September 23, 2002
SUTTON COLDFIELD, ENGLAND
GORDON SIMPSON: Welcome back to the De Vere Belfry, Bernard. Been here before over the course a few times. Does the excitement still grip you when you arrive at the Ryder Cup.
BERNHARD LANGER: It certainly does. Just driving in here and seeing the course and all the grandstands and everything that's set up, it really looks like a huge event, even from the outside. And you open the papers and Ryder Cup is everywhere. And it's been a long time, so it's great to finally be here and get this thing going.
GORDON SIMPSON: You've worked so hard to get into that team. It must be a nice feeling to actually be playing golf now.
BERNHARD LANGER: That's for sure, especially after the disappointment of not making the team in '99 by very close margins, probably. And then making it again two years later was a great thrill for me. And I'm really looking forward to it.
Q. You've played in so many of these competitions, and you've been in the heat of the battle. Is there anything funny that's ever happened to you, an amusing anecdote?
BERNHARD LANGER: Funny things? I'm sure there has.
Q. Can you remember any?
BERNHARD LANGER: Right offhand I don't, actually. But when you play -- I've played in nine so far, this is my 10th. I'm sure there is stuff that's happened that is very funny, whether it's in the team room or out on the golf course or with spectators or whatever it is, I'm sure there were things. But it's not one of my strengths to recall things, to tell you the truth.
Q. You can't remember it or just the German in you?
BERNHARD LANGER: No, I just can't remember it. I have a very good sense of humor. I'd love to remember it if I could.
Q. How do you assess the strengths of this team compared to the ones you've been on in the past?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, that's a very good question. We've had obviously -- we were always the underdogs, let's put it that way. If you look on paper the Americans were always stronger, and we've had a few of the -- whatever you call it, golden era or golden years, when the so-called top five were in top form. And I think that was the backbone of some of the successes we've had in the '80s, even early 90's in the Ryder Cup. But we have very strong, young guys coming up and filling the gaps. I don't think we have to be scared of anything. It's Ryder Cup. It's a different kind of pressure. We're playing in front of our home crowd, playing a golf course that we know very well. Obviously the other team will have a chance to get to know it, too, over the next few days, and some of them have been here before. And I think the very positive thing is that we are the underdogs. We have nothing to lose. We can go out and play and have fun and hopefully do well.
Q. This is your 21st Ryder Cup anniversary. Do you have a favorite Ryder Cup moment?
BERNHARD LANGER: There really were many, to tell you the truth, not just one. It would be wrong to just say one thing. Obviously I've enjoyed all the victories that we've had, especially the first one here and the first one in America in Muirfield Village was a great thrill to win on that golf course. But even the last 1-down in Spain was just as special. So it's very hard to single anything out.
Q. After the Ryder Cup of three years ago, can you put into perspective the rapport and the sense of rivalry that exists between the two teams and the individuals?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, it's very difficult to put it in perspective. I think a lot of it is obviously made up and built up by the press. But there's no question about it, everybody wants to win. Everybody hates to lose. And those 24 guys on the teams, they're winners; they're not losers, that's why they made the team. That's why they're representing their Tours and their continents, because they are the best of what there is to offer. And we hate to lose. So we're all going to give it our best, and hopefully come up front.
Q. How tense does it get out there? Are there any examples of mind games going on between players? Does that exist in golf as it may do in tennis, football?
BERNHARD LANGER: Usually it doesn't exist. I've been a pro now for 26 years, and I've only experienced, on one or two occasions where somebody was trying to do mind games, on me. And that was not necessary in the Ryder Cup. So I'm not going to go into the details of those things. But it really does not exist in general, because whoever would try that stuff on a regular basis, he'd be singled out. He wouldn't have much fun out here. We have very strict rules and etiquette, and I think most of the guys understand that and try to live by it and play by it.
Q. Do you feel you have a special role being the senior member of the team or do you want to be treated as another guy in the locker room?
BERNHARD LANGER: I'm going to be treated like one of the 12 or 13, whatever it is. I think -- obviously there might be some of the rookies or the first-timers who might come up and ask a few questions, and I'm very happy to talk to them about it and see if I can give them any advice. And I might even have a chance to play with one or two of them in the next few days, so that would be great.
Q. I spoke to BERNARD GALLACHER, and he suggested you might go on to play another Ryder Cup; what do you think about that?
BERNHARD LANGER: Nobody will know about that. I don't think there will be many left in me. But probably won't stop me from trying in two years time to make the team. We'll have to see, first of all, how well I play in two years time, and secondly, what the qualification -- what you say, method will be. If it continues the way it is, I think it would be very hard for me to make it, because I live in America now. I play more golf over there than here. And so far with our qualification method it really favored the guys who play a lot. And that is the one criticism I've had over the last few years, is you don't want the guys on the team who play a lot; you want the best players on the team.
Q. In your considerable Ryder Cup experience, have you found that -- can the best team be just a collection of individuals or does there have to be a certain team chemistry, camaraderie among the 12? How have you found that to be?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, it basically is 12 individuals, but it certainly helps if the 12 become a team. And usually that's the case. In all the Ryder Cups I've been on that seemed to have happened very quickly amongst us. I just did a television interview and the question was, the Europeans seem to do better in four balls and foursomes, and I said, yeah, that's actually very strange, because we come from different countries, speak different languages, yet we seem to do very well when we play together as a team, sort of thing. And in the singles we don't quite perform as well in general. You would think that would be the case for the Americans, but it's just been the opposite.
Q. How nervous do you get during the Ryder Cup? Does it suddenly kick in, when the first match approaches, are you nervous throughout? How does it affect you?
