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June 26, 2019

Bernhard Langer

Notre Dame, Indiana

THE MODERATOR: It's my pleasure to welcome Bernhard Langer here to the media center. Bernhard, the 2010 U.S. Senior Open champion and playing in his 12th U.S. Senior Open, never finished outside the top 25 in any previous appearance. Bernhard, you won earlier this year, 12th consecutive year. You've had a win on the Champions Tour, so certainly a history of longevity. You've been able to continue to play at a high level. How is your game the same and different from 10, 20, 30 years ago?

BERNHARD LANGER: It's not that different. I got off to a great start. I played the first three tournaments winning one event, losing in a playoff in another and finished third in the third, so got off to a great start. Then hurt my back, had to withdraw from a few tournaments, and I had to then find my way back.

But my game has been really good the last 11 years or so, 11 1/2 years out here, and it's not that different from years ago. What I would have lost in distance, I probably gained by the material that we're playing, so I'm hitting the ball still as far as I did in my 20s, 30s, and 40s. But obviously not as far as some of the other guys that hit the ball a lot further now.

And otherwise, the body is holding up pretty good. I've recovered from my injury, and I'm feeling good again. So I can work on my game and look forward to the rest of the season.

THE MODERATOR: This course, you said you've been out the last couple days playing some rounds in the morning. What do you think of this course?

BERNHARD LANGER: I love it. Really nice setup. Fairly generous fairways most of the time, but very demanding greens, very undulating, very small and narrow, and every green seems to kick in from the side. So if you short-side yourself, you have very little, I think, to work with. And it should be a great test. Plus we're near the lake, so there could be quite a bit of wind on top of that. And if you do hit it in the rough, it's fairly thick. You're not going to hit a lot of 4-irons or 5-irons out of that stuff.

Q. You've been out here the last couple days, seen the course get firmer and faster in the last couple of days, and if the weather continues, do you see that --
BERNHARD LANGER: I didn't see that because we had a lot of rain. Actually, if anything, the course got softer, I thought. But I haven't been out today yet. If we get no more rain, I imagine it will get a little bit firmer, so it will play slightly different. But we had a lot of rain Monday, we had rain Tuesday, right?

Q. Yeah, but not -- from being here not as much -- the last two months we've had 14 inches.
BERNHARD LANGER: No, we don't need that, thank you. We've had enough rain.

Q. But I was thinking if you saw any of the regular Open how the course got better each -- a little firmer and faster each day, if that couldn't happen here.
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, I imagine it could happen and probably will happen if we don't get more rain. But I'm not the forecaster. I don't know how many showers we're going to get and how many inches or whatever is going to happen. So I really haven't looked at the forecast all that much.

But, yeah, whatever happens happens, whether the course plays soft and long or firmer and faster and a little shorter, but it'll probably play tougher when it's firmer.

Q. You had mentioned your record earlier, top 25 or better in every start. Is there a common theme to what you've been able to do in the U.S. Senior Open? Is it just driving it, keeping it in the fairways that's been the key? What is the key to your success in this event?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, it's not just in this tournament. I mean, if you look at my whole history on the Champions Tour, I probably have a similar history, maybe better, in the Senior British Open and a similar history in all the other majors out here and the other tournaments.

I've been able to play fairly consistent top-level golf, and what it takes, well, it's different every time, a little bit different. And generally same thing. You've got to hit it where you're looking, and you've got to have a good short game and withstand the pressure, enjoy the pressure, embrace it and not shy from it.

So that doesn't change. Obviously the golf course changes and the conditions change. Sometimes we play tight fairways and sometimes we have wider fairways. Either way you've got to hit good golf shots.

Q. You mentioned your back injury; what happened, and was there a thought that it was something that could be serious? When you get older and you're dealing with different things, I mean, was there a fear?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, you never know. I've had a history of back issues and neck issues, so every time something happens you might think, well, what now. As we get older, it doesn't heal as quick, either.

