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August 29, 2007
MIKE McPHILLIPS: Ladies and gentlemen, we'll get started I want to welcome those of you here and those on our call, greetings from Monterey, California, the site of the Champions Tour Wal-Mart First Tee Open at Pebble Beach. I'm Mike McPhillips, director of communications for the Champions Tour, and I want to thank you for joining us for our fourth teleconference of the 2007 season, and it features president Rick George and World Golf Hall of Fame member Bernhard Langer.
RICK GEORGE: It's a fitting place to introduce this gentleman on my left and a privilege to have him here today making his debut on the Champions Tour. I want to read a couple of things about Bernhard that most of you know but think that I are significant to mention. He just turned 50 Monday, which is important to note, because if it was later if the week he would not be eligible for this event. The Wal-Mart First Tee Open is the first event that he's eligible for. He turned professional in 1972, he's a three-time winner on the PGA TOUR and has won the 1985 and 1993 Masters. He's turned over $10 million, he's had over 60 international victories, and he's played on ten European Ryder Cup teams. He captained the European Ryder Cup Team to victory over the Americans at Oakland Hills in Michigan in 2004. Germany's greatest golfer, Bernhard became a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2002.
With his debut this week, he joins fellow World Golf Hall of Fame members Nick Faldo and Nick Price, who both came on this tour this year. I would say in Champions Tour history, I don't know that we have ever had three World Golf Hall of Famers join this tour in the same year. That class is also joined about Mark O'Meara, Wayne Grady and Donny Hammond. Just started on this tour in two weeks Jeff Sluman, the assistant Presidents Cup captain will be joining this tour.
It's fitting that Bernhard comes here and makes his debut this week. He's had some success in those kind of matches, he and his son, Stefan, are the 2005 champions of the Father Son Challenge in Orlando that we have later this year;.
So, it's my privilege to introduce Bernhard to the Champions Tour. I can tell you that we're excited that he's out here, it's just another great name and a great person on the Champions Tour that's going to further elevate what we're doing out here.
BERNHARD LANGER: Thank you very much. First of all I'd just like to say I'm thrilled to be here. I've looked forward to this for quite some time like this, been on the regular tour for 32 years and enjoyed my time out there. But I'm looking forward to have some fun playing golf and be out with the same age guys as me instead of being outdriven by 50, 60 yards by these 20-year-olds. Hopefully I can keep up with most of the guys out here and just enjoy the camaraderie that I hear is so prevalent out here.
It's a thrill to be here in Pebble Beach, and it's my first event and to play the Wal-Mart First Tee Open, to have the opportunity to play one of the greatest courses in the world and it's wonderful scenery that we enjoy here.
Q. (Can you talk about your decision to play here this week rather than waiting)?
BERNHARD LANGER: I love nature; when I got here on Monday, flew in from Holland where I played last week, I just spent an hour walking around the 17 Mile Drive and actually driving and walking and just taking in the beautiful scenery. I haven't been here for a few years and it's breathtaking.
So those are some of the reasons. The other reasons were a long time ago I made a commitment to play the Dutch Open, they invited myself and my son to play; the first time my son ever participated in a European Tour event, and it might be last one. It was a unique opportunity.
At the same time, I had my own tournament on The European Tour, which is the Mercedes-Benz Championship, which is the same week as THE TOUR Championship on the PGA TOUR, the fourth of the FedExCup events. So when you look at that, I was going to miss the first one and the fourth one, and I'm going to have to take a week off anyways because I never play four in a row. I have four kids, I'm married, happily married and I want to keep it that way.
So I don't intend on being away for four weeks in a row. Bottom line was I only could have played one FedExCup event after all of the other commitments I was already committed to, and to play in one really doesn't make a lot of sense. If I could have played three or four, I probably would have done it, but I chose to be here instead. I think it was the right choice.
Q. (Have you played yet)?
BERNHARD LANGER: No, I have not but I was out there this morning, had a 7:40 tee time and it's a beautiful place. I had a gorgeous morning out there. It's a nice golf course, on the short side, but pretty tricky and tough greens. It's in good condition. So, very nice golf course.
