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April 2, 2018
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. It's our pleasure to welcome two‑time Masters champion Bernhard Langer to the interview room. This is his first appearance in our new interview room. We really appreciate your time today.
This will be your 35th Masters appearance this week. It also is the 25th anniversary of your second win at Augusta National. Why don't you share with us, if you could, some of the emotions and looking back on that victory when you became a two‑time Masters champion.
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, any time you win a Major, and especially this one, it means a great deal because you know you've achieved the highest level of your profession pretty much. Winning Majors and being ranked No. 1 in the world, I guess it's about as good as it gets in our job.
'93 was very different to '85 when I won my first one. '93 I had a four‑shot lead going into Sunday, and a lot of people thought, well, it should be a walk in the park. And we all know, who really play the game, it's never a walk in the park. We know what happened to Greg Norman a few years later and to many others.
So, yeah, I had to dig deep. My lead went down to one, and after about 10 holes, and I had to really play well the last back nine, and I did and increased my lead again to four. And it was then, then it was a walk in the park coming up 18 with a four‑shot lead. That was very nice experience, something I'll never forget. Just got the standing ovation there, and knowing that you won another Major is pretty incredible.
And then just it's also sometimes some people are saying, well, the first time he was lucky, whatever, Curtis Strange messed up. But when you win another time, and you win it convincingly, the critics go quiet. So those are some of the memories I had. There were obviously some key shots, but you don't want to get in a that, I imagine, so...
THE MODERATOR: To sort of follow up that question, those were great wins, but it was just two years ago when you were in one of the final groups on Sunday and finished in the top 25. What do you feel some of the reasons are that you've had such great long‑term success at Augusta National over the years?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, one would be just I love this golf course. I always have. It's a real challenge. It used to be wide‑open fairways; that has changed dramatically since they brought, planted thousands of trees and got‑‑ what do you call it, the‑‑
THE MODERATOR: Second cut.
BERNHARD LANGER: Sorry, I usually call it rough, but it's the second cut. And that changed the golf course quite a bit from off the tee. Now it's a really good driving course.
But I really loved it the way it was before as well, where it was more important to hit fairways or hit the irons in places second shot and be very creative around the greens.
Some of you might think, well, how come you won this Major? You're not known to be the greatest putter. And you may be right, but in putting I've been both spectrums‑‑ I was one of the worst and I was one of the best at times.
I just like fast greens. I like everything about Augusta. If you miss the green, you can choose eight different clubs or six to play the shot. You really need creativity and imagination and touch, and I like that challenge and love everything, as I said, about the golf course, especially the fast greens. Because if you miss in the wrong place, you get punished no matter who you are. So you have to really think your way around this golf course.
That may be one of the reasons that still allows me at this age to be somewhat competitive because I'm hitting 2 hybrid, 3‑irons, 4‑irons, where some of these guys hit 7‑, 8‑, 9‑irons. And it's hard to compete when you have pin positions like these and firm greens with the SubAir System and all that. But it's just more of a challenge and knowing where to miss the ball and then hopefully to have a good short game to make up for that.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Those are great insights. Maybe we could ask, take a few questions.
Q. Historically, as long as you've been here, have the club officials served as rules and the outside rules people they bring in, has there been any more or less emphasis on pace of play at this tournament than other Major, the PGA TOUR, the European Tour?
BERNHARD LANGER: That's a great question. I'm not sure if there's more emphasis, but I think they're pretty much everywhere trying to get the pace of play going. And it's hard to on this golf course because you can't just, okay, it's a 6‑iron distance, give me a 6‑iron. The wind swirls all the time, you have to consider the uphill, downhill. You consider ‑‑ you don't fly the ball at the hole, you need to sometimes land it 10 yards to the right or left or short or even long and spin it back, and all those factors.
And then when you have putts, you can't just go, okay, it's a straightforward uphill putt or something like that. You don't find any of that around here. And if you're just a foot off or a few inches off here, it can turn into several yards, putting I'm talking about, so if you don't get the line right or don't get the pace right, I've putted off these greens at times, which you don't normally do. But that's what happens if you have a little bit of the wrong pace and the wrong line, and that's why pace of play is always been slow around here.
