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May 20, 2009

Bernhard Langer


KELLY ELBIN: World Golf Hall of Fame member Bernhard Langer joining us at the 70th Senior PGA Championship at Canterbury Golf Club.
This is Bernhard's second Senior PGA Championship. Runner-up last year to Jay Haas at Oak Hill. Bernhard, welcome. You've had a terrific start to your season on the Champions Tour, comments on the golf course and your game coming in.
BERNHARD LANGER: Well thanks very much. The golf course is fantastic. It's in really wonderful shape. Fairways are just incredibly good and the greens are really good for poa annua greens as well.
It's a very demanding golf course. You've got two opposing nines in a sense. You play 14 holes without a par-5 and then you get two in a row. But you still can't reach, probably unlikely if we reach any of them, definitely not the second one, 16. And it's a very, very tough finish with these last few holes. And not that there are a lot of easy holes out here in general, but the finish is extremely tough.
And it's, as I said, very demanding golf course. You have to shape the ball, you have to position it, you have to work your way around the sloping fairways and hanging trees that are in the way, so it takes a lot of very precise shots and also probably you have to maneuver the ball, fade it or draw it off the tee, and try and keep it in the short stuff. Because the rough's pretty punishing.
KELLY ELBIN: How about comments on your game in particular coming in this week.
BERNHARD LANGER: I've had a very good start to the year. Started off with a win in Hawaii and then had several chances to win again and didn't putt good enough to win again, but I was still having lots of top-10 finishes.
Last week I was just kind of getting going when they called the play. I actually played a few holes in the third round and played very well. But they didn't count in the end because the third round was cancelled. So my play is okay. It's pretty steady.
KELLY ELBIN: For the record, seven top-10 finishes on the Champions Tour this year. Open it up for questions, please.

Q. Can you just talk about this golf course versus last year, which was also very difficult, high rough, kind of a different golf course but still difficult. Can you talk about the differences between those two?
BERNHARD LANGER: I think that last year the conditions were very difficult. We had cold weather to start off with and a lot of wind and the setup was extremely tough too with the rough. And the greens the way that they were there.
I think here we are going to have better weather, forecast at least looks pretty good. It just depends how much wind. If the wind kicks up here it's going to be very, very tough as well. Because it's the type of golf course you really need to control your distance as well as the line you're hitting it on. And if you are just a little bit off, it could be a disaster around here.
So the greens are so severe that if you're just three, four, five yards off in distance, it could mean a lot of strokes over a period of a number of holes.

Q. I was going to ask you about the greens specifically. It looks like it's imperative that you must keep the ball below the hole. Can you point to any of the greens where that's especially penal if you do get above the hole?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, there's a number of them. The problem I see is a lot of greens have false fronts. Anywhere from five to eight yards to ten yards the front of the green just slopes off and on to the fairway and sometimes 40 yards down the fairway or 30 yards or whatever you want to say.
So it's hard to keep the ball, if they stick the pin three yards over that crest or three yards wherever, where you have to land it into the slope and hope it takes a hop forward. If it checks and comes back you could be 30 yards off the green facing a very difficult chip shot again.
If you don't want to take that on, then you're going to fly it up to the pin and it take as hop or two and it goes 10 yards behind and now you have a 30-footer downhill. So neither option is very enticing or very easy to handle. Therefore, that's why I'm saying, if it gets windy or if you hit it in the rough too many times, you're really going to struggle around here.

