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February 22, 2006

Bernhard Langer


SCOTT CROCKETT: Thanks, as always for coming in. Many congratulations; an excellent first round victory over Ernie Els. Tell us how you feel about that before we take some questions.

BERNHARD LANGER: Obviously I'm thrilled to be here tomorrow. I was by far the underdog, I would think, playing against a number whatever he is, three or four in the world right now.

And Ernie is very tough in match play. He's won the World Match Play over in Wentworth, London, many, many times. And I could see why, today. His long game might not have been a hundred percent, but his short game was awesome. He had a lot of great up and downs. He made numerous putts from 8 to 15 feet, whether it was, to tie or to win or whatever. And it just shows he never gives up; he fights until the very end. I knew I had to play well to have any hope or chance to get a victory.

And I played fairly well. I only made one bogey, when I misread a putt. And otherwise made a number of birdies and played strong coming in, which was encouraging for me. The last six holes, I think I played extremely well. I had lots of birdie opportunities coming in.

SCOTT CROCKETT: Anything particularly pleasing about your own form?

BERNHARD LANGER: Well, I just yesterday I didn't hit it all that great. I was on the phone to my coach three or four times and trying to figure out what was going on. I hit some good shots, but every once in a while I would pull one or push one and I knew it wasn't quite right. I worked on some. And it worked in the beginning but then I started hitting a couple of double cross hits and tried something else.

And that's just the game. It's so fickle. It's so close. We know the stories from Tiger and everyone that's out here; hitting great shots and hitting mediocre shots is just minute differences.

Q. What was different the last six holes?

BERNHARD LANGER: I went away from the swing shot I took off with earlier on. I gave up on it and went to sort of a bread and butter fade shot, the fade idea. And I was just hitting it very solid. And I hit it fairly close the last few holes.

Q. Are there advantages to being the underdog?

BERNHARD LANGER: Sometimes. Again, when you have the top 65 in the world there's going to be underdogs and favorites, but you still have to play well. All these guys are great players. You don't you're not here if you can't play this game. And so, yes, there will be favorites, there will be underdogs. But the bottom line is everybody can play great. And sometimes you lose with a 66 and sometimes you win with a 69 or 70. It just depends on how your opponent does on a given day.

Q. You went out on the first three rounds I think the last three years, the first rounds?

BERNHARD LANGER: I wasn't here the last two years, I believe.

Q. So the last three that you played, I think. Can you relate to what Ernie he's been through the same thing in this tournament a lot, going out in the first round. Can you relate how hard it is to come here, to work hard and then to be out in the first round?

BERNHARD LANGER: Well, it's very disappointing whenever you're supposed to win, and whenever you don't win, it's just very disappointing. Everybody, all 32 guys that are going home today are going to be very disappointed, no matter who they are. You can say who played against Tiger you can say Stephen Ames never had a chance or something. Well, I'm not so sure; Stephen Ames is a great player. If he would have had a good round today, he might have had a chance.

Ernie, I'm sure, is disappointed and will probably go home and regroup and practice, and maybe he is still a bit rusty. His long game wasn't as good as I've seen him, but the short game was pretty sharp.

Q. Do you approach a match like today with a thought that it's a chance to remind people that you can still play?

BERNHARD LANGER: I'm not here to prove anything. I've been out on Tour for 30 years; I don't think I need to prove anything. I beat Vijay three years ago I guess it was more than three years ago he was highly favored and I had a great round and I beat him. Anything is possible in match play. We don't play a lot of match play, and it's exciting. It's different.

Q. Scott Verplank was in here earlier and we were talking about his first time here at LaCosta in the Tournament of Champions when he was an amateur. And he said he remembered playing with you, and he still jokes with you about how you're the old man and you were probably in your late 20s or something at the time. Do you remember that? Do you remember your first Tournament of Champions here?

BERNHARD LANGER: I remember it, but for different reasons. I think it was in 1986 after I won The Masters in '85, at Hilton Head, I was here in '86. I played at a Pro Am there used to be a Pro Am on Wednesday, and we were walking down No. what used to be 12 or 13, now it's No. 4, I guess and one of my amateur partners goes, "Oh, there's smoke up there," and we're looking up on the hill and there's these beautiful homes on top of the hill. And he said, "Heck, that's my house on fire," (laughter) so he took off. We laugh, but it was pretty sad for him. That's what stands out for me. I won't ever forget about it.

Q. Did you ever find out how bad it was?

BERNHARD LANGER: It was bad. We played whatever, 4, 5, 6, and we came back and there was huge smoke everywhere. And there was big damage. I'm not sure it burned down, but it was pretty bad.

