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March 1, 2007
PALM BEACH GARDENS, FLORIDA
CHRIS REIMER: We want to welcome Bernhard Langer, great first round today. Bernhard, I believe you're a local resident living in Boca; is that right?
BERNHARD LANGER: Yeah, 20 years, the last 20 years.
CHRIS REIMER: So pretty familiar with the area and the course obviously. Is it similar to the courses around?
BERNHARD LANGER: Yeah, I'm not familiar with this course. I played here in the Ryder Cup in '83 and the PGA Championship in, what was that, '87 or something like that. So I haven't been back since. But I obviously played some courses around here, so I'm used to bermudagrass and that kind of stuff, even though here it's pretty much overseeded I think.
But the course is in great condition. It's very tough and a severe test. They have added a lot of length since '87, and you're going to -- well, certainly me, I'm not the longest hitter, so I'm hitting quite a lot of long irons and sometimes fairway woods into these par 4s or even par 3s. It's a tough track, quite narrow, lots of water and the rough is up a little bit. And the wind always makes it hard. It's a real man's golf course right now.
CHRIS REIMER: Tough starting on the 10th at 6:45 this morning?
BERNHARD LANGER: Yeah, I wasn't too pleased to have an early tee time. But that's what you get when you have no status again. (Laughing) A four o'clock wake-up call was a little bit early, but I guess it was all worth it.
Q. The sponsor exemption, how did that come about and how many times have you had to get a sponsor exemption to get into tournaments recently?
BERNHARD LANGER: Not very often. In the past I've been exempt till the end of last year, so this year is the first time I pretty much had -- well at the very beginning I asked for a few when I wasn't a member but then I won the Masters in '85. So from '85 until end of 2006, I was pretty much exempt, fully exempt on the Tour.
So this is the first year I had to ask for some sponsor invites and I'm very thankful and very happy that I got one here. Being one of the "local boys," even though I was born in Germany, I feel like I'm a local. So more local than most south Floridians, I can say that. So I'm very happy to be here.
Q. How many others have you obtained, sponsor exemptions?
BERNHARD LANGER: I got one into the Bob Hope which was my only tournament I played this year. I probably could have played last week in México but I chose not to. Decided to stay home with the family and then also got one next week -- next two weeks, so that's nice to get the support from the Florida events. I think the Honda Classic is the one where I met my wife in 1983, so it's always been a special event for me. And they are tournaments that I have supported the most; I think I have played every Bay Hill Classic since '82 or something like that and most Honda Classics, which used to be in Inverrary and somewhere else at the time. So I've always supported the events around here.
Q. What did you have to do to make up, everyone keeps talking about how long this course is, and you said not being a long hitter -- what did you have to do to kind of make up the ground today?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, there's nothing I can make up. I can only hit it so far. So you've just got to hit more clubs into the greens. What is key you is need to keep is in the short grass. I think it's extremely tough to score from the rough here. You need to drive the ball in the fairway and then try and hit greens. Don't short-side yourself and just be patient.
I hit one bad tee shot today that was my first one on 10 at 6:45 this morning, and after that, I really started hitting the ball very well. Set myself up with lots of opportunities and was able to make one or two. I also missed a couple of putts, but that's golf.
Q. How many holes did you get in before the wind really kind of got to where you could feel it?
BERNHARD LANGER: The wind was blowing at 6:00 this morning. It was never calm today. It was up the whole day. It might blow two miles more now than it did at 7:00 in the morning, but not a whole lot more I don't think.
Q. Can you go back to when you played here in '87 and just kind of look back 20 years ago, where you were, I know you just had won The Masters a year and a half before, but where you were in your career and just kind of what you were thinking at that time?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, in the 80s I had some great years, probably some of my best years of my career were from, you know, '84 through, well, throughout the 80s pretty much until I got the yips in '88 for a few months. That set me back but then I recovered afterwards and started playing well again.
I remember in the '87 PGA Championship here that it was so hot in August, there weren't many spectators. It was just so brutally hot. It was like 92, 93 and 100% humidity for whatever, and you had to just go from one cooler to the next and down the water and put some wet towels on you, that kind of stuff.
And the '83 Ryder Cup was probably the first time since I've been on the team that we felt we could have won that one; and that gave us confidence for the future, and I think we won in '85 and then even in '87.
Q. With the birthday looming this summer, what are the plans for the Champions Tour?
BERNHARD LANGER: I'm pretty much committed to play the Champions Tour I think unless, you know, something drastic happens. I've been out here 30 years playing the regular tours and I'm looking forward to the Champions Tour. I think it will be fun to play three-day tournaments, most of them, instead of four; to sometimes fly home Sunday night and come out Wednesday or so, or even Thursday if possible, get a couple of days off there in between.
