,” we’ll be focusing each week on what specific areas of the game players excelled and disappointed in throughout the previous tournament. On Sunday, Gary Woodland claimed victory at the U.S. Open in spectacular style, and here’s a look at where some of the most notable players gained and lost strokes over the four days of action at Pebble Beach.

Hot

Gary Woodland produced a masterclass both with his irons and flat-stick all week long at Pebble Beach to claim his first major title. The 35-year-old gained 8.4 strokes over the field for his approach play and a monstrous 7.2 strokes over the field on the greens at Pebble Beach. Check out the clubs Woodland used on his way to victory last week in our WITB piece here.

Brooks Koepka continues to impress on the biggest stage, and the American’s play tee to green was once more outstanding in California. Koepka gained 14.4 strokes tee to green last week, which was the best in the field in this area.

Viktor Hovland has just about every golf fan excited after watching his brilliant display at Pebble Beach. Hovland was second in the field for strokes gained: tee to green at the U.S. Open, gaining a whopping 12.6 strokes in this area. All that was holding the amateur back was his putting, where he lost almost four strokes to the field

Cold

Justin Thomas continues to struggle after his comeback from his wrist injury, with the American missing the cut at last week’s U.S. Open. Thomas lost 2.7 strokes to the field on the greens at Pebble Beach, and worryingly for the 25-year-old is the fact that he has now lost strokes with the flat-stick in his last six consecutive events.

Dustin Johnson’s performance on the greens cost the 34-year-old dearly at last week’s U.S. Open. Johnson came into the event as one of the favorites, but a poor performance with the putter, where he lost 6.1 strokes, put paid to his chances. It was the worst performance for Johnson on the greens since 2017.

Bubba Watson continues to struggle, and last week it was his short game which was woefully misfiring. Watson dropped a combined 10 strokes to the field for his play on and around the greens at Pebble Beach for the two days he was in town.

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