Q. He didn't finish out the hole first?

BERNHARD LANGER: No, he ran up the hill as fast as anybody could run. He was gone, never to be seen again, certainly not for the Pro Am.

Q. After two weeks off, is this the start of a long run now?

BERNHARD LANGER: Yes, it is. This is probably the busiest time of my year. I live in Florida, as you all know, and I can pretty much stay at home for Doral and Honda so I'm playing those two. And then I'll play the next two, as well. I'm actually playing five in a row, which I never do nowadays. I usually never go more than two. So five is a long stretch for me.

And then I have about five or six days off and then The Masters and Hilton Head comes around. So actually I'm playing seven out of eight; I'll be exhausted after that stretch.

Q. Are you looking at the Ryder Cup table?

BERNHARD LANGER: I'm looking at it. I'm way down there at the bottom. I've got my work cut out.

Q. It can change this week?

BERNHARD LANGER: I know, it can change any week. The one thing is they take I can only make it through the World Ranking points, and the other negative for me is that they take the first five off the World Ranking points, not the bottom five. So you're competing with even more better players, in a sense. But that's okay. We'll do the best we can and see if Woozy might be interested.

Q. Are you relieved not to have the captaincy problems not problems, but the amount of work that was involved in captaincy?

BERNHARD LANGER: I decided it was time for someone else to take the helm, and Woozy and Faldo are waiting and have been waiting for years. So I think it's only fair that they take over.

I had a wonderful time. I don't regret any of it. I knew I wouldn't be it would be a lot of work and a lot of preparation in the months before, but once the actual tournament came up or close to it, it was a lot of fun.

The toughest decision for me was to pick my wild cards, because I had four great players, four or five, and I could only take two. And I knew that the guys who weren't picked had to be devastated, just not being picked, and that was tough. And then to tell the four guys they can't play, because only eight are playing, that's another toughie, but it happens every time. Hopefully they understand what you're doing and why you're doing it, and if not, that's bad luck.

Q. Did it affect your game, you think, being captain?

BERNHARD LANGER: Well, it's hard to say. I had an injury. I had a left wrist injury two months in the middle of the summer so I couldn't practice or play. And then the Ryder Cup came up, so I was very busy the last few months with that. And so I don't know if it hurt me or not.

I had a great start to the year. I played really well until I hurt my wrist and then things went bad from there on for a few months. But I think I came back pretty good later on.

Q. Have you had any contact with Ian Woosnam in recent months?

BERNHARD LANGER: No, I have not. We might talk a little bit when it gets closer to the time.

Q. Do you change your thoughts at all on the fact you thought it was impossible to be a player and a captain, a playing captain?

BERNHARD LANGER: No, I haven't changed my mind. I still think that's the way it is. It's just too much to do. There's no way nowadays as big as the Ryder Cup is and all the demands you have as a captain, to on top of that be prepared and play in the tournament, I don't think that would be a wise decision for anybody.

Q. Your great friend, Tom Lehman, is determined to try to do it.

BERNHARD LANGER: I don't think Tom will do that. I think if Tom makes the team, he will probably give the captaincy to someone else. That's my guess, but I'm not sure.

Q. Is that partly because maybe he doesn't realize at this stage in February what it's going to be like in August, that it just gets harder and harder the closer it gets?

BERNHARD LANGER: He will realize it in a few months, how many demands there will be on his time, and I think there's no way anybody can do it. I respect Tom highly and he's a good friend of mine, and I think he'll be a great captain, if he's going to be captain. But I just don't think it would be wise for him to play and be captain, but that's only my advice to him. He can do whatever he wants.

Q. Have you spoken to him about it?

BERNHARD LANGER: I've talked to him a little bit about the captaincy and the demands and what he's going through and stuff like that, but not about being a playing captain.

Q. You've talked to him because he asked you to talk about it?

BERNHARD LANGER: Exactly, yeah. We're good friends. We'll talk a little bit. I'm not giving any real secrets away, if there is any, anyway.

Q. You haven't kept anything back in what you've told him?

BERNHARD LANGER: Well, if he asks specific questions I probably will answer them to a certain way, but there's the talk was more about other things, just generalities and how much they're going to fly him all over the place. I remember when we played La Jolla, he went a few weeks ago in San Diego, he flew from Phoenix to New York and then on Monday or Tuesday and then came back the next day to play Sunday in a tournament. Stuff like that, it wears on you eventually. It's okay a couple of times, but if you do it over and over and over, it will make you tired.

End of FastScripts.

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