BERNHARD LANGER: I think everyone is nervous, it's just a matter of how nervous you are and some nervousness -- you need some adrenalin to go through your body. That's actually very positive. So you have a better sense of -- your awareness is better, and you focus better when you have a certain amount of adrenalin going through you. At times it can be too much, and you become nervous to the point where it affects you mentally.
Q. I think you were playing with JOHANSSON in Oak Hill and he couldn't do it at the last minute and asked you to do it?
BERNHARD LANGER: Maybe, I don't remember. Maybe we hadn't made the decision until we walked out.
Q. That's what did he say?
BERNHARD LANGER: I'm sure he remembers. But again, I told him, you decide what holes you want to tee off on and I'll pick the other ones, because I really didn't care, whether it was the odds or the evens. He thought about it and when he walked on the tee, he realized he didn't want to hit the first shot and said for me to go.
Q. Is the Ryder Cup the most nervous you've ever been; how does it compare to a major on the last nine holes when you're in the hunt?
BERNHARD LANGER: Maybe. It compares with majors, but it's maybe a little more so, because you don't just play for yourself; you play for the team and your Tour and the continent and the whole thing.
Q. Can you remember going back to your first shot in the Ryder Cup; was that a nerve-wracking experience?
BERNHARD LANGER: Probably so nervous I can't remember it. But I know I was playing with Manuel Pinero, and we didn't do very well, to say the least. But I know I was very nervous and I think we lost our first game. But that was probably the strongest American team that I had faced in those nine or ten times.
Q. You've had 12 partners over the years in foursomes and four balls, do you ever wish in fact you had a more lasting partnership with somebody or do you actually like the idea of being stuck in there with the kids to help them out?
BERNHARD LANGER: You know, it really doesn't matter a great deal to me. I've always told the captains, the various captains that I've played under, that it doesn't matter to me who he pairs me with. I honestly feel I can do well with any of them. And that has been the case in all the matches. And hopefully that helps the captain, because it gives him a little more flexibility. But I've always felt that way, that I could play with any of the 11 and do well with them.
Q. I'm doing a feature on Christy O'Connor, Jr.(Laughter.) Can you remember that 2-iron at the Belfry that won the match for him against Freddie Couples back in -- where would you put that in the scheme of Ryder Cup shots you've seen?
BERNHARD LANGER: I can remember it. Obviously I was here and saw it and it was one of the greatest shots I've ever seen under the circumstances. It's a brilliant shot even in the monthly medal, if you can hit the 2-iron 200-odd yards, and hit it that close on to that green. But to do it on the last hole of the Ryder Cup in a very vital and important match at the same time, it's just fantastic.
Q. Did you guys think he could do it?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, of course, that's what I said earlier. You have the 24 best guys playing, here. 12 of the best from each side. And you're going to see spectacular shots. And I've probably seen more great shots in Ryder Cup than anywhere else, considering that there's very little golf played as such. You don't have 150 guys teeing it up. You only have 8 guys playing the first two days, in mornings and afternoons, and then 12 guys. And I've seen unbelievable shots. And that certainly ranks amongst the best I have seen, that 2-iron.
Q. He had taken some bad publicity that week, the papers that morning had written him off as a selection for the team. Did you feel that the pressure was very high on him at that time?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, it probably would have been, yes. Hopefully he didn't read it that morning.
Q. He did.
BERNHARD LANGER: He did? That doesn't help. But that's not something you want to read before you go out on the golf course and try to do your best. So I'm sure there was a lot of pressure on him, but even the more thrilling that he pulled it off.
Q. The putt you had in '91 to clinch the match, was that the greatest pressure you've felt in your Ryder Cup career?
BERNHARD LANGER: Yeah, I would think so. But it wasn't just that 1-putt. It was the last four or five holes, because we were -- we were last out and I think all the other matches were finished or they were -- some guys were so many holes down that you knew they wouldn't recover and stuff. So I knew from the time I teed off on 16 -- on 15, the last four holes, that it came down to this match. And whatever the outcome is would determine the outcome of the Ryder Cup for that year. And so every shot from that point on was extremely important and I managed to come from 2 down to draw to even, and then even had a chance to win this thing on the 18th, which I missed. But there was extreme pressure for every of those shots the last four holes.
Q. Talking of great shots as you were a moment ago, do you have any clear memories of playing with Sandy Lyle at Muirfield Village on Saturday afternoon, when those of us who saw you would remember some of the shots that you each played? If so, can you tell us which ones stick in your memory?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, I remember in general that Sandy and I played very well together that whole week. We had a fantastic week and we seemed to just gel very well and hit some great shots. One shot that I remember was -- which hole is the par-5? 11 or 12? Par-5 over water, green is to the right of the water? I would guess it's 11 or 12. It's 11. I hit the drive down there and we had something like 240 yards to the front or something, and the pin was another 10, 15 on. And he pulls his 1-iron out or his 2-iron, and I didn't say anything. I just said, wow, can he hit it that far? I've been playing with him now for a day or two, and I just couldn't believe. And he hits this towering 1-iron or whatever it was, fading, and flies it all the way on to the green, and I had a putt for eagle. That was one of those shots that just stuck in my memory. I'll never forget about it.
Q. Do you remember the 17th I think he played first to about two feet and you hit inside?
BERNHARD LANGER: I remember 18 -- I don't know if I played with Sandy or someone else, but we were playing the 18th, we were 1-up and Lanny Wadkins hit it to about three feet on the last, two and a half feet, it was a Jimmy, and if we wouldn't birdie, we would then either half the match or lose the point. And then I hit my 8-iron inside of Lanny's to clinch the point. And that was one of my greatest shots under the circumstances.
GORDON SIMPSON: Maybe we'll see another of your great shots this week, over the three days.
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