The testament to Bernhard Langer's dominance on the Champions Tour isn't that he has five victories this year and an almost $800,000 lead on the money list over No. 2 Colin Montgomerie. It's that his name is being inserted into the conversation as a candidate to be one of Paul McGinley's captain's picks for the European Ryder Cup that will play next month.
The 56-year-old Langer probably won't make the team, but he still looks -- and plays -- like the guy who was a stalwart of the 1990s European squads.
At the Dick's Sporting Goods Open, Langer shot rounds of 67-67-66 to brush away Woody Austin and Mark O'Meara by a shot. It was his 24th win as a senior, and the fifth win of his 2014 season, tying his personal best for victories in a year set in 2010. Langer is on his way to winning his sixth money title in seven full years on the Champions Tour, and he's doing it by leading the tour in greens hit and converting on an average of 5.18 birdies per round -- also tops on tour.
"The signature of Bernhard's swing is balance and coordination," says ESPN swing coach Jerome Andrews, who is based at Spring Creek Golf Club in Charlottesville, Va. "He has the club, arms and body all turning through impact together. There's not a lot to go wrong, and he's never going to hit the ball very crooked."
Add in the fact that Langer has once again solved the yips with an unconventional stroke and he's taking advantage of all the extra birdie looks he gets.
"To be that precise, he doesn't use a lot of leg action," Andrews says. "The clubhead, shaft, hands and left arm swing together and track up an imaginary line in front of his toes to a controlled, three-quarter arm swing. The club comes back on an inside path to the target line, which gives him an ideal mix of distance, accuracy and balance."
Langer was never one of the longer hitters on the PGA Tour, but his fanatical fitness routine and efficient swing have proven to age well. He's 10th on the Champions Tour in driving distance at just under 280 yards -- almost 20 yards longer than he hit it during his regular-tour career.
"A good start to getting some of what Langer has in your swing is to be in position from the start," Andrews says. "Get your upper body balanced on top of your lower body at address, and position your weight on the balls of your feet. If your shoulders are tilted or your weight is back on your heels, you're going to have to compensate with big body movements and lose that precision."