July 10, 2013
An interview with:
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon. We'd like to welcome Bernhard Langer here to the Media Center. Bernhard, two time Masters champion, more than 80 professional wins. Since turning 50, has been one of the most successful players on the Champions Tour as well with 18 victories.
Now, you've had 11 top five finishes in major championships, on the European tour and the PGA Tour. What has made you so successful in those major championships and has carried over here to the Champions Tour?
BERNHARD LANGER: That's a good question. I guess you got to be fairly good at most things if you want to contend in Majors because the golf course is set up very demanding. Par 4s or par 5s become par 4s every once in a while. The fairways are narrow. The rough is higher. The greens are faster and firmer.
So you just need to be good in all aspects. You've got to hit the ball well. You've got to hit fairways, greens in regulation, and have a good short game. Otherwise, you're not going to be contending. I suppose over the years I've had some good weeks and some not so good weeks in majors.
Q. And you've had a lot of success in specifically the U.S. Senior Open, winning in 2010, beating Fred Couples at Sahalee, and tied for second last year at Indianwood. Is there something about the USGA setups that catches your game?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, it's when I go back to my younger years on the PGA Tour, the U.S. Open, I always felt, was the most challenging tournament, the setup, because I wasn't probably as good a driver of the golf ball as I could have, should have been in some of the years, and I ended up in the rough. You can't play from the rough. I wasn't long enough to play out of the rough and compete.
But lately my golf swing's gotten a little bit better. So I probably control my game a little bit better, hit more fairways, learn to maybe hit the odd 3 wood or the hybrid or something off the tee. There's some holes you're better off hitting hybrid, 3 wood than driver, 5 iron, or something like that, if you're not sure you're going to hit the fairway.
It's just those kinds of setups. It's very tough.
THE MODERATOR: Very good.
Q. Your thoughts, first of all, on this course?
BERNHARD LANGER: It's very demanding. The rough is as bad as I've seen it anywhere in the world. Worse than anywhere in the world, I mean. We played with a few other players, and sometimes we couldn't see the ball from three feet away. You know it went right in here, and you're looking, and you're walking from here to there, and you can't see the ball. That tells you how much it's sitting down.
I've hit a couple of shots out of there, and some of the lies, I couldn't move it more than 25, 30 yards, hitting it as hard as I can. So it's just very demanding off the tee.
And then you have all the side hill, downhill, uphill lies that the terrain produces out there, which makes it more difficult to keep your balance, make solid contact. And the greens are pretty severe on top of that. There's a lot of slope, a lot of movement on the greens. If you miss it on the wrong side, it's very difficult.
The other thing I noticed is a lot of the greens are elevated, so if you – you can't run the ball up on some of these greens. If you come up short, even three feet, it often runs 30 yards down the hill or 20, a bit like Augusta on No. 9. If you're just short, it takes off.
And you see that maybe on six to eight holes out here, maybe more even. So you have to hit the ball at least onto the green, but you don't want to get beyond the flag because then you have a downhill putt. So that makes it very hard to have a birdie putt.
Q. What's that do to scoring then? And what score would you take this week?
BERNHARD LANGER: I don't know. It all depends on the wind, I suppose, but even when there's no wind, I can't see what's par? 70, right? I can't see too many 64s, 65s out here. So as I say, even par is never a bad score in a U.S. Open or Senior Open.
If somebody gets really hot because the greens might not get to the speed where they might want them because of the heat, they have to water them, otherwise, they're going to lose them there might be a chance that somebody a couple of guys finish under par, maybe 6 to 8 under, somewhere in that range. I'm not sure. I'm not a prophet.
Q. Bernhard, given the hilly terrain here, how important will physical condition be this week?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, it's even more important because of the heat. It would be one thing to play on a hilly course like this if it's 60, 70 degrees, but we're looking at 80s and 90s, if the forecast is right, and that's very demanding on any 50 or older, year old guys. So fitness will play a part in it.
Q. Bernhard, given the fact that you're in very good shape already, what do you do to keep your fitness level up when you've got such a demanding condition as this course presents in the heat?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, there's nothing you can do now. If you're not reasonably fit now, you're not going to get fit in 24 hours. So whatever. It's not going to change or decrease within two or three days.
I think part of it is just managing your energy and try not to overdo the preparations in this heat. I played nine holes yesterday, and I was totally soaked and wiped out, and I just said, forget it. This is taking too much out of me.
In general, I might play 18, but here I just decided to play 9 holes a day, and hopefully it's the right thing to do.
