The PGA Championship

Interview with BERNHARD LANGER

August 13, 2003

Julius Mason: Bernhard Langer, ladies and gentlemen, joining us for the 85th PGA Championship.

Bernhard, thank you very much for coming down this morning. Welcome to Rochester. Some opening comments and then we'll go to Q&A, please.

Bernhard Langer: Opening comments regarding the PGA Championship?

Julius Mason: Anything on your mind.

Bernhard Langer: Anything on my mind, I'm just glad to be here and I thank you all for getting up early and joining me here at this hour.

This tournament, the course is very, very long for someone like me. I would have preferred it the way it was eight years ago, but obviously everybody hits the ball further and they have made some drastic changes, and it's wet, on top of that, so it's playing extremely long and the rough is very thick. So I will be hitting my long irons and my fairway woods a few times and hopefully hitting them straight. But it should be a great test and we've got a strong field, so we'll look forward to it.

Q: Does it need to be so long? Does the rough need to be so thick?

Bernhard Langer: Well, it doesn't need to be, no. But the course, any course is challenging without it. Obviously it's a major and they are going to make it as tough as can be. For the very long hitters, it's playable. It just means that they are going to hit more drivers, and if they don't, they are going to hit, you know, 4-, 5-, 6-irons into the greens. But for a medium hitter, 17 was a 3-wood yesterday and 18 was a 5-wood, a 3-iron off a downhill lie and things like that. And that's without any wind, so if the wind is against, might not even be reachable, some of the holes.

But that's the way we've been going, it seems like the last two years. Everyone is going to more distance and more distance, and I'm not sure that's the answer.

Q: We've had four first-time winners now in a row. Do you think there's anything about this course that suggests there will be a fifth, or do you think it will be won by a player who has won a major championship before?

Bernhard Langer: I would say it probably would be someone who has won before. But it's difficult. You have so many good players nowadays who have not won majors, and if they get hot, if their game is on, make some putts and get in the groove with their swing, there's a lot of guys who can win out here.

Q: You are obviously a contender here and you are going to be a contender in other tournaments between now and next year. How difficult is it for you to focus on the task at hand rather than thinking ahead to the Ryder Cup?

Bernhard Langer: Well, at the moment it's not that difficult because the Ryder Cup seems a long time away. At this stage, we have not even started qualifying for our team, so it still seems a little removed, even though there's a lot of interview requests and a lot of other things going on regarding the Ryder Cup.

So I will hopefully be able to focus on what I need to do, and that is, you know, playing a major tournament at this moment and then also make time dealing with Ryder Cup issues, whether it is deciding what presents we might give or what clothes we might wear. I don't know. There's a lot of things we have to make decisions on, but that's not going to happen this week.

Q: Along those lines, at what point in the next year do you start to look at yourself, not as much as you playing, but more as the Ryder Cup captain?

Bernhard Langer: I really don't know yet. I have to see how much time is necessary to devote to the Ryder Cup captain position and all of the decisions that I have to make. We will go through that the next few weeks and months, and, you know, I will be briefed and told what things are expected of me, what things I like to do on top of that or what things I would rather not do, and then fit it into my schedule.

Q: Any special memories from eight years ago, coming back here?

Bernhard Langer: There's a lot of special memories. The drama we've seen on the last few holes coming down 18 and 17, some of the matches, what happened with Philip Walton and Jay Haas; Faldo, Curtis Strange, Corey Pavin chipping in on us against me and Faldo, I think it was. And then the celebration that we had afterwards by the clubhouse, those are the very special moments; the prize-giving ceremony, raising the flags, tearing the flags down. Just some moments in the team room which I don't want to discuss at this stage.

Q: What are your recollections of Oak Hill in '96 and is there in your mind a prototype kind of golfer that would best be suited for that golf course?

Bernhard Langer: I don't think there is a prototype golfer. I think it's a golf course -- it's a very demanding golf course that asks for all of the shots and all of the short game that you can have. It's extremely tough layout and tough, difficult greens. It has length, it has severe greens. You have to shape the ball. It's pretty much got everything. It's pretty tough. So whoever can do all of those things, that's your prototype. And some of the world's best players are capable of doing most of that.

But what I remember is I didn't have a great week. It was just a very difficult golf course. You had to hit a lot of great shots. If you put it in the wrong place or missed a green on the short side or in the wrong place, you had no chance.

Q: Have you sounded anybody out about being a vice or assistant captain, and when do you feel you need to make a decision on that?

Bernhard Langer: I think there's lots of time because there's nothing the vice-captain would have to do at this stage and probably not for another nine months. So I think there's lots of time to make that decision. I might even choose someone who might be having a chance to be on the team, so I don't want to choose that person right now. I'm going to wait as long as I can and we'll go from there.

Q: Is it possible you might ask someone to be an assistant who did play on the team; could someone play and assist?

Bernhard Langer: I don't think that's a good idea. No, I want the players to focus on their task being and that's playing golf and nothing else. All of the other guys can focus on what they have to do.

Q: Based on the course setup here at Oak Hill this week, what do you estimate the winning score to be, and how many players do you think will be under par?

Bernhard Langer: Very good question. Never been very good at guessing, but I can't see too many players under par, especially if the wind blows. The forecast shows for good weather, so the greens might firm up, which will make it even more difficult. So I don't see a lot of guys under par, but you just never know. If someone gets hot, the winning score could be low, but it's doubtful.

I would guess maybe three to five guys under par and not very deep under par.

Q: Looking forward to the Ryder Cup, would you consider in your captain's picks, players that are playing over here more than on the European Tour?