I think that I don't have ‑‑ they would like us to play in whatever it is, four hours and 15 minutes for a three ball, it's usually closer to 4:45 or five hours. It's just that hard of a golf course. And I heard a statistic today actually that nobody's ever shot four times in the 60s here, the winner. Nobody. Ever. Even the winner has a score in the 70s.
Q. Given what you just talked about, with the difficulties that you face really pretty much on every shot or almost every shot, does this Major take more out of you than the other three? Are they all pretty much the same?
BERNHARD LANGER: They're all difficult, obviously. U.S. Open is known to be sometimes very brutal conditions, where it's not even fun at times. You're a little bit off, and you pay the price real quickly. But on some of the British Open courses or some other Major courses, the greens are not as severe as here, so it's just doesn't takes a long to figure out what to do.
Here you can play the shot three different ways at times. You can play it past the hole and use the slope to bring it back on certain hole locations, or you can just chip it straight forward so that there's more options in a sense.
Q. You mentioned how competitive you still are. Am I right in saying you just don't come here to sort of give it a go for old times, do you have a realistic goal in your head still that you could win this, become the oldest Masters winner of all time?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, my goal is certainly to be in contention, and two out of the last four years I was in contention. And then when I‑‑ like last time, two years ago, I didn't play to finish fourth or fifth or third or whatever, I wanted to win, and I played extremely aggressive right out of the get‑go and got caught a couple of times with really bad breaks.
But that's what I'm talking about. It's a game of inches and feet out here. But, yeah, my goal is to not just to maybe make the cut or something. I would like to be in contention, like to be on the leaderboard and have a chance on Sunday to win the trophy or the Green Jacket in this case.
Q. As you know, Jack Nicklaus is the oldest player to win the Masters at 46. Do you still believe that that's a record that will be broken one day? And if so, why?
BERNHARD LANGER: Yes, I do. There's several reasons. The guys are much fitter nowadays than golfers have ever been, I think. You have guys like Mickelson, Fred Couples, and a few others in the future that are still long enough to temper this golf course or to have a chance if their short game is good.
And it's going to be more of them in the future, because we're learning to be real athletes. Years ago some took care of their bodies, some don't, but now you go out there and you don't see too many overweight, big bellies out there when they're in their 20s and 30s and they really take care of themselves. They have physical trainers, mental coaches, whatever it takes. They watch the diet. And that will give you longevity.
And guys like Sam Snead, he was just very athletic and very flexible. So even when he aged, he still had a full shoulder turn. He didn't lose a lot of distance, and that's why he may be one of the oldest to ever win on the PGA TOUR, if I'm correct.
Q. Do you sense, do you have any feeling of extra excitement here this year because of all the contributing factors that seem to be coming together? I mean, it seems as though there's an air of expectancy that is even greater this year than in previous years.
BERNHARD LANGER: Not me personally, but I know there's some great stories with Tiger back and a lot of the young guys, the older guys, medium‑age guys, that you get. You got great champions at all ages, and they all seem to have a possible chance. So all that is fantastic leading up to the tournament, and we'll see how it all comes out.
But to me personally, I don't have any more expectations than in the past. Actually, my season so far has not been as good as it's been the last 10 years. So, but this time last year I had already won one or two tournaments on the Champions Tour, and I haven't done that yet.
Q. You're not worried, are you?
BERNHARD LANGER: No, you don't have to worry about that. It will come back. And if not, I'll still be very blessed to have what I have.
Q. You talked about '93 and the way Sunday went. And you had the lead, and it did go down and you came back. Was part of that confidence from winning before, or did that play a role in your ability to close it out the second time?
BERNHARD LANGER: Yeah, I think it was a lot of things. One thing was I had to dig deep. I knew I couldn't protect my lead any longer because it was down to the slimmest margin possible. And I knew I had to play aggressive and I had to play good. And I did that, and some of my nearest competitors couldn't or didn't at the time, and that allowed me to increase the lead.