Q. In your transition to the Champions Tour, is your competitive mind-set going to change going to three rounds, no cut in most of the events, or is that going to be a journey of discovery for you?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, it's going to be a discovery for me I think, but I don't think I'm going to lose my competitiveness. I'm just very competitive in nature. It doesn't matter what you play with me, whether it's ping-pong or whether we ski or play soccer or whatever. I'm very competitive in nature. Nobody can take that away from me I think.
So I talked to my caddie yesterday discussing the three-day tournament instead of four and no cut and saying, "I wonder if I need to be more aggressive from the very beginning." Because sometimes on the regular TOUR, you try to, you know, get in position, don't lose touch with the leaders. But first you've got to make the cut and that kind of thing.
Well, it's different here. So maybe I need to change a little bit. But I usually play fairly aggressive, I would say smart but aggressive. I don't think I need to make a lot of adjustments.
Q. How are you going to balance trying to win your first Champions Tour event with playing in an event with amateurs in your group?
BERNHARD LANGER: I'm going to win a check one way or another -- (laughter). I know what you mean. I don't mind playing Pro-Ams. Some of my colleagues don't like Pro-Ams. I actually like Pro-Ams. I enjoy meeting people and playing golf with them and especially youngsters, when you see the excitement and the thrill they get of playing the game, their eyes go big and they just have a big smile on their face.
It's a unique opportunity for guys like us who have been in the game for so long to give something back and give them a little tip here, a little vice or just to relax. And I will definitely have time to do that, you know, between shots. I can still be competitive. All I need to do is concentrate when I'm over the ball, and there's plenty of time in between to talk to my playing partners.
Q. Kenny Perry was talking about how he thinks you're going to dominate on this tour. What are your expectations of what you can do out there on the Champions Tour, and how much do you think you'll play the rest of this year on the Champions Tour?
BERNHARD LANGER: I know I'm going to play five the rest of the year, and I'll play my own tournament in Germany, plus the Father Son. So that's my schedule for the rest of the year.
And to come back to the first part of the question, a lot of people think it's going to be a pushover out here. I know better. I know these guys. I've played against them for many years. They are very, very good players. They are very competitive. Even though they seem to have a lot of fun out here, they still want to win, and I know they can play great golf.
I'm very much aware that I need to play the best that I can. I need to bring my A Game if I want to win out here, and I hope to be competitive and I hope to win and hope to be in contention on a regular basis. But that's only going to happen if I play well.
Q. Mark O'Meara and Nick price came out earlier this year and played well but neither have won yet. Jim Thorpe, when I asked him yesterday, he said maybe they were surprised a little bit about the level of play and how hard you have to work to win on the Champions Tour. What do you think maybe you've learned from that and maybe expand on your earlier answer about what it's going to take to win on this tour.
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, you know, I just agree with what you said. It's not going to be that easy to win out here. There's a lot of great players, and they are used to these courses and all that.
I know that Nick Price and Mark O'Meara are great champions and they have done fairly well, but maybe especially I think Mark's played better. But, that's golf. He goes through some highs and lows and maybe Nick has not played his best golf the last few months. But I would not count him out. He can come back very strong if he commits himself to the game and to practice. He could bounce right back and maybe win two or three in a row, you never know.
But I'm very much aware of that I'm not going to win out here if I just play average. I need to play to the best of my capabilities.
Q. Is there currently a young player on TOUR that reminds you of the way you play the game, or the way you used to play on the PGA TOUR, someone you view as the next you?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, that's a very good question. There's probably a lot of them. There's so many young ones. I was just over on The European Tour for last couple of weeks and took some time off and played a couple of events, and there's at least 20, 30 guys that I didn't even know their name; I had not seen them before.
And that seems to be the case every year whether it's the PGA TOUR or The European Tour or any other tour. There are so many youngsters coming out of college or out of school, and, you know, they all seem to be tall and strong and can whack it 300 yards plus, and you've never heard of them.
I played with kid called Tony Finau, 18-year-old, and he could carry the ball 340 yards in the air. I've just never seen that before, or very seldom. That seems to be the future. The guys are more athletic, they work out harder, they go after it more, and it's totally different from when I grew up. I was more of a finesse player, even though I could hit the ball fairly long at the time.