It will also be fun to play with the guys I've known all my life, the Nick Prices, Mark O'Mearas, Fred Funks, Loren Roberts, the guys I've known for a very long time, the guys I can relate to. And least but not last, we're going to play a little bit shorter golf courses, which hopefully will suit me, too.
Q. How did you meet your wife? What's the story?
BERNHARD LANGER: She was watching with her sister, her sister was married to a golf professional, played in the Inverrary Classic in '83, she was out there watching him. And I ran into them after the tournament and they said if I want to go out to dinner with them, there's like ten of them, a whole bunch of people, and I did that, and we just started dating and started a relationship. First it was long-term because I went overseas playing in Europe and she was working over here, so that wasn't much fun. So we said we either take this serious or drop it, and we both took it serious and went on then. Nine months later, we were married.
Q. Who was the golf pro that the other sister was married to?
BERNHARD LANGER: Randy Cavanaugh.
Q. A lot of players talk about when they get in the Hall of Fame, motivation, you know, where do they find it; you've done basically kind of what everybody wanted to do. How did you kind of get remotivated? How did you get motivated once you got in the Hall of Fame to still go out and play great golf?
BERNHARD LANGER: I never had a problem with motivation. I think it's just my nature or may makeup. Whatever I do, I want to do it the best that I can.
Most of you know, I'm a Christian, and the Bible says do everything to the best you possibly can. Use your talents, your gifts you've been given and make the most of it, and I really feel that way. No matter what I do, you know, if you play me in ping-pong or you, whatever, tell me to design a golf course or whatever it might be, I'm going to try to do it to the best I can.
It's the same in golf. When I don't care about it anymore, that's the day to give it up. And I still enjoy playing. I enjoy practicing. I enjoy the competition. And as long as I'm healthy and having fun, why not.
Q. Understanding the premature nature of this question, you said you'll probably move over to the Champions Tour full-time unless something drastic happens; if you were to win this tournament or any time between now and then, would that be drastic enough to change your mind?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, that would be a step in the right direction. (Laughter) Not sure if that would be drastic enough. But it might make me consider a little bit.
I just think I'm going to have more fun out there. To know you're going to tee it up, there's no cut, you know you're going to play three days or four days, and a little shorter golf courses. There's really some golf courses out here that are very, very long, too long for me. When I hit four or five clubs more into a green, then the best players are the longest players out here, that's a lot to make up. You've got to be a Houdini in the rest of the game.
Q. Is this one of those courses?
BERNHARD LANGER: It's pretty long course, yeah. Obviously the way it's set up, you also need to be precise. It's not necessarily one of those courses you can blast it 330 and it doesn't matter where you hit it; as long as you find it, you can get it on the green because there's a lot of trouble out here, a lot of water, a lot of trees, a lot of sand. It's very long but you still need to be precise.
Q. You said you have one bad -- the bad tee shot 10 at 6:45. What happened? Where did it go?
BERNHARD LANGER: I just blocked it to the right. Just rolled near the cart path between, what is it, 10 and 9, and actually got a pretty decent lie. I could actually hit a 4-wood out of there which is amazing. Normally you don't get lies like that in this rough. Hit it in the bunker and didn't get it up-and-down.
Q. As you go from the 80s to the 90s, 2000s, do you have to adjust your goals as the game changes, as you get older, or is the goal always the same?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, one goal is always the same. You love to win. But I remember many years when every time I teed it up, I felt I had a chance to win. And I didn't have that feeling the last two or three years. When I tee up, I didn't feel like I should win or I'm going to have a good chance to win. You know, I've been in contention a lot to not being in contention, let's put it that way.
Q. Is it a hard adjustment to go out there now?
BERNHARD LANGER: It is hard when you're used to winning. I mean, I've won 64 or something, 65 tournaments worldwide, so I think that's why we're out here. We love to win. Once you have that feeling of winning, you want it over and over. It just becomes that much harder in your late 40s, and certainly probably more so as you get into the 50s and older.
Q. But at 50, you can go on the Champions Tour and feel like you can win again; right?
BERNHARD LANGER: Exactly. Hopefully that will happen.
Q. Living here, I'm sure you were always a good wind player, but living here as long as you have, is it almost to the point now where you almost just feel instinctive when wind is blowing like this that it may not affect somebody who is as experienced as you are in these conditions as it would be somebody who isn't all that familiar with South Florida?