Q. You were mentioning about landing areas here. I take it that there's a lot of uneven lies on the course and you must absolutely hit it to what few even lies there are. Is that what I'm assuming?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, it's not so much the lies that bother us because we can hit it off a side hill, downhill, whatever, lie. But you won't be able to stop the ball on that slope.
So let's say, take the first hole. It's a dogleg right, fairway slopes left. So ideally you almost have to slice the ball into the fairway to keep it on the fairway. Anything that goes straight or a little draw even hitting the middle of the fairway is going to end up in the left rough. And now you got to face anywhere from an 8-iron to a sand wedge out of the rough and into a green where you have very little room for error. And that's just one example. There's like maybe eight holes like that where the fairway slopes quite severely.
Number 10, for example, I don't know how well you guys know the golf course, but 10 has a crest which runs along the middle of the fairway. So you have two bunkers if you can't carry the bunkers, because it's about 264 or something to carry the bunker, you have to play to the right of them and now you're facing this crest. And you have very little room. As soon as you land it in the middle of the fairway on the top of the crest or over and it's going to bound into the rough into the trees.
So you have about six yards of fairway to play with between the bunker and the crest to land it and maybe seven, and with a driver, that's not a lot of room for error. And there's a number of other holes where you just, there's a lot of, as you say, a lot of slope on the fairway. So if you don't land it in the correct place, it's going to take a kick maybe forward, maybe left or right and you might end up somewhere totally different than you had hoped for.

Q. Did you talk with Alex Cejka at all before Sunday at the PLAYERS?

Q. Can you kind of give us an idea, without being specific, I guess, about what you told him and how you felt his demeanor was going into Sunday.
BERNHARD LANGER: I didn't hear all of it because it's so noisy, but I did try to call Alex. The thing is he doesn't have a voice mail on his phone. He hasn't had one in two and a half years. And I keep teasing him about it. I said, I guess you don't know how to handle your phone, you still, I can still can't leave a voice mail. And he says, well everybody texts me now days, you know. But I'm not very good at texting it takes me so long so I would rather leave a voice mail.
But I did get ahold of him, we talked a couple of times, I left him a message, well I couldn't leave him a message, so I eventually got a holed of him or I just texted him, you know, good luck and play well, you can do it, on Sunday just before he teed off.
And then I called him afterwards and I basically just wanted to encourage him. I told him that if you can beat that kind of field by, what was it? Five shots after three rounds? You certainly have the game to win any tournament that you want to win. You just got to keep doing what you're doing. And build up the confidence.
And he got some bad breaks on Sunday. Obviously his tee shots weren't quite as good as the days before, he got himself into some trouble. But he hit a lot of good putts, he hit a lot of decent shots and got severely punished. I think that was about as bad a score as he could have shot. But that's what this golf course does to you. The TPC, it's just brutal. There's no way to play safe. You either pull off the perfect shot or you're going to be in trouble.

Q. Were you in Jacksonville by Sunday?
BERNHARD LANGER: I flew up Monday morning.

Q. Ryder Cup questions for you. Have you seen the 2010 course at all? Have you been there?

Q. Monty, they just changed the selection process and he's going to now have three captains selections. Do you see that as an advantage or would you have liked to have had three or maybe even four or what?
BERNHARD LANGER: Yeah, I think it's definitely an advantage. I was trying to get that when I was captain. But they were playing hard ball with me and I think every captain would rather have three or four, because I know I was in a position where I really wanted to take four guys and I could only take two. And it's one of the hardest things to leave those two or three behind or whatever it is and tell them, hey, you know, you had a great season, but you're not going to be there for whatever reason. And I think it just allows the captain to pick a player that might suit that course, the game of the player might suit the course better than somebody else who might have qualified or might have been hot a year ago and now he's in a slump or something like that. So I think that's definitely good.

Q. Do you think it would have been as likely for them to make the change if they hadn't lost this time?
BERNHARD LANGER: They probably wouldn't have changed because they would have gone back to what they usually do and say, well, the system's worked very well, so we don't need to make changes. That's usually the answer you get. If you're trying to make changes and you just won the last three or four you say well why make changes we're doing quite well.

Q. You mentioned earlier about putting. I know in the past you've kind of switched styles from time to time. Have you found something that's working for you currently?
BERNHARD LANGER: I've had the long putter now for 12 years. I've been putting the same way. I'm not saying it's easier, I know it's not easier, I would rather putt with a short one if I could, but I can't. So I just had to find a way to survive out here and make the best of it. And that seems to be the long putter right now.

Q. What goes wrong with the short putter for you?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well it's as most of you know, I've had the yips four times in my career and I just don't feel very comfortable with it. And I miss a lot of putts. That's what goes wrong. So that's enough reason to change.

