An Interview with: Bernhard Langer
KELLY ELBIN: World Golf Hall of Fame member Bernhard Langer joining us at the 74th Senior PGA Championship, presented by KitchenAid. Bernhard, welcome to Bellerive. Welcome back. Thoughts on what you have seen on the golf course so far and your chances this week to win your first Senior PGA.
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, the golf course at the moment is still very wet. A lot of mud balls. But it's a real challenge. It's playing long right now and the rough is up, the greens, we all know they're small areas you have to try and hit because of these huge mounds that feed through all the greens. If you get into the wrong area, you're going to have a very difficult time to just 2 putt.
So that's the key is to hit fairways to start off with and then hopefully get it in the right quadrant or whatever you want to call it, on the green, to have a chance to birdie. But it's a great test. It has a good combination of some very, very long and tough holes and then a couple of shorter holes, but still need to hit some quality shots all throughout the bag.
KELLY ELBIN: You're the only player with two wins on the Champions Tour this year. Off to the kind of start that you had hoped for?
BERNHARD LANGER: Yeah, I had a very good start. Certainly my first five tournaments with two wins and two seconds and a third was even better than expected. So we'll see what the rest of the season goes.
KELLY ELBIN: Open it up for questions.
Q. Going back a long ways, but I remember standing in the parking lot here with you in 2001. I just wondered if, being back here, if that, I know it's been a long time, but if that brings back any particular memories of 2001, being back here. And I would assume this is the first time you've seen the golf course since the Rees Jones makeover, if it strikes you as being very much different than what you remember.
BERNHARD LANGER: Yeah, the golf course is totally different. I didn't hardly recognize any of the holes from '92. But that was a long time ago. And 2001 was one of my saddest experiences ever in my life. I remember vividly just trying to go out there thinking it was about nine in the morning, trying to play a practice round and everybody was dashing towards the TV and we just couldn't believe what we saw.
Obviously, the tournament got cancelled and we had a difficult time getting home, because all the flights were cancelled, so somehow I got a car and I drove all the way home.
Q. You came back in 2004?
BERNHARD LANGER: No, I was not old enough then. Sorry, I look older than I am.
Q. Couple of players aren't here this week that chose to play at Colonial. That surprise you at all?
BERNHARD LANGER: It did, yeah. It surprised me a lot, actually. I mean, Colonial is one of those venues and tournaments that would entice some of us to play. If you had asked me, do I miss the PGA TOUR? I would say no. And if you asked me what tournaments would you maybe consider playing, I would say Colonial and Hilton Head would be the top of the list.
So in a way I'm surprised, yeah, because it's a Major here, it's a great golf course, and whatever they're going to do at Colonial is not going to change their career much or help them or whatever, but every player has different ideas of what he wants to do or commitments or sponsors or other things, so that's just the way it is. I'm going to miss defending the 3M Championship this year because I run a tournament in Germany, my company does, and I have to be there for that. So that's not a good situation either, but I can't help it.
Q. The greens are so big here, lag putting will be very key here do you think?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, certainly. Good iron shots are even more important though. But ace said, hit it in the right quadrant. But and no matter who you are, there's some pretty long irons or hybrids into these greens. You're going to miss the quadrant and you're going to have some extremely hard putts. You're going up into the green and then going down with the green and you have a 20, 30 foot break on top of it, very, very tough to judge all that and get the ball within three or four feet of the hole.
Q. As a follow up, is there a hole or two that you would pick out as being crucial? A hole or two that is tough?
BERNHARD LANGER: They're all crucial. I think there's probably what, 14 holes where water comes into play? So you can't just single out one or two of them, there's a lot of trouble out there, period.
If you want a hole, I would probably have to go with is it sixth par 3? That's going to be a tough hole no matter what, especially since the water hazard is yellow, not read. So you want to avoid some big numbers on those type of holes.
