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May 26, 2021

Bernhard Langer

Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA

Press Conference

Southern Hills Country Club

JOHN DEVER: Good afternoon, and welcome back to the 2021 KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship. We are here with Bernhard Langer, 2017, our 2017 champion and a gentleman who has achieved the career Grand Slam on the PGA TOUR Champions side of things. Seems like looking at your record this year you're playing some really good golf, but except for one thing, you just haven't won as much as you had in years past. So what's it going to take to get you over that hump and back in the winner's circle that's been so familiar to you.

BERNHARD LANGER: Well I think that you have to play flawless golf or nearly flawless golf for me, because I'm getting a little shorter now and there's young guys coming out every year. I'm 63 and a half, so some guys are a lot younger and a lot longer. So I'm hitting longer clubs into these greens, into the par-4s and can't reach par-5s that other guys can reach. So I got to be better somewhere else. Be straighter action have a better short game, think better, whatever it may be. So make less mistakes. And that's what I call almost flawless golf. Where I just hit a lot of fairways, try to hit the greens and give myself opportunities. I've been in contention a number of times this year, had chances, but made too many mistakes and I got to avoid mistakes.

JOHN DEVER: We'll look forward to watching this week. Questions?

Q. Wondering your thoughts on Phil winning at age 50. Did it kind of give you a chuckle, that they're giving him a claim for winning at 50 and look what you've already done at 60 and everything?

BERNHARD LANGER: No, that wasn't it. I got more of a chuckle that I've been saying for about 12 years now that somebody being a senior player will win a major championship and it hasn't happened for 12 or 13 years and now it's happened. So I was convinced it's just a matter of time until it does happen, because we have guys like Phil and Retief Goosen and Vijay Singh and Fred Couples, guys that are still long, and there will be other guys coming out, that have the game and on certain courses they can win. So I'm thrilled for Phil, he had to play some serious good golf to pull that off and I'm very happy for him and I think it's great for the game of golf in general and I think it also proves that the over 50-year-olds can still play.

Q. You haven't played a ton of tournament golf at this course. Just wonder what your impression of it is and how you expect it to play and just the conditions in the last, what, few hours have completely flipped and you don't know what tomorrow may look like, but just your impression of the course and how it fits your game?

BERNHARD LANGER: Yeah, I haven't played a lot of golf here, but I think it also the grasses have changed since we have been here in 2001 and whenever you change grasses it kind of changes a lot of things often. So I think the key around here is obviously the greens. The greens are extremely severe, a lot of slope, a lot of very tight pin positions, which is going to be hard to get to because the ball might spin back or it might bounce forward. So it's going to be difficult to get it close to the hole, which means you're going to have some long putts, which can lead to 3-putt. The other thing about this golf course, especially the greens, they have a lot of false front, false sides, whatever, the ball just runs off. The green looks like it's a good size, but if you take five yards here, five yards there, five yards on the front, all of a sudden that green becomes very small. And then within that small green there's lots of humps and hollows, makes it pretty challenging. So I think that's the key to keep the ball hopefully on the green and then when you, if you do miss it, it runs off and now you're chipping into the grain, which is never much fun, no matter how good you are, when you have the grass is growing into you, it's a tougher chip than when the grass grows with you. The bunkers are quite severe as well and sometimes you could run into a bunker and it rolls on the other lip and you're stymie, you have to play sideways. You will see that this week as well. So there's a premium on hitting fairways, hitting greens. The rough doesn't look too much, but it's plenty long to get, to cause some trouble where you get some gnarly lies and you're going to hit some knuckle balls or fliers or just shots that you can't control with the spin and then you can't control the distance, which will lead to more trouble as you get closer to the hole.

Q. Phil Mickelson to me looks better at 50 physically than he's ever looked.


Q. So and have you always seemed really fit. You never, you weren't a guy whose weight fluctuated or anything. Is that the result of good genetics or have you really always worked to be fit?

