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May 10, 2017

Bernhard Langer

Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

MICHAEL BALIKER: It's my pleasure to welcome Bernhard Langer to the interview room here at THE PLAYERS Championship. Bernhard is back for a third consecutive year as the reigning champion of the Constellation PLAYERS Championship. Last year at Philly Cricket Club Bernhard had a pretty dramatic finish there getting up-and-down from the bunker on the 72nd hole making a par putt there to beat Miguel Angel Jiménez by a stroke. And, Bernhard, a fourth Charles Schwab Cup title and first after the introduction of the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs.

So Bernhard, just before we open it up to questions, if we could just get your thoughts on being back here at TPC Sawgrass and what it means to be a part of this championship again.

BERNHARD LANGER: Well, it's awesome to be back. This was always one of my favorite tournaments and favorite golf courses over the years. I think I came here first in the early '80s and probably this may be my 26th start or something like that over the years. You know, as soon as I won the senior Players, Constellation Senior Players Championship, immediately thought, oh, I get to go back to THE PLAYERS again. Thrilled to be here and to be part of this great championship.

MICHAEL BALIKER: Can you talk about in 2018 going up to Caves Valley and your excitement to be up there at another excellent host venue.

BERNHARD LANGER: Yeah, 2017 this year I'm going to defend my title at Caves Valley in Baltimore, which many of you probably have heard of or seen or played even. Great tournament golf course, great championship place, and really look forward to playing there. I've played the golf course a couple of times just for fun, but never in competition, and they renovated some of the holes, redid some of them, so it should be a great test and great place for a major championship.

Q. I read you've made 25 birdies at No. 17; what is your mentality -- you're the Zen master of that hole it seems. What is your mental approach as you're walking to that tee as you look out and see the island that has made you so successful there?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, definitely your heartbeat goes up a little bit walking onto that tee box and looking across all the blue that you see, and you try to go through your motions. You've got to stay in your routine and figure out the yardage, the wind. For me the hardest part is to figure out what direction the wind is blowing and how strong and how it's going to affect the ball flight and the distance because you have to be extremely precise there. Just even being a half a club off could be catastrophic or detrimental, and you end up in the water, short in the water, long, or even to the sides if you hit a bad shot. That's always the tricky part, figuring out what the wind does.

And then where the ball lands on the green, will it spin back or will it hop forward. So once you've got all that figured out, you've got to be totally committed and hopefully make a good swing because any mis-hit could be disastrous, as well. If you hit it on the toe or fat or thin or any of that, you're not going to get the proper ball flight, distance or result.

Q. Bernhard, Rory was in here yesterday and Jason Day and Adam Scott. They were talking about when they were No. 1, when they made it to No. 1, and it's one thing to try to get there, it's another to stay there. I think you were there for a little while. Take us back to -- was that added pressure? How did you handle the whole No. 1 thing?
BERNHARD LANGER: Yeah, I didn't focus on it too much. Obviously it's an honor. It just shows that you're doing very well, that you're if not the best, one of the best in the trade, in the game, and I think it's something every golfer would love to achieve. It's just like winning a major championship or more. But it's very, very difficult to achieve because we all have some great players in no matter what era you live in. There were always great players. You always have certain opponents. In my case it might have been Greg Norman and Fred Couples and Faldo and Woosnam and Lyle, and you go on and on, Payne Stewart. There were a lot of good players, and Tom Watson was still there and Curtis Strange and even Jack to some extent, and now you have different guys. You're always competing against some of the very, very best, and it's hard to get there, and it's even harder to stay there for a long time and dominate.

Q. Is part of the challenge once you arrive, what's the next goal, I guess?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, it can be for some people a problem; you know, what's next? And for others, it's not. It's just trying to improve, trying to get better. Even that in itself can be a big issue because some people by trying to improve, they change their technique or they change something, and they get worse instead of better, while others do get better, so it's always a fine line. You don't have a lot of wiggle room, let's put it that way. When you're already at the very top, the air is very thin.

Q. If I mentioned the word retirement, would you recoil in horror, or is it a word that increasingly crosses your mind? Any talk around the family table at home?
BERNHARD LANGER: Yeah, I don't think we talk a lot about it because I think everybody feels I'm still fairly healthy and driven and enjoy what I'm doing. There's no obvious signs for me to retire at this point. I've just probably had the best year in my life as a golfer last year in terms of consistency and performance. So unless my health goes really south here in a hurry, I don't see a reason to retire.

But certainly more often talked about than 30 years ago or 20 years ago. Yeah, that's for sure. But I still enjoy what I'm doing. I love competing, and I kind of balance my life in a sense where I kind of play some events, but also have other things, which makes me eager and hungry to come back.

Q. How do you cope with the aches and pains?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, that's something you learn to live with. It happens as you get older. Everybody has aches and pains, and you have to just deal with it. You know, you're going to get up in the morning, you're going to feel a little stiff. Some days are better than others. But you learn how to cope with it. You've just got to spend more time stretching and make sure you have half an hour to do that instead of going straight out and whacking drivers. That's maybe not the smartest thing to do, because that's how you get hurt.

As you mature into that process, you learn about it and you figure out what works and what doesn't.