I mean, one great example was 13, and Chip Beck was closest to me. He was I think two shots behind when we played 13. He hit a phenomenal whatever it was, 4‑wood or something, a 5‑wood, in there to about, I'm guessing, 20 feet left of the flag, and I had a 3‑iron from a side hill lie over Rae's Creek, and I hit one of the best shots I ever hit in my life and hit it inside of Chip Beck's ball. I could read his line, because he was putting down the same line, and he missed and I made it. So I made eagle to increase my lead when it looked like he may have a chance to decrease the lead. And that's what happens when you hit great shots and make good putts.
Q. If you analyze your game over the years, are you surprised? Did you feel it was the best suited to this, the Masters versus the other Majors? Are you surprised that the two Majors you've won so far were the Masters and maybe not one of the other ones on the PGA?
BERNHARD LANGER: I always felt I would win a British Open, and I should have probably because I was in contention close to ten times or eight times, and I have three seconds and three thirds or something like that. Because I was a good wind player and I was‑‑ I just felt comfortable in those conditions. I like the links turf, but never really felt overly confident on the U.S. Open courses. I think I wasn't a good enough driver of the golf ball then and I wasn't all that brilliant around the greens when they had the hay, the thick rough. That wasn't my specialty, so I did feel more comfortable around here and the British Open than the other two Majors.
Q. You've obviously played at a high level for a long time, but what impresses you specifically about what Phil Mickelson's been able to do, winning a World Golf Championship event at age 47?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, it's very difficult, as we all know, to have longevity in this game and to be always up there for years and years. You have a lot of guys that come and go, and some come and then they're gone forever, and some have a come back. And Phil's been around the whole time. He's played at a very high level throughout his career on TOUR pretty much.
He's got great technique. He's got a phenomenal touch. We all know he can pitch and hit bunker shots probably as good as anybody, if not better, and that's a great asset.
So with him, it's often just staying healthy, like it is with many of us, and have confidence in his swing where he can keep the driver in play, and the rest of the game is usually pretty decent.
Q. What do you think is the most challenging shot around here and how do you pull it off?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well there's a number of them. I would say for me it's No. 4, the tee shot is very challenging. Second shot on 5 is extremely challenging, just because of the way the green is and if you miss it in the wrong place, how difficult it is to get it up‑and‑down.
17th second shot is certainly one of the hardest you'll ever see because that green is not designed to come in with a 3‑, 4‑ or 5‑iron, and that's what I'm coming in right now with. So that's extremely difficult.
14 isn't a piece of cake either. And there's a few others. But those are probably the four or five toughest shots for me. Maybe 7. Second shot on 7 can be pretty tough when you're hitting a 5‑ or 6‑iron.
Q. Augusta National continues to evolve with the times and the changes in golf. Some courses aren't afforded that opportunity, you're starting to see them be revived on the Champions Tour; namely, Warwick Hills recently added to the Champions Tour rotation. What do you remember about these classic courses like Warwick Hills and revisiting those later in the years?
BERNHARD LANGER: Oh, it's great to go back to some of the classic courses that we have seen years ago and are used to. And to some extent it's a shame that they are a little bit too short for the younger guys, but they still serve a purpose. They're plenty long for the membership, and that's really what golf courses are built for. Most of them, anyway, they're for the membership, not for us.
Yes, Augusta has the facilities and the space and the foresight to do whatever it takes to make it challenging no matter how long these guys hit the tee shots.
Q. You mentioned you haven't had a very good season. Could you kind of outline exactly why? Usually we would see you on the board all the time.
BERNHARD LANGER: Yeah, it's true. Mostly my putting hasn't been up to par. My ball striking, my driving's been really good for the whole year. Sometimes my irons were a little off where I‑‑ 10 yards away instead of five yards, so it's not a real birdie putt when you're 30, 50, 60 feet away. So I have been working on that.
