Bernhard Langer emerged from what they call the “sweat test” at the Sanford Fieldhouse looking pretty much how he did when he went in there, other than he was really sweaty.
“Am I alive?” he asked, joking with the Sanford Health exercise science staff in charge of compiling and assessing the results of his sweat session.
This is a 62-year-old whose continued enthusiasm for the game has gone from impressive to downright unique in golf history in the years since he became a PGA Tour Champions regular.
How does Langer, an official Sanford International ambassador and member of the Sanford Health International board, keep winning when others on the Champions Tour customarily move down the money chart in their late 50s?
The answer might be nestled in that sweat test. Maybe not so much the actual test as much as the motivation behind it. The sweat test represents an internal and eternal quest for self-improvement.
“Ever since I’ve been part of the PGA Tour Champions I still feel very strongly that I can improve, that I can get better,” Langer said just moments after he spent an hour sweating.
“And I have had my moments — my weeks and months — when I was better. That’s technically better, mentally better, physically better. There are many ways. If I can shave off half a stroke a day that’s one-and-a-half or two strokes a week. That would make a huge difference in my performance throughout the year.”
Champions Tour champion
To summarize the highlights of Langer’s career by calling him a “two-time Masters winner” is technically accurate but ignores plenty. He has had an incredible stretch of excellence that many would say is more distinctive than his titles at Augusta.
Since becoming eligible for the Champions Tour, he has led in earnings seven consecutive years and 10 of the last 11. He won the Charles Schwab Cup for the fourth time in the last five years in 2018 and the fifth time overall.
It has continued in 2019 with two more titles. He won his fourth Senior Open Championship — his 11th senior major title overall — and also won the Oasis Championship this season. He is currently No. 5 on the money list in 2019 with more than $1.3 million in earnings.
Langer spent the first part of his time at the Sanford Sports Science Institute getting a 3-D golf swing evaluation. The LPGA Tour’s Amy Olson spent time going through the same regimen early this week at the facility.
“We liken it to an MRI,” said Dr. Lisa MacFadden, director of the Sanford Sports Science Institute. “The MRI provides a diagnosis quickly and with definitive proof. This is what we do for the golf swing with our 3-D swing analysis technology.”
A special talent
Not surprisingly, the Sports Science Institute staff discovered Langer has a unique set of strengths as an athlete.
“He’s very aware of his body and he’s obviously focused on health and fitness,” Dr. MacFadden said. “He moves really well. That’s something we could see that we could connect with his success. And he takes care of his body. Those things definitely contribute to a long longitudinal career and being able to sustain it.”
Langer took a tour of the facilities earlier this year and said he was looking forward to taking the tests when he returned for the Sanford International. The Sanford Golf program is driven by an elite team including golf professionals, physical therapists and athletic trainers, biomechanical engineers, exercise physiologists, sports dietitians, strength and conditioning coaches and applied sports psychology specialists.
“He didn’t come here just to see a guru,” Dr. MacFadden said. “He came and saw the team where we have everyone working together to address his unique needs.”
Langer stays curious
Given that Langer and his colleagues spend upward of six hours a day walking around the golf course, many times in intense heat and humidity, it’s easy to see how his time sweating could have potential applications to his line of work.
And the swing evaluation is a direct hit, but what can you tell one of the best about hitting a golf ball that he doesn’t already know?
“I’m curious about the weight transfer and how I use the ground to create club head speed,” Langer said. “Also swing path and angle of attack and how consistent the shots are or are not. There is a lot to be learned and hopefully I can get a couple of pointers that might improve my game in the weeks and months ahead.”
Again, with a search for insight. Like Langer himself, it never gets old.
“My technique is not perfect,” he said. “My putting is not perfect. The mental approach is not perfect. I make mistakes there, too. I sometimes get tired. Or I might eat the wrong thing. Whatever it is. There are many aspects to becoming the best that you can be. Any one- or two-percent that you can figure out is going to be a huge benefit.”