Q. For people that are so successful in this sport like you've been, to me it's hard to imagine you would get yips. Is that something that comes with playing for a large purse? I mean there's a lot of guys I know that aren't great golfers but they never get yips even in their older age. But they're not playing for the kind of purses you are?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well maybe it's not what you're playing for, maybe there's other reasons. And I can't answer all those, but I know there's been a lot of great golfers, a lot of successful golfers who had the yips.

Q. And that's what I mean.
BERNHARD LANGER: So maybe it has nothing to do with how important a tournament is or how much the purse is or whatever. Could be other reasons. I don't know.

Q. When was the last time you putted with a short putter?
BERNHARD LANGER: A short putter? Oh, I pick one up every once in a while and I try with it and mess around with it. And at times I putt pretty good on putting green. But then on the golf course it's a different story.
KELLY ELBIN: You mentioned the last three holes how did you play 16 and 17 in the practice round yesterday.
BERNHARD LANGER: Yesterday was pro-am and so 16 I still don't know how to play 16. To me there's obviously first of all you got to get the driver in the fairway and then once you have accomplished that and there isn't much wind you can either, my strategy is either going to lay it up on top of the crest which is not easy to lay up with a 3-iron up there into a slopey fairway because if it pitches short of the crest it's going to stop and kick left and if it goes over the crest it's going to run 30, 40 yards. It's not an easy lay up.
The other option is to maybe blast a 3-wood over the crest halfway down the hill and hope that you hit the fairway and bound down just 20, 30 yards short of the green. But then the last 20 yards is rough. So if I do that, I'm probably going to be coming out of the rough two or three times out of four which is not ideal either.
I'm going to have another look today at what might be the best strategy on that particular golf hole. I definitely want to come into this green from the fairway with my third shot. And I just have a hard time deciding whether it's better to come in with a full 9-iron or full pitching wedge or whether to take on the 3-wood and take a gamble on ending up in the rough 30 yards short of the green or 40.
17, I'll take anything on the green on 17 basically. It's a 3-wood or hybrid club, very long shot, about 215 to the front edge. And quite a severe green as well. Slopes off all four corners and if I can get it somewhere to the middle of the green I would be extremely happy.

Q. You've got some new blood coming up in this tournament specifically with Larry Mize and Bob Tway and Tom Lehman. Do you see the competition on the Champions Tour starting to get a little stiffer with some of the new guys coming out?
BERNHARD LANGER: I think it's getting stiffer every few months. As the new guys come out. Because what has happened, especially the last few years I believe is that the guys on the PGA TOUR are realizing that this is a good TOUR, there's a lot of competition, so they're staying in shape, they're keeping, they keep on practicing, they want to be out here, and they do everything possible to be successful out here.
They also know that they probably only have a window from being 50 to about 58, 60, because statistics prove that there's not a lot of winners out here once you turned about 60. It's very hard to win after that. So they know that they only have a few years. So they do everything to be, to have their game in top shape and be in physical condition and all that kind of stuff, which might have not been the case 15, 20 years ago. So things are definitely getting more and more difficult out here as to the people make that transition and look forward to being on the Champions Tour.

Q. Is this course conducive to any one style of play to a player's advantage or is it tough enough that it really doesn't matter if you're a long hitter or short hitter or good putter or a fair putter or a good iron player or, you know, does any player have, with a particular skill, have an advantage here or no?
BERNHARD LANGER: I don't think length plays a huge part on this golf course. That's my personal opinion. It helps on some of the holes, but it's not necessary. I think it's far more important to be precise.
Probably it favors a guy that can shape the ball left-to-right. There's a lot of doglegs left-to-right. Especially off the tee. So if you can do that, control your ball off the tee, you're going to have a much easier second shot into the green. And putting, putting is half of the game. 50 percent is putting. So if you can make putts, you're always going to be in contention. Doesn't matter what golf course you play on. So putting is the most important thing anyway.
KELLY ELBIN: Bernhard Langer, thank you very much.
BERNHARD LANGER: You're welcome.

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