And I've been trying to get my putting back to where it was. It was really good last year, so it's just a matter of making a few and get some confidence.
But the last round I played competitive was a week ago in Sunday in Mississippi, and I hit 18 greens in regulation, I had two eagle putts and 15 birdie putts besides the eagle putt. It was only one putt that was about 10 yards away or 12, the other ones were inside there, and that was very encouraging for me to be hitting the ball that good.
Q. With your experience here, I'll assume some of the younger, less‑experienced players maybe seek your advice out from time to time. I mean, what advice do you have for them or what specific questions might they ask?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, they‑‑ some of the younger guys that haven't been around the course a lot, they can learn a lot from us, because we have‑‑ I don't know how many times I played this golf course, but it's in the hundreds for sure. There's a lot of local knowledge where knowing with certain pins where you can be and where you can't be. The caddies are getting better nowadays so that they can help their players, and the players are better educated how to play a golf course, I think, so‑‑ but they could still learn certain things, where to miss the green if the pin is here or where to place the second shot so have you a simpler putt and what the bounces could be and if you end up there you got nothing and it's sometimes better to be 50 yards away than 10 yards away, on the right side of the green, or to miss the green on the right side.
Q. You talked at the beginning about how much you like this golf course. Is it harder to win on a golf course that you don't like?
BERNHARD LANGER: Definitely. Yeah. You got to ‑‑ I fell in love with this golf course the first time I played it. I missed the cut the first time. I had too many 3‑putts. But I just felt comfortable. I felt like I can play around here, and it definitely helps. For me there's very few courses I don't like, but there's one or two where I just don't feel as comfortable as I do on others.
Q. Are you able to say one?
BERNHARD LANGER: That I don't like?
Q. Yeah. On which you think you can't win?
BERNHARD LANGER: No, I don't want to do that because it's‑‑ it cuts down the golf course and the membership, and it wouldn't be very good. I would rather say it's the best of its kind.
Q. When you think about what you need to do to contend here now, how is it different from what you needed to do in order to contend here 20 or 30 years ago?
BERNHARD LANGER: Oh, it's quite different. I was not that short in my younger days, I was not the longest, but I was up there where I would hit a lot of medium and short irons into these greens. And I think the greens are designed for that. And I can't do that anymore. I'm hitting a lot more club.
So I asked Jack Nicklaus two or three years ago, I played a practice round together, and I said, Jack, in your heyday, when you were on top of your game, what was the longest iron you ever hit into one of these par‑4s? And he thought for about a few seconds, and he goes, 8‑iron. 8‑iron was the longest club he's ever hit into one of the par‑4s when he was on top of his game. So he was hitting a lot of wedges and short irons.
And I'm hitting a lot of 4‑irons and 3‑irons now, so that's the difference. We all know you can't stop the ball with a 3‑ or 4‑iron like you can with an 8‑ or 9‑iron or wedge.
Q. I heard you and a couple other players mention you have to know where to miss it here. Can you give a couple of on‑course examples of what that means?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, for example, take just pick a hole, like No. 4, the par‑3. If the pin position is front left, if you hit it in the right trap, you got nothing. Absolutely nothing. The green goes like this (indicating), you probably can't even keep it on the green. You can miss it in the left trap and you got a really good chance to get it up‑and‑down out of the left trap. You can go long, you have a very good chance to 2‑putt or something, get up‑and‑down from long.
If you're short, it's even though you are going uphill again it's pretty tricky. And that's just one example. You can go just about on any green on any pin position where something like that could happen to you where you, No. 1, if the pin is back left, middle left, they usually stick it like two feet from where the ball runs off the green, three feet.
If you go down there, it's an extremely hard up‑and‑down because you got to come up the slope, through the fringe, and then on to the green. And if you hit it too soft, it comes right back to your feet. If you hit it a little too hard, it then slopes away and runs 40, 50 feet by. So there's stuff like that just constantly that you're facing it all day long.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Bernhard.
BERNHARD LANGER: Thank you.
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