Q. Bernhard, you've observed Sergio a long time, certainly in Ryder Cups. I don't know if you've been paired with him but you were his captain for a while, and I just wondered how you've observed him, and how would you measure his evolution, and especially recently? I don't know if you spoke to him at the Masters or anything, but do you see a change, and what did he change from, so to speak?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, Sergio was always incredible, hyped up for the Ryder Cup especially. It seems to be in the Spanish blood. Seve was that way, and he was probably hanging around Seve a bit, so he just kind of elevated his game often in the Ryder Cup and brought the best out of him. But Sergio was a phenom. The guy was at age 15, I think he had a plus 6 handicap or something like that, which is very unusual, and had tremendous success at a very, very young age, winning all sorts of major amateur titles all over the world, and then turning pro at a pretty young age and being successful right away. And he's had a great career.

But I think he's come to the conclusion -- I've had a great career and a great life whether I win a major or not, at least that's what he seemed to say, and I'm saying this in my own words, and that probably took some of the pressure off him, saying, hey, I can look into the mirror and be fine with who I'm seeing, whether I'm going to win or not, a major. And I think that helped him, and plus I think he's in a good spot with getting married here soon. He's in love. He's comfortable with all of that, and that probably helps him. We always figured he had it in himself, he just never got the breaks or quite pulled through. In a sense, it almost looked that way this year. He had a three-shot lead at one stage, then he got two behind, and we were thinking, here we go again. But then the way he finished the last six or seven holes was extremely impressive, and he truly won it. And I think that may be the new Sergio. We'll see what the future holds.

But what stands out to me is just that he's comfortable in his skin. He's fine one way or another, and I'm thrilled for him to have won a major, and I wouldn't be surprised if he wins another one.

Q. As his captain or over the years, have you counseled him at all or had conversations or given advice or has he asked you anything?
BERNHARD LANGER: Not really. I mean, we've had numerous discussions and stuff, but I wouldn't call it counseling, not even advice. We would just discuss certain issues and comment on certain things. But he has his own people around him. His dad is a golf professional, and he's had the same manager for many, many years, and he's had other guys like maybe Seve, Olazábal or some of the other great Spaniards that have played the game. I don't think he needed my advice.

Q. You play with some of the young guys; you're mostly around the older generation, but beyond power and length, what impresses you about these kids?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, some of their personalities, just how mature they are at a very young age. I mean, we know some guys that have not been mature over the years, but these younger kids that we see now, they seem to be very mature for as young as they are and how they handle themselves, how they handle victory and defeat. It's very refreshing, and it's very unusual. You look into other sports, they don't seem to be all that mature at times, whether it's football or baseball or soccer or whatever, hockey, whatever, some of the major sports are. Certainly the golfers seem to be at a different level.

Q. They don't seem to be intimidated, either. I don't know if that's a product of youth or -- explain that if you would. There's just no -- they just go for it.
BERNHARD LANGER: Right, and I think some of that is just how they grow up these days. Many of them play in high school golf, then college golf, and then the mini-tours or, what is it called, Web.com, so there's years of -- even though they're still young, there were years of preparing them for that, and they had to have success at all these levels to make it on to the PGA TOUR, so they are fairly well-prepared at that point.

Q. You seem to have cornered the market on the Constellation Senior Players Championship. In a day and age where infrastructure, space, all these -- the ability to build a small city within a golf course come into play when selecting a tournament venue, how enjoyable is it when you go to a place like Fox Chapel, Philly Cricket, Caves Valley, Exmoor next year, classic venues from a design standpoint and obviously it suits your game.
BERNHARD LANGER: Oh, it's fantastic. It's part of the fun that we get to enjoy as professional golfers. We play some of the best courses around the country or around the world, and some of them are old design and some of them are new design, and that makes it so refreshing that every golf course has different challenges and different land. Some are very flat, some are very hilly, some have lots of water, some have lots of trees. Some have lots of everything. That's part of the fun and the excitement to not having -- like in tennis, you play the same kind of thing all the time, just a different surface -- but in golf it's totally different, not just different grass but everything out there is different, from greens to rolling hills to the trees and all the rest of it. It's a lot of fun.

Q. Last year obviously John Daly, a lot of pub with his debut on PGA TOUR champions, but the depth of the rookies this year, from Stricker to Toms to Kelly to Olazábal, are you at a point where you start looking over your shoulder or are you the frontrunner and you know they're all chasing you?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, that's a good question. There's been rookies every year, and they've always had some good rookies. This year's may be exceptional in a sense, and I'm not too worried. I have to play my own game. Obviously there's going to be guys that might dominate here in the future, specifically Stricker or Jerry Kelly could be those people, or even David Toms, and, who knows, John Daly might have his moments, too, as he did last weekend. He certainly has the talent and the length to do all that.

But yeah, it's not in my control. I've got to play my own game and be concerned about what I can do, and if I do it well, then I can still compete, and if I don't do it well, it doesn't matter how good the rookies are, somebody is going to beat me for sure. But it's great to see some of these guys come out on the PGA TOUR champions, and they're all going to be success, no doubt about it.

MICHAEL BALIKER: Bernhard, we appreciate the time, and best of luck this week.

BERNHARD LANGER: Thank you. Appreciate it, too.

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