BERNHARD LANGER: In my case it was both. I think I have good genes like my mother is 97, she's still alive. But I've also worked on it. I have loved sports all my life and always have done sports, always lived an active life-style. I'm not a couch potato. And I think it helps. We're meant to move. Joints are meant to be moved and muscles are meant to be used and all that helps. So if you do that -- the greatest example for me has always been Gary Player, right? He's what, 80 something now.

Q. 86.

BERNHARD LANGER: And he makes a 90-degree shoulder turn pretty much on the back swing. You take other people that they don't get half as far back and I think it, when you work out it shows more in the older age the benefits than in the younger age. You know, when you're 20 and 30, everybody feels like, oh, they're in their prime, they don't need to work out. I can hit the ball far and I can do this and can do that. But when you get to the 40s, 50s, 60s and on, there's a major difference whether you've taken care of your body or not.

Q. Cigarettes were so prevalent for so long. Did you ever smoke?

BERNHARD LANGER: I did. I was 12 when I had my first cigarette and it tasted so bad that I never smoked since (laughing). Same with alcohol. I had alcohol at a very young age, I got drunk as a boy, and I said, this is not good. So I don't drink anymore.

Q. But a lot of guys maybe who 35 years ago would have a cigarette or two on each side of a round, have some catching up to do, you know what I mean, with physical fitness later in life. So you feel like that is a, that has sustained you into your 60s now as a world-class player?

BERNHARD LANGER: I think all that helps. I know some of my colleagues, certainly in the 30 years ago, you know, they would play golf and then they would go to the bar or they have a good time or do this or do that. I was never into that, so I always got a good night's sleep. I wasn't out party I think until 2 a.m. and then had an 8 o'clock tee time I had to get up at 5 or 6 and didn't have enough sleep. That wasn't fun for me. So I took care of my body, I eat fairly decent. I don't drink excessive alcohol. I have the odd glass of wine or whatever, sometimes a beer. But not on a regular basis. And I think, again, over a long period of time, it pays benefits.

Q. What did you weigh the day you won the '93 Masters and what do you weigh today?

BERNHARD LANGER: I could probably be five pounds more right now. But nothing major. What used to be muscle up here drooped down there and it's now fat or whatever you want to call it. Like my caddie always said, my former caddie he was carrying the bag and he got a little heavy down here he said all muscle is being pushed or the weight is being pushed down by the bag.

Q. What's a day like for you when you play? You got here at 9:30, what's a regular day when you're getting ready for a tournament, what's a day like for you?

BERNHARD LANGER: Yeah, in majors I usually tone it down slightly because it's such a demanding week and so I usually go nine holes, then we had pro-am yesterday, which is 18. And then I played about 10 holes today. So I feel that's enough. So it gave me two good looks at each hole, I played each hole twice, at least twice, and that will have to do. When I was younger I probably would have played more, but right now I need to conserve my energy, I also have a cold, so don't feel a hundred percent right now, so I need some time to rest and recuperate.

Q. And do you work out? Do you work out in between that or do you just --

BERNHARD LANGER: I stretch. I didn't this week because I'm under the weather, I don't really have the energy to work out. I'm not sure it would do me a whole lot of good. So I just came from the physio bus, but it's more stretching and doing light stuff, just to get a little bit of tone back and the energy going.

Q. At your age, like these weeks are so long and you're one of the more meticulous players out there, especially in practice rounds. I was just curious, like what keeps you motivated to keep doing these long week, long tournaments and what just motivates you to be great at your age?

BERNHARD LANGER: I love the game of golf, that's really the bottom line. I just love playing competitive golf. And I'm fairly good at it, so it's fun. When there's a time when I don't enjoy it anymore, it's, then it's time to slow down or quit. But that time hasn't come yet or if my body is feels so many aches that I can't do what I want to do and I start shooting in the 80s or high 70s, then that's not fun anymore either. But I'm not there yet. I still feel very competitive, I still like to battle it out with the Retief Goosen's and Ernie Els's and the guys that hit it 50 yards past me now and I still hold myself. So we'll see how long that will last.