BERNHARD LANGER: Not quite. I used to be a great wind player. I used to hit the ball much lower, and now the balls we play now, they launch higher. It's hard to keep them down, you know. Plus, I've changed my swing to accommodate the courses where you have to hit the ball higher and bring them in soft.
So I find it harder now to keep the ball down than I used to. I used to find it difficult to get the ball up in the air. So I'm probably not as good of a wind player now as I was in the 80s.
Q. Do you draw any inspiration from Fred Funk winning last week?
BERNHARD LANGER: Oh, definitely, it's always fun to see somebody who is around my age win a tournament or so. I think we cheer for each other whoever it might be, and it's always great to see one of the older guys get one for the old ones. (Smiling).
Q. You were one of the earliest global players. How much time do you spend in Germany now, and did that experience as a younger player, playing all over the globe before it became really popular, did that serve you well when your career did take off?
BERNHARD LANGER: I think it served me well as a player, because I played in all conditions, all types of grasses. I had years when I played all five continents on a regular basis, you know, Australia, Japan, Asia, America, Europe, I was all over the place, South America. It's tough, though. It puts a strain on your body because you're going through time changes. You spend a lot of time on airplanes, which isn't probably the healthiest place to be.
After doing that for whatever, 15 years or so, it was time to slow down. That was one of the reasons I also gave up my card in the U.S. in 1989. We had at that point argued the point with Deane Beman and the other gentlemen whether they would drop it from 15 to 12 or so for us who played on The European Tour and other places and they didn't, and I was one of those who then said, okay, I'm not going to play over here as a member. I handed back my card and just played on a few exemptions.
Q. How much time did you spend in Germany now?
BERNHARD LANGER: Now, not a whole lot. Probably a total of about four, five, six weeks a year, that's about it.
Q. What do you do when you go back?
BERNHARD LANGER: I go back in the summer usually for about four weeks with the whole family, probably play one or two events and then take two or three weeks off and spend it with my family over there. Usually play the other two tournaments that we have in Germany as well.
Q. Two things, one, so you played on some exemptions in the late 80s or early 90s because you didn't have your card?
BERNHARD LANGER: It was -- yeah, I guess so. Some I was qualified like the Masters and stuff. I had full status but I gave my card back, so I needed invitations I guess to play.
Q. When did you decide to take your card back?
BERNHARD LANGER: In 2001.
Q. And the other question was, is you indicated there was a period of time where you just would tee up and know that you couldn't -- probably couldn't win out here. How frustrating does that become -- you talked about how you feel, your beliefs and stuff, most people might say if you don't feel like you can win out here, you like lose it and don't want to be here.
BERNHARD LANGER: I didn't say that I couldn't win. I said I used to have the feeling I could win almost every time I tee it up and that's a difference. If I tee it up 30 weeks a year and I have the feeling I could -- each time I can win, now I might get in contention, you know, three out of 30. That's the difference.
Q. Do you feel you can win this week?
BERNHARD LANGER: I think if I play to the best of my capability I can, yes.
Q. You haven't played much, obviously the Hope; what was your preparation coming into this week?
BERNHARD LANGER: I had five, six weeks off since the Bob Hope. But I've been practicing.
Q. I mean, is it a daily thing, or kids; what do you do usually?
BERNHARD LANGER: Yeah, I'm usually out there, probably practicing, probably anywhere from four to six days a week. You know, sometimes just one or two hours, but then other times, six or seven hours. It just depends.
Q. Do you play much or are you more of a practicer?
BERNHARD LANGER: I like to mix it up. When I play tournaments, like now I'm playing three in a row and I have a week off, then I probably won't play a lot of holes. I'll just go out and hit a few shots here and there.
But when I have an extended break like I did the last five weeks, I played a couple of times 18 holes, also because it's different hitting balls and then going out there and play the course, it's still a little different.
Q. How much does Stefan help your golf game, that you want to keep playing and playing with him all the time?
BERNHARD LANGER: I don't know if he helps me a great deal but he's certainly fun to be out there practicing with him and playing and sharing thoughts and talking about, you know, equipment, talking about swings, that kind of stuff. That's a lot of fun. Maybe it will keep me young because he's going to get better and I don't want to get beaten too bad by him. So that might make me work a little harder, we'll see.
Q. How old is he now?
BERNHARD LANGER: 16.
Q. Is he out here today?
BERNHARD LANGER: No, he's in school today.
Q. I'm sure he loves to watch you play.
BERNHARD LANGER: He usually comes out, yeah, as much as possible when he can. But he actually has a junior tournament in Tallahassee this weekend, so my wife is going to take him out there.