Q. You're arguably part of the greatest generation of golfers that came out of Europe in a half century or more. And out of all those players you're the only one that's still remaining viable as a player. Any reason why you have held up and there's a variety of circumstances, obviously Seve passed away, but why have you stayed viable where all those other contemporaries of yours have sort of moved aside?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, that's not quite true. Just a little bit more competitive still than Woosie and Lyle. They're still playing and they're playing quite well. But obviously Seve passed away and wasn't, he was sick and wasn't playing well. And Faldo chose to go the commentator route.
So everybody has different plans. I can't talk for the other four or five, I can only speak for myself, I've enjoyed competing, I enjoy playing golf, it's a big part of my life. But I have lots of other interests, so I'm very happy on the Champions Tour playing half the year and have half the year off and spend time with my family and doing things that I know joy doing.
So, again, I don't know what, why the other guys might not play as well, whether they're hurt or injured, we have been at this for a very, very long time.
I started, I turned pro when I was 15. I'm 55. So I've been a pro for 40 years. That's a lot of pounding on the body. I have my aches and pains and there's not a day that goes by where not something is hurting. But I still love it. I love to compete, I love to be in the heat, and that's what drives me. I don't know, as I said, I can't speak for the others.
KELLY ELBIN: You have two top four finishes in four appearances in this championship, but no victories. Where does winning this championship rang among your desires professionally right now?
BERNHARD LANGER: It ranks very high. All the Majors rank high in my goal setting. I don't know why I haven't done better in this tournament. I was close at Oak Hill, I think. Just sometimes it comes down to one shot at the wrong time or one good shot at the right time. Hopefully this will be the break through.
Q. Tim Clark made a reference to not going down quietly or such statement about the ban. What are your latest thoughts on the matter?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, I can't express my thoughts in five minutes because there's a lot more goes into this. I'm somewhat surprised that it came to what it, to this announcement. I really am. After that many years of having the long putter out there.
One of my arguments would be, who is using the big headed driver? Everybody. Who is using graphite shafts? Everybody. Why? Who is using the hybrid? Everybody. Who is using the ball that goes 300 yards? Everybody. Why? Because it's an advantage. It's an advantage for everybody.
Who's using the long putter? 10 percent, 12 percent? I guess it's not an advantage, otherwise everybody would use it. That's all I have to say to that.
KELLY ELBIN: Does this golf course setup for your style of play? Do you have a good feel for it?
BERNHARD LANGER: What's my style of play?
KELLY ELBIN: To win a lot of tournaments, for one.
BERNHARD LANGER: I think when you, when you're a great player, you can play any style of golf course. If you're able to hit the ball where you're looking, and you control your distance and have you a good short game, you can play anywhere pretty well. That's, obviously, this golf course you need to drive the ball straight and if you hit it in the rough too often, you're going to struggle, so that's one of the key things to keep the ball in the fairway.
Q. Jay Haas said that's always enjoyed playing off Zoysia fairways that he thinks the way he strikes his irons is well suited to that surface. Can you talk about, first of all, how much background do you have playing Zoysia fairways and how well that matches the way you strike your irons?
BERNHARD LANGER: I don't mind playing Zoysia fairways. I live in South Florida where we have Bermuda grass and that's somewhat similar to this. I've won on kikuyu, which is even better than this grass. So I have no problem with this.
Right now the fairways are not in good shape. I hate to say that, but they're just very wet and they haven't been able to cut them and I think they haven't had enough growth the last three or four months. It was probably too cold and this type of grass needs warm weather to grow and mature and it's just not been happening.
So I would be very surprised if they don't play lift, clean, and place the next day or two, because I played a practice round just an hour ago, and I had mud balls on every single fairway. Every single tee shot had a mud, had mud on the ball. And that brings luck into play. If you have mud on it, you don't know what the thing's going to do how much left or right it's going to go. So, but good Zoysia fairways are are fantastic, yeah. And there's areas where they are good out there. It's just that some lower areas where they're very wet right now.
KELLY ELBIN: Bernhard Langer, thank you very much.
BERNHARD LANGER: You're welcome.
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