May 25, 2022
Benton Harbor, Michigan, USA
JOHN DEVER: Good morning and welcome back to the 2022 Senior KitchenAid Championship. We are joined by our 2017 KitchenAid Senior PGA Champion, Bernhard Langer.
Thanks for finding us and spending some time with us. It's always good to be with you. Let's talk about your season to date. You already have another win. That yearly annual winning streak is alive and well. But just how are you playing as you come in here and is it good to be back on familiar turf here at Harbor Shores.
BERNHARD LANGER: It's definitely great to be back to this course and this part of the country. It's a beautiful golf course and great test. We are all looking forward to and excited to play the Senior PGA here again.
My form, I don't know, I had two weeks off to tell you the truth. My son graduated from college, Penn, two weeks ago, and before that I watched him play the Ivy League championships, so I took several weeks off. Missed a couple of tournaments and really have not played a whole lot of golf since November. This is really when I feel like I'm getting back into the swing of things. It's going to be busy from here on until November. My form, I'm not sure where I am at this point in time but had a good start to the year and last few weeks were so-so when I played. But I played very little.
Q. How good is your son as a golfer?
BERNHARD LANGER: That's a difficult answer, because how good, you know, good to somebody is 5-over par, is good, 77, or to somebody else it's a 67. He's a scratch golfer more or less. Enjoyed his time at Penn on the golf team and even played playing golf. But he's already committed to take up a career in investment banking, and golf will just be a fun sport for him to do in the future.
Q. Because it sounds like historically this is like how you do it, you take some time off and then you start back up. But how long does it usually take to you get yourself to where you want to be?
BERNHARD LANGER: It varies. Depends. Sometimes it happens very quick and sometimes it takes a little while. All depends where the swing is and where the putting is, all that kind of stuff. We'll get there.
Q. Do you find getting a little older makes more difficult?
BERNHARD LANGER: Absolutely. Getting up, the body is starting to ache here and there, I've had a few injuries in my last 45 years. It shows up. It's not getting easier, so I'm not trying to kid anybody here. It's normal, I think. Losing a little bit of distance but if I play my best game and hit it straight, I still have a chance to win a few tournaments.
Q. Talk about in your mind, the low scores that have been produced here, the times they have been here, does that surprise you with what this golf course is like?
BERNHARD LANGER: Not really, if the weather is decent here, I think if you play really good golf, you can go low here because the conditions, the greens are very good. The fairways are at times generous and there's a lot of shots where you really have to be committed because there's just a lot of trouble left and right.
But if you hit the right pockets on the greens, you can go low but at the very same time, it's one of those golf courses if you are on, you can go low. If you are a little bit off, you can go really high. Does that make sense? There's a 65 out there but there's also an 80 out there, kind of thing.
Q. The son that just graduated, is that the one that hit the 3-wood in the father son?
BERNHARD LANGER: That's the son.
Q. Is that one of the better shots you've seen?
BERNHARD LANGER: Yeah, it made a different sound, carried it like 271 into the wind. I don't have that shot.
Q. Monty was in earlier and paid you a nice compliment. Said he learned a lot about course management from you and Nick Faldo. Curious where you learned great course management.
BERNHARD LANGER: From my mistakes mostly. Playing golf and then going through the round and I realized, well, why did you take that club here when you could have done this and that.
So literally from my own mistakes, I think that's the best learning curve. And you see, obviously as you pair with other players out there, you see, well, they are hitting 3-wood off the tee. I'm hitting driver, why is that, or I'm hitting 2 hybrid, they are hitting driver, you know what I'm saying. You wonder, why are they doing that and you look at the yardage book and you look at the fairway and you wonder, why it's wider here or a bigger target.
I learned that a very long time ago. Trying to hit the ball to the biggest fairway, we used to measure the fairways sometimes sideways. Bobby Clampett and I were playing practice rounds in the '80s, you know, U.S. Open or major tournaments with tight fairways and most people don't even look at whether it's 22 yards wide or 28 yards wide but that's six yards' difference. You have a higher percentage hitting the 28-yard fairway.
We spent some time doing that, and I figured it was important to keep the ball in the fairway. Especially for me as I'm not the longest guy in the world, I have to hit the fairway because I can't hit a 4- or 5-iron out of the rough very easily.
Q. Those analytics guys now that tell the younger guys how to play holes --
BERNHARD LANGER: They just tell them to hit it as far as they can. It's not how anymore, hit it a far as you can and wedge on the green. That's what I've seen, and that's what they tell them. They have come up with statistics that prove, and that's how Phil Mickelson plays the game. He just bombs it out there as far as possible. He won a tournament out here a few months ago and he was last in hitting fairways. So it proves a point.
Q. How much do you think local knowledge is important on this particular golf course?
BERNHARD LANGER: I would think a little for sure but all of these guys are so good nowadays. They have played two or three practice rounds and most of them have been here several times themselves. They have professional caddies, most of us, and these guys are very experienced. Doesn't take them very long to figure out how to play a golf course.
Q. Will you play today?
BERNHARD LANGER: I am hoping to play this afternoon. That's why I moved my interview time up a little bit earlier. So forecast is showing less rain this afternoon and I didn't get here until Monday night. I'd like to get out there and get a few more reps in.
JOHN DEVER: Recollections of your championship in 2017, a two-man duel on the back nine with Vijay to compete the Grand Slam. What are your recollections of that week.
BERNHARD LANGER: Yeah, it was a huge victory for me. Because I've never won a PGA Championship or Senior PGA Championship. I was up against one of the legends, one of the greats in the game, and Vijay was on top of his game, and I was as well. It came down to a two-man showdown, literally at the back nine. He hit it much further than me off the tee.