Q. You have at least some limited status by a past champion; is that correct?
BERNHARD LANGER: Yeah, I finished 138th, so I've got some status but not a high priority.
Q. And just to clarify one thing, when you were asking for these sponsor's exemptions, are you writing letters, are you making phone calls; how do you approach it?
BERNHARD LANGER: No, it's usually by writing a letter to the tournament director and chairman, whoever is in charge of the tournament.
Q. What's your basic argument?
BERNHARD LANGER: I don't have an argument. I just write him a letter, ask him for an invite and tell him that, you know, I've enjoyed playing the tournament in the past, give him my resume if he wants, whatever. Then it's their decision. I don't get on the phone and argue with them.
Q. Well, I didn't mean argue, that you argue with them, but just your position, what is your position to convince them to take you over someone else?
BERNHARD LANGER: It's really their choice. I just tell them that I'm very interested in playing in their event, and I'll be happy to help them out here and there if they need anything from me. And you know, they know that, whatever, I've won tournaments, I've won majors, I've played in the Ryder Cup and all that kind of stuff. So it's up to them.
CHRIS REIMER: I'm sure they are happy to have you at the Honda Classic. Can we go through your club sections, birdies and bogeys? First one, driver and pushed it to the right?
BERNHARD LANGER: 4-wood into the green-side bunker and then bunker shot, two putts from about 15 feet.
12, that was a driver, 5-iron to about 12 feet.
17 was a 4-iron to about 15 feet.
2, was a 3-wood and 8-iron to three feet.
No. 5 was a 3-iron and 40-footer maybe, 45 footer, something like that.
CHRIS REIMER: And closed it out on 9 with a birdie.
BERNHARD LANGER: That was a driver and 7-iron to ten feet.
Q. How far was the 7-iron on 9, on the last?
BERNHARD LANGER: I'm trying to remember what I had, I had 161 meters, which is 177. I tried to hook it in with the wind.
Q. Do you think 4-under will be leading by the end of the day or do you expect guys to go even lower?
BERNHARD LANGER: It's very difficult to say. I think it's not going to be far off. I think it's tough to go 7- , 8-under in these conditions. So I imagine it will be either leading or one or two behind.
Q. How severe are 15 and 17 today?
BERNHARD LANGER: Very severe. Because you have -- there's no room for error. I mean, 15 was a 6-iron, so that's not too bad. You should be able to control a 6-iron. But the wind is into you off the right. And same on 17. The wind is into you on the right. If you hit it on the heel or just cut it a little bit, you're going to struggle for a distance. And if you pull-hook it, you're going to be long. That's the thing about this whole golf course, you need to commit to a shot and then hopefully do it.
Q. Do you think first in terms of meters or yards?
BERNHARD LANGER: I've always played meters.
Q. Do you do the quick conversion?
BERNHARD LANGER: No, beforehand. Like when I play practice rounds, I buy the yardage book and then I change it Tuesday night, Wednesday. I change everything into meters. So if I have 165, I cross it out and put 150 next to it.
Q. Is it easier for you to do it that way?
BERNHARD LANGER: I've done it all my life. I wish I had changed to yards maybe 20 years ago, but I think it's going to be a bit late now. (Laughter).
Q. You had the option to captain The European Team again at The K Club last year and chose not to. Was that a difficult decision to make, and did you miss being a part of that?
BERNHARD LANGER: It wasn't an easy decision, but knowing that guys like Woosnam and Faldo and others probably want -- well, I knew they wanted to do it, and they deserved a shot at it, too. So I think it was the right decision.
Plus, it would have taken a tremendous toll on my family, you know, traveling several times over to Ireland and probably spending more time in Europe on The European Tour. I didn't want to put them through that again what we had just done two years prior or whatever. I think it was the right decision.
But did I miss being involved in it, yes.
Q. Other than the British Senior Open, is there enough senior golf in Europe to interest you when you become eligible?
BERNHARD LANGER: There's enough senior golf, they play almost every week. But I'm going to set my goal to play over here, not in Europe. My family lives over here, we have four kids, and I don't want to fly across the pond every two or three weeks.
Q. Was that a difficult decision, talking about the toll on your family, was that a difficult decision decide to go raise them in the United States or Germany; they kind of came up both places, didn't they?
BERNHARD LANGER: Raising the kids, yeah, there were obviously times when we had discussions about it and where we should put them to school and where we should live, period. But like so many times, my wife won I guess. (Laughter).
CHRIS REIMER: Good luck the rest of the week.
End of FastScripts