Q. Last week there was a lot of talk about how Phil's long swing is kind of timeless and that's what's allowed him to have along career. I was wondering what your thoughts were on your own swing, like what specific things do you think have attributed to your long career?

BERNHARD LANGER: Well I think Phil has a great body that for longevity. We look at Sam Snead, he's had the same type of body. Look at Vijay sync and Vijay works very hard on his fitness but also Fred Couples, you know, they have that long, smooth swing and not saying they're double jointed, but they're just flexible in a way. I'm the opposite almost. So my swing has gotten shorter. I have swings of me when my back swing my hands were up here, I could see the club at times, now I'm about here with my hands, so I've shortened not by choice, it just I'm too -- my joints don't move the way they used to. It's just called old age. Most of us fall in that bracket and our swings get shorter. So there's certain guys that are blessed with a natural ability to never get much shorter and they will hit it further. Vijay hits it far, Couples hits it far and Snead did and Mickelson sure does. I'm sure his workout regimen helps him to do even more of that, but even if he hadn't worked out to that extent, he would still be hitting it further than most people in their 50s.

Q. How have you compensated now that you're swing's gotten shorter like because obviously you played great?

BERNHARD LANGER: Take more club. (Laughing). Instead of a 7-iron, I got to hit 6-iron now. Instead of reaching par-5s I might have to lay up and hopefully make birdie with a wedge in my hand.

JOHN DEVER: Talked a little bit last few minutes about the physical of how you stayed more than relevant and on top of your game, but mentally, four rounds this week as opposed to three. Is that a different mental gear for you or --

BERNHARD LANGER: Not at all. Not at all. Because that's what we have done most of our lives. We're used to playing four-round tournaments and so now on this tour we only have maybe five tournaments that play four rounds or something like that. The other tournaments are three round tournaments, but we still play pro-ams and stuff, so you're out here any ways. So whether I spent eight hours practicing or something, play 18 holes in practice or whether I play 18 holes in competition really doesn't make a huge difference. So I don't think that will be a factor. Where it might be a factor is like I have a stretch of four or five weeks in a row and four of them are majors or three of them. So I need to really pay attention there what I'm doing, what I need to take a week off in the middle of that. Because if you do that, three, four weeks in a row, then it becomes tiring, absolutely.

JOHN DEVER: Last question at least from me, we are getting back into the cadence of major championships, didn't see that last year. Also fans I think you'll see quite a bit, a good number out here, Tulsa loves its golf. How well come is that, how much of a charge can you pull from that, the crowd and you must have been looking forward to it for the last few months at least.

BERNHARD LANGER: Yeah, absolutely it's been kind of weird and eery not to have people watching us and you know you hit a shot on to a green and sometimes you can't see it because it's elevated and you have no idea. Is it close, is it not. And there's just a little bit less of an atmosphere. So it's great to have some feed back, it's great to feel the energy from the crowd, have the fans back and we really look forward to it. It's going to be great and very exciting.

Q. What does it say when you have, you know, when you won a ton at an older age, Phil, Tom Brady your fellow Floridian, wins a Super Bowl. What does it say to people's perceptions or maybe their misperceptions what you can do in an athletic arena at an older age?

BERNHARD LANGER: Well I think it's certainly misperception as you say. And in certain sports you can still get better at that age and other sports you will not succeed. So it just depends, you know you're not going to if I understand a soccer player that's going to get better at age 50. Not a tennis player either. Because they have to do a lot of running and sprinting -- and not a sprinter either or maybe not a football player or baseball, I don't know, similar, I guess.

But there's certain sports where they're more technical than physical, they're more mental than physical, and golf is certainly one of those. So I feel strongly that people can still get better in their 40s, 50s and maybe even 60s, you know, what they were before, if they just learn to have a better technique or work on their chipping and bunker game or putting, whatever it may be. Or even on the mental part of the game.

JOHN DEVER: Bernhard, thanks for spending some time with us.


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