He drove the one green, a great tee shot, I don't know, seven, eight, something like that, and had an eagle putt and I had to wedge it in there. I made, I don't know, a 20-foot putt for birdie and he missed his eagle putt and he made birdie. We walked away from the hole being tight when it looked like it could have been a two-shot swing and things like that. It was important for me personally to not just beat Vijay one-on-one but to complete the Grand Slam on the Senior Tour.
Q. Playing with PGA professionals this week, how unique is that and how cool is that for you guys to get a chance to see the other side of the golf business and get to play with those pros?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, I think we know that side, but I think it's cool for them to play with us. I think it's the other way around. It's the highlight of the year for any of them to qualify for this tournament.
I think this is major tournament of the year, and if they qualify and they get a chance to compete here and show their local members and stuff that they can play pretty good golf and be a part of this and be on television hopefully, that's pretty cool. That's definitely a highlight. And then, you know, some of them will get paired with some of the best senior players in the world and that will be another highlight for them.
We know that there's some very good players. If you consider that they are coaching golf or managing a club or running a pro shop and all that, playing golf is more of a side job for them. For them to be able to play at the level they are is pretty special.
Q. The Alfred S. Bourne Trophy which you've won, talk about how big that trophy and how proud you are to have that trophy at your house?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, as I said, I'm very proud and happy to have won that trophy and that title. It's a unique trophy. It's huge. Reminds me a bit of the Solheim Cup trophy.
I just saw the interview with PĂˇdraig Harrington, the questions they asked about the trophy and how much it weighs and he was wrong on all the answers. That was pretty funny.
It's certainly a wonderful piece of art and a nice one to have.
Q. You obviously have a great memory in Michigan from the 2004 Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills. They obviously suffered a massive fire to the clubhouse that destroyed it. What were your thoughts when you heard about it?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, first, I was obviously very sad and concerned about the people being there. But when I heard nobody got hurt, that was a relief. But then it was still sad to see the historic clubhouse like that with all the memorabilia they had being burned down to the ground. I don't know how much they recovered, if any. It was a sad moment and one of disbelief in a sense how that could happen.
Q. You mentioned Phil. He's not here this week and he wasn't here last week. Could he return? Should he return? How does he return?
BERNHARD LANGER: Great questions. I don't have the answers. I just feel very sad for him, and he's one of the all-time greats. I just feel bad for him to be in the position he's in right now.
Q. Is golf better with him out on the course?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, I think Phil was great for the game of golf and hopefully he will be great again sometime in the near future.
Q. Did you get a chance to see the final round of the PGA?
BERNHARD LANGER: Some of it.
Q. So you're aware of what happened with Mito on 18?
BERNHARD LANGER: I saw that.
Q. Playing golf long enough you're to going to run into situations where you're not going to be happy with what happens on the last hole but unfortunately when it's highlighted by being a major championship, what did you take away, or what could you take away from something like that when it was -- in your career?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, I felt very sad for him and very bad; that he was leading most of the tournament and not even getting in a playoff. I mean, 18 is a very hard hole. It's easy to make a bogey.
But to make a double-bogey and not -- and miss out on the playoff by one, I guess, right, is just -- it's going to leave scar tissue. It's going to be a tough one for him to digest for quite a while. But hopefully he'll get stronger from it and learn his lessons, and that's all you can do. In golf, we make decisions on every shot. You've got to be committed to your decision, and sometimes they are the wrong decisions. Sometimes they are the right decisions. Sometimes you make a good swing and sometimes you won't.
So it's the worst thing that can happen I think to anybody to make a double-bogey and lose the tournament on the last hole. My heart goes out to him and I hope he can overcome it and be stronger from it.
Q. Is there a situation in your career where you can go to, we were talking to Monty about his, and you clearly have an idea as well, what happened with you?
BERNHARD LANGER: I had the very same situation actually. I was playing the Senior British Open at Birkdale -- and just by many he knowing this, it shows you that it left scares; that I remember it vividly, right. This was years ago.
But I had a two-shot lead. All I had to do was make bogey on the last and I win the tournament. So I played smart off the tee, 3-wood, laid up short of the bunker, was in the mid of the fairway and now it was a decision of, whatever. My first thought was hit a 4-iron, lay up, you know, 30 yards short of the green, take all the trouble out, all the bunker shot, pitch it on and make 2-putts and I win the tournament. That's what I was thinking.
Then my caddie said, well, maybe we should take a 2-hybrid and go for the green or go over the green and there's no trouble there. For some reason, I took the advice he gave me and I shouldn't have, and I thinned my 2-hybrid a little bit. Hit in the green-side bunker which usually is not a problem. But it rained in the morning and we had a rain delay. I had not been in a bunker all day.
I get in there and the sand was rock hard. You know, when it rains, it washes out and I'm expecting for my bounce to kick in. Well, it went like this and the ball came out really low. Hit the lip and stayed in the bunker. Now I hit the next one, realizing how hard the sand is, I got it out to about 15 feet and missed the putt and made double-bogey. Lost the tournament -- or now I got into a playoff and I lost the playoff the next day. So a terrible series of errors there from the wrong club for the second shot to the misjudging the bunkers and not realizing how firm it was. One to the next. Yeah, it hurt.
Q. Still does, it sounds like, a little.
BERNHARD LANGER: It still does. I feel I try to prepare as good as I can and I try to have good course management, and that was just about the opposite from good course management. I'm not very proud of it, and again, I learned my lesson. This will not happen again if I'm ever in a situation like that again.
BERNHARD LANGER: Definitely. I could have hit 7-iron and hit a full pitching wedge into the green, something like that. Anything to make bogey would have done it, right.
JOHN DEVER: Thank you so much.
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