At first I thought it was an oblique muscle that was pulled or strained because it was hurting more on the side than in my back, but when I explained it to my doctor, he said it's most likely just you pulled something in your back and it's just the pain refers around the rib cage to the stomach muscles, which is the oblique muscle, and that's why I thought it was more of a rib or oblique thing. But it wasn't, it was more lower back, mid-back.

But it's good now. I've felt good the last few weeks, and I've been practicing and working out and doing everything I need to do, and I have no issues whatsoever.

Q. You spend a lot of time on greens when you're doing practice rounds. Do these greens remind you of any set of greens at another U.S. Open or another major site or something like that?
BERNHARD LANGER: You know, my memory is not that good, so I'm the wrong guy to ask in terms of that. But I'm sure there's other courses that have similar greens. And some courses have just four or five of these and some others.

These are unique in the sense where every green has a false front. Most courses have a few greens with a false front, but here I think it's pretty much 18 greens with a false front, which means you can -- if it's firm, you can bounce the ball up; but if it's soft, it's not going to bounce up.

And the green is really smaller than what it looks. The yardage book might say the green is 30 yards deep, but if it's a false from the 6, it's only 24 yards deep. So it makes for a very small target, and that's the case here on a number of greens.

Q. What do you think is the biggest reason for your longevity? Diet, fitness, just a lot of hard work and practice?
BERNHARD LANGER: Definitely not diet (laughter), but probably everything else. Just the love of the game, hard work, dedication, fitness, and just competitive nature. I just love to compete and play at a high level. I don't enjoy playing bad golf. I'm not sure anybody does.

Q. The USGA bringing this event to a college golf course, what has the experience been like playing for you playing on this course and everything else surrounding the tournament, like the registration and the Notre Dame Football locker room?
BERNHARD LANGER: Yeah, I haven't really seen a whole lot yet, to tell you the truth. I registered, but I was in a hurry because I had a tee time 12 minutes later and I had to get over here and unpack the golf bag and all that.

It's pretty neat. We played in Wisconsin last week. That was a college golf course, as well. But it's not like the golf course is near the campus or on the campus like it is here. I might take an hour or two tomorrow morning and walk around a little bit and check it out because I've seen a number of colleges with my four kids that we visited and decided where to go, where not to go, and this looks pretty unique. So I want to see a little bit of it because I don't know if I'm going to be coming back here.

Q. A side question: Dortmund is going to play a friendly at Notre Dame Stadium against Liverpool next month. Are you a fan of them, and can you tell us anything about them?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, obviously I follow football and soccer, and Dortmund is a big rival of my team, Bayern Munich. So they have some high-quality players in Liverpool. It's been a great team. They're unfortunate to have had Man City as their opponent the last few years. They've had, what, almost 100 points and still didn't win the Premier League. But they're both very good teams, some of the best in Europe, and it should be a lot of fun watching them.

Q. How has the Senior Tour changed through the years? What have you noticed, if anything, when it comes to differences in the Tour?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, it's changed in a number of ways. The biggest change is probably we're playing longer golf courses, quite a bit longer than what we played 10 years ago. We used to have a couple of guys that were complaining when it got a little long, and then the Tour set it up a little softer, a little easier.

But those guys are gone now, and the new guys that have come out on this Tour lately, they're pretty much mostly long ball hitters, as well. You take Retief Goosen, for instance, he's probably one of the longest out here, and there's a whole bunch that can move the ball pretty good distances.

The other thing I noticed, I think they seem to be working at the game a lot harder nowadays than they did even when I came out 11, 12 years ago. There were times when the driving range was empty or the putting green was -- by 4:00, 5:00 in the afternoon, there weren't many out there. Now it's quite a different story. It's become extremely competitive. There's only room for 78 guys on a weekly basis, and literally there's hundreds if not thousands around the world that would love to compete on this Tour.

There's a lot of great players or very, very good players that actually lost their status and have no means or no way to get out here unless they Monday qualify. It's become very competitive. It's not like -- out of the 78 guys that play regularly, there used to be maybe 30 or 40 that could win. Now it's pretty much 60 or 70 of them could win on any given week, and that trend will continue I would think.

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