Q. In terms of playing partners, you're playing with Colin Montgomerie and Tom Watson how cool is that to play with fellow legends? And does it help your game trying to keep up with legendary golfers like the guys you're playing with?
BERNHARD LANGER: I think it's always great to play with Hall of Famers. They've both had tremendous careers, both very much respected by their peers.
But there's some guys you'd rather play with than others. We all have that. We all have people we'd rather spend time with and maybe the odd one we don't want to spend time with. That's the neat thing out on this on the Champions Tour, that most of the guys are really phenomenal guys. They're just great people. Not just good golfers, but really good people.
THE MODERATOR: Speaking of Colin Montgomerie, he came in here yesterday and said he was looking forward to playing with his good friend, you. Just turned 50 a couple of weeks ago. How do you see his game translating out here on the Champions Tour?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, I was paired with him ten days ago when he played his first event on the senior circuit, and his game is in good shape. Still driving the ball very straight, hits a lot of good shots.
He had one really bad break where he made a triple bogey. Otherwise, he finished ninth, I think, in the tournament. If he'd have made par there, he probably would have finished fourth or fifth. He seems to have maintained his game at a pretty high standard and pretty high level.
Q. Could you comment a little bit just on how Fred Couples has been playing. He's got three straight runner-up finishes. Is he a guy that maybe is just about due?
BERNHARD LANGER: Fred is, as we all know, very talented. Hits the ball still tremendous distance, hasn't lost any distance, maybe gained some with the equipment and all that. He's capable of producing very low scores. Wherever he tees up, he's one of the main favorites, no doubt about it.
Mostly with him, it's just how good is his putting? He can be a great putter. I've been paired with Fred when he makes all sorts of putts from 60, 80 feet, from 20 feet, it doesn't matter. And I've played with him when he missed several short ones. So it just depends how his putter is.
But his long game is usually in pretty good shape.
Q. How much does that loss in last year's tournament leading into the final rounds stick with you and fuel you to perform well this weekend?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, I haven't thought about it lately. Obviously, on that day and the next couple of days, I contemplated what I did wrong and where I could have done better. But you just learn from that stuff and forget about it and move on. That's life.
When you compete, you're going to win some, and you're going to lose some. It's like I heard an interview with Ray Floyd the other day, and he said one of his strengths was he wasn't scared of losing. He didn't fear losing, and that enabled him to win.
What he meant by that is he's not scared of going for things, and sometimes you pull them off, and sometimes you get burnt. That's just the game of golf. A couple inches here and a couple inches there can make you or break you.
Q. How valuable is that experience? Being one of the few players in the Tournament to win both a Major at the PGA level and at the senior level?
BERNHARD LANGER: Sorry, I didn't get that.
Q. The experience that you have of winning Majors, one of the few people in this Tournament, how far can that carry you?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, it gives you confidence just knowing that you've won Majors and that I've competed when I was in my 20s, my 30s, my 40s, and now I'm in my 50s, and I'm still competing. It just gives me that confidence and that knowledge that, if my game is in good shape and I play to the level I can play, that I have a chance winning any tournament where I tee it up as long as I play to my best capability.
Q. Were you anticipating the reception that the tourney's gotten here in Omaha? Had you heard anything coming into the tourney?
BERNHARD LANGER: It's phenomenal. I think there's so many people out there. I haven't signed this many autographs since the Masters in April. It's just unbelievable how many showed up, even for practice rounds.
I heard there was more hospitality, whatever, tickets sold and other things than in any other U.S. Senior Open before. So that's fantastic. It should be a great atmosphere out there the next four days.
Q. Bernhard, obviously, your son's here with you and your family travels with you, I'm sure, on a regular basis.
BERNHARD LANGER: Sometimes.
Q. When you were younger, if you can tell me, you were probably playing more for yourself. What's your mindset now that you have a family and everything and they're involved now on the road with you? Do you feel like you're playing for your family more often now than just yourself?
BERNHARD LANGER: Not necessarily for my family, but we sometimes have a bit of fun, like Jason, who is with me, has come out a few times on the weekends, when he has a break from school. If I'm in contention, we'll talk about, well, what do you think it will take on Sunday or tomorrow to win the tournament?
He's guessed very well a couple of times, and I was fortunate enough to shoot the right number. So that's kind of fun.
I still play for myself in a sense and for my caddie because he gets part of the earnings, but I realize I'm going to be 56 soon. The clock is ticking. There's only so many years left. I'm trying to have fun and enjoy the game while I can play at this level because it's not going to be much longer.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Bernhard Langer. Off 7:52 tomorrow off the 10th tee with Colin Montgomerie and Tom Watson. Good luck.
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