Bernhard Langer: I would consider anybody who I think is one of the best players that we have with a European passport. Doesn't matter where he plays. I will look at the record. I will look at the form, especially the last three to six months before the Ryder Cup.

There's more chance someone will get picked who played well the last three months than someone who played well the first three months and then dropped into a lull and lost his form a little bit.

But I will look at everybody, no matter where they play.

Q: How excited are you at the number of younger European players coming through, Justin Rose, Paul Casey, people like that?

Bernhard Langer: We need some young players and we do seem to have the talent in some of the guys, like Ian Poulter has been having a very good stretch here lately, Paul Casey, a number of other guys. Fredrik Jacobson has been playing well lately. You could name a bunch of others. I don't mean to leave anyone out.

It's great to see because some of the older fellows are drifting away and we need younger ones coming through, and I think we do have that talent and that prospect.

Q: With that in mind, would you like to see, as we've had in Ryder Cups in the past, would you like to see a 50/50 split in terms of youth and experience? Is that the ideal makeup to you?

Bernhard Langer: I don't think if there is an ideal makeup. That would be pretty good, whether it's 60/40, 50/50, one more, one less. I don't think it's that important.

But it's good to have a few guys in there who have been there a number of times and I think it's also, we've seen in the past, that some of the rookies that performed extremely well, as well. So it's good to have that blend.

Q: With the new European selection process, can you quantify how much stronger that will make the European side?

Bernhard Langer: Well, that's questionable, whether it's going to be that much stronger. But I have seen the last few Ryder Cups anyways, we've seen that the captain had to pick sometimes the highest-ranked player on the European side, like whether it was Sergio Garcia or whoever, he should have been on the team and the captain had to choose one of his wild cards to get the best player onto the team, and I think that's wrong.

Most people would agree with me, and therefore, we were able to change it and that hopefully will get the 10 best players into the team and it gives me freedom to pick two players who should have automatically been in there already.

Q: Would Ian Poulter's current hair style conform with your idea of a Ryder Cup uniform?

Bernhard Langer: Well, let's not get into that. I'm not going to tell the guys what kind of earrings they can where or what kind of hair style they should have. We are going to provide them with the shirts and the clothes and that's as far as it goes.

I think it's important that every individual looks the way he feels most comfortable and confident, and if that's Ian's style, then continue. He's doing well.

Q: Hal Sutton, how would you describe your relationship with him, and how have you started talking with him about attitudes, the press, that sort of thing?

Bernhard Langer: Our relationship has been very, very good over the years. I've always respected him. I feel the same from him towards me. We both are on the Ben Hogan staff. We are both Hogan players. We have spent some time together doing stuff for Hogan. We played some practice rounds together. We've had a few matches in the Ryder Cup and even on other tournaments we were paired together. They were all very pleasant. I never had not even one problem with Hal whatsoever.

I think we are both thrilled to be working together and I'm sure we're going to have a number of talks. He was one of the first people to call me and congratulate me on the position, and actually his wife, as well. I think it's wonderful.

We look forward to an evening, what you say, a silent relationship that we have already.

Q: What would you like your captaincy to be remembered for?

Bernhard Langer: Well, hopefully a winning one.

No, there's more to that. Obviously, I would like to be remembered as mainly that the game was played fair, I think. I'd like to play it in the true spirit of the game. I don't want to hear that I was doing anything that is against the rules or against the etiquette of the game. But it's going to be -- I'm looking for words.

It's still going to be very competitive, there is no doubt about it. I'm a very competitive guy. It's my nature. I like to compete and I like to win and I'm going to do everything possible to instill that in the players and I don't think I need to do much. They are all winners, they would not be there otherwise. We are going to play in the fairest manner that is possible, and that's what I'm trying to achieve.

At the end, the game of golf needs to be the winner. Doesn't matter which team wins.

Q: For different reasons, captains have taken different stances on whether to play with prospective team members as the qualifying progresses, to be paired with them in the first two rounds of tournaments; do you know whether you will?

Bernhard Langer: In some of the regular tournaments? Yeah, that might be an idea, coming close to the Ryder Cup. I mean, not right now but maybe the last two or three months. I might think about that.

You know, just playing one or two rounds with somebody might not giving you a true perspective, anyways, because anybody can have a great day or a bad day. You've got to really look over a span of time and not judge someone by 18 holes of golf.

You know, to continue on that, some players might look a certain type of golf course better than another type and if I'm paired with him out on the golf course that doesn't suit his game that well, it would be wrong to make a complete judgment just on that.

Q: You've mentioned in the past how your wife had mixed feelings about you as a Ryder Cup player. Is she looking forward to you being a captain?

Bernhard Langer: Very much so. Obviously I talk to her a lot about it. I needed her support and she is fully behind me, there is no question.

She doesn't have too many mixed feelings. Obviously she is American, but she noticed that I played for the European team and she has always fully supported myself in the last 10 Ryder Cups that I've played in.

Q: How much will the election issues that are going to arise over the next year drive your own playing schedule? Will you be want to go play more in Europe to see the contenders or does it not matter too much?

Bernhard Langer: I'll have to wait and see. Even if I shouldn't play a lot more in Europe, I can still watch them on the Golf Channel. You can see every shot pretty much of the guys in the lead, the contenders. Those are the people that are going to be on the team. Even if I should be playing in a tournament here, I can have someone tape it for me and I can go home and watch it and stuff like that. I can get all of the stats from every single shot that has been played all over the world and all that kind of stuff, and that will give me plenty of information to see which guys I should consider and which not.

Julius Mason: Bernhard, thank you very much for coming down.

Bernhard Langer: Thank you. My pleasure.

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