But I was shaping the shots and more of a finesse type golfer, and nowadays I don't see too many of them. They learn to hit it far and learn to control it, and they don't shape the ball as much as we did, which is probably down to the modern equipment, as well.
Q. The player you mentioned, who was that?
BERNHARD LANGER: I think his name is Tony Finau.
Q. And do you kind of see elements in his game that remind you of yourself?
BERNHARD LANGER: Not really, no. I could never hit the ball 340 in the air. No, I don't see much of me in him. I really don't see anybody right now amongst the youngsters that play that way but that doesn't mean there isn't any.
Q. (Is there any player that reminds you of yourself at that age)?
BERNHARD LANGER: There's so many out there, that's basically what I'm trying to say, so many young, good players, and I don't know them all.
Q. You obviously stay fit and in good shape. What is your playing weight now and how different is that from when you were back in your prime?
BERNHARD LANGER: That's not for anybody to know. (Laughter).
I used to be somewhere between 155 and 160. And right now I'm about 160 to 165. So I'm probably five pounds more than I was 30 years ago.
The major difference is all of the muscles which I used to have around my shoulders and arms, they designed of drooped to the midsection.
Q. I didn't mean to pry, I'm sorry.
BERNHARD LANGER: (Laughter).
Q. You mentioned you're a finesse player and shaping shots, how much do you think that style prepares you and will help you succeed on the Champions Tour? And sort of an unrelated question, you talked about not playing the FedExCup, could that change at all if you're still in the Top-70 going into next week's tournament?
BERNHARD LANGER: No. To go with the second part of the question, it's not going to change because I need to take a week off next week. As I said in my earlier statement, I don't play four in a row, because I need to see my kids and my wife, and I don't want to get a divorce. And you know, as I said I'm happily married and want to keep it that way, and I need to be a father to my children and I don't need to play four in a row. I have other priorities in my life nowadays.
Coming back to the first part of the question, the finesse style, that's just the way I've always played golf. I like to shape my shots. When I swing well, I can hit a fade, I can hit a draw or hook or slice.
And I think it does help if you're capable of doing that, you can get to some pin positions where some guys might have a hard time and you can shape your tee shots a certain way to be in a better position and to control the distance more because often we're in between clubs. Then I can draw the ball and make up for the extra five yards I need or I can fade it and lose a few yards. So hopefully that will help me and that's the way I've played all my life and I don't plan on changing that.
Q. Could it help that the courses are not as long as those on the PGA TOUR?
BERNHARD LANGER: Not necessarily, because when they are not as long, you're going to hit shorter irons, and shorter irons are harder to shape because they get more backspin so you lose the sidespin. The shaping really comes more into effect from 7-iron and longer, to 5-iron, 3-iron, that kind of stuff.
Q. Some of your amateur partners this week are female; is that a first for you?
BERNHARD LANGER: That could be a first that I'm playing with three females. But why not? I'm excited. Thanks for letting me know. (Laughter).
I'll look forward to that. I think that would be great, and it's probably more relaxing for the Junior to have two other females, as well. So that should be wonderful.
Q. Are you going to devote your time in America strictly to the Champions Tour or will you go back and forth to Europe?
BERNHARD LANGER: That's a good question which I cannot answer at this point. My plan is to, as I said, play five tournaments on the Champions Tour the rest of the year, and no more on the PGA TOUR this year.
And then I will, you know, at the end of the year make my decision what I'm going to do next year because I have the luxury to choose between four tours next year, the two over here and the two in Europe, and that will not be the case much longer I suspect.
So I will take all that in and see which tour, you know, is the biggest challenge for me or where I'm going to have the most fun, and then schedule my next year according to that. Probably will continue to play the U.S. Masters for sure, and maybe one or two other events, even though if I plan a full schedule out here. But at this point, I'm not quite certain what I'm going to do.
MIKE McPHILLIPS: Bernhard will be playing with Peter and Heidi Ueberroth on Friday, and Saturday with Clint and Dina Eastwood.
BERNHARD LANGER: Very nice company.
End of FastScripts