An Interview with Bernhard Langer
September 14, 2004
JULIUS MASON: European Ryder Cup Captain, ladies and gentlemen joining us at Oakland Hills.
Bernhard, welcome to Michigan. Some opening thoughts and we'll go to Q&A, please.
BERNHARD LANGER: Thanks very much. It's nice to finally be here. It's been a long year of getting ready and campaigning and competing and finally we know who the team is. It's just great to be here and finally get to see some action. I was out on the golf course. It's in magnificent shape. Should be a fantastic venue for this match and all of the players are very excited.
JULIUS MASON: Questions, folks.
Q. Are you an American citizen?
BERNHARD LANGER: No, I'm a green card holder. I'm a resident, but not a citizen.
Q. And also, Sam and Mark have talked about playing on the Champions Tour, being over over here in America and being Ryder Cup Captains for Europe. Have you run into any interesting situations living in Boca, talking about being for Europe when you live in America, just that whole situation?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, of course, I get that all the time. I have lots of friends who over the years, even 10, 15 years ago, because I've been married to an American for over 20 years now, and some say, "Well, we want you personally to win your matches, but we want the U.S. Team to win the overall matches," and stuff like that. And some of them say, "Yeah, we're really cheering for you, pulling for you and you want Europe to win." And others say, "I have to stick with the USA." So we get all sorts of things.
Q. You played Hal Sutton twice in singles matches, once in 1985 and once in 2002, winning both times. What are your memories of those matches?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, the memories were obviously -- every match is important, every point counts, especially the last sort of 18, 20 years when the matches have been so tight. Those two matches, I won both of them fairly comfortable. It wasn't a match that came down to the 18th. I think both times I got ahead in the match and I stayed ahead and closed out fairly comfortable, and I played some of my best golf on both occasions.
But, you know, I think Hal is a great gentleman. He is a fantastic competitor, loves to win, like most of us, and it was exciting to be paired against him. A very good match. There was never any gamesmanship or any tricks or anything else. I think we respect each other and tried to let the clubs do the talking and nothing else.
Q. Wonder if you could talk about, is there much of a home-course advantage in this event, and if so, could you talk maybe about some of the other Ryder Cups you've played in and anything done to tweak the setup for the home team?
BERNHARD LANGER: I'm not sure if there's going to be a huge home advantage here because we haven't played a lot of tournaments here the last eight or ten years. I know there have been some majors; I have played in those. Some of them, one or two on my team were in them and I'm sure the same thing on the U.S. Team, but I think that's as far as it goes.
On the second part of the question, we all know that the home team, the home captain can setup the golf course any way he wants. It's his right to tweak it and change it. If he thinks he might have an advantage in one way or another, he can do that. The away team just has to cope with it. But I think the way the course is set up, I think it's fair. You've got to play some good shots. You've got to be fairly straight off the tee, you have to hit precise irons and the greens are some of the most severe that you can find anywhere in the world.
Q. What was the thinking behind sending the players out in threeballs this morning?
BERNHARD LANGER: The idea was today to just let the guys have a good look at the golf course, okay. Just I didn't want them to worry about pairings and anything else and who plays with whom and whatnot. That's not important today.
Today is to get a feel for the golf course, get the game-plan going, where do I want to hit it, what area is my target off the tee, where do I need to hit my second shot to have a reasonable putt at birdie and where do I not hit it at all because I'm going to make bogey. And if I send them out in fours like I normally would, it would just take too long because many of them like to hit another three or five putts and a couple of chips, maybe even a second drive or a second iron shot and it would just take forever and it would take too much out of them.
So I told them, I want you to go out in twos or threes, so the speed moves on a bit and you're not worn out by the time we're starting the tournament and we're very happy with that.
Q. We also noticed that a lot of the players were stopping and signing autographs and posing for photographs with the galleries. Have you actively encouraged the players to spend as much time getting to know the American crowd over the first few days?
BERNHARD LANGER: I think that's something we do on a general basis. Wherever we play golf, people come out here to get autographs. They obviously come out to watch us play and see us in action, but they also want to interact with us. We are in the entertaining business, they want to get autographs, they want to take something home, whether it's a signed hat or, you know, program or whatever it might be. So I said to the guys, yes, you know, if you can find a few minutes here and there to sign some autographs, please do that, but, you know, if it's taking too much out of you, then move on.
But I think the guys are very happy to accommodate the people and that's part of golf in general. That's the difference between golf and many other sports. You go to some other sporting events, they just leave you or give you the cold shoulder and move on.
Q. Back in 1991, I'm sure you remember your final putt, you said spike marks really played a factor in it, not sure you're aware, but at least six, possibly seven guys on the European team are still wearing metal in this day and age. Have you thought about talking to them to change it out to avoid the situation that you faced?
BERNHARD LANGER: No, I wouldn't do that. Every player has the option to have metal spikes or other spikes or whatever they feel most comfortable in. That's fine. You can get some spiked up greens even with no metal spikes, it just depends. If you drag your shoe a bit those plastic spikes or rubber spikes can be almost as bad as metal spikes.
Q. What are you going to tell your players in terms of what to expect from the fans here because you've been in the U.S. long enough to know Detroit is kind of a notoriously blue-collar town.
BERNHARD LANGER: I'm going to prepare them for the worst, which we hopefully won't experience. But, you know, there have been occasions in the past when the home crowd was very much against the other team. We know the occasions. I don't have to go over it again.
So I will prepare them for that. But I'm hoping that, you know, the players themselves will behave like sportsmen and like gentlemen as we normally do. I hope the crowd will be reasonable and fair as well, you know, like we did see two years ago at The Belfry. I thought that was one of the best matches we've ever had from those circumstances.
Q. I wanted to ask you your opinion on why golf has taken off outside of Europe, outside of Great Britain and also your influence on the game in your own native country, how much of an impact do you think you've made in your native country also?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, I think I've certainly had an influence. I can't tell you in percentages or whatever.
But I can tell you when I played golf in 1970, we had about 100 courses in Germany and now we have about 600. That's quite an increase.
You know, why the game of golf is popular? Very easy, it's a great game. We all know, the ones who play golf, know what a wonderful game it is and what a great past-time it is. You're out in fresh air, you can play alone, you can play two, three or four balls. There's many ways to play this game. And the course represents itself in a different state every day. The wind changes, sometimes it's wet, sometimes it's dry. So all of these factors are for golf.
So I'm not surprised the game of golf is growing worldwide. It was really to cut down the notion or the idea of some people that golf is only for the rich and not a minority sport and all of that kind of thing. And it's gradually losing that tag and as we get more publicity, it's more affordable for everyone.
Q. Now that your team is here and out on the course practicing, do you feel any twinge of wistfulness that you're not going to be a player this year?
BERNHARD LANGER: Yeah, as I got out there and to the first tee and fairway, I was thinking, oh, it's going to be weird here, it's going to be different here, being outside of the ropes and trying to get in; and not swinging the club but just looking on and wishing and hoping that guys are hitting good shots and making good putts and winning their matches.
You know, I do enjoy it. I look forward to the next few days. I think this is going to be a great week. I think most of the hard part is over. I'm looking forward to these days just being with my guys and my girls and spending time together and just enjoy the atmosphere, even though it's looking on and not being active.
Q. Bernhard, you mentioned earlier, you talked earlier about the crowds and things like that, what about the young players who have never played in the Ryder Cup before, have you talked to them about what they will experience and what sort of guiding force have you been with those players?
BERNHARD LANGER: Of course. They are the ones that I need to talk most to because they have not experienced it yet. You know, all of the other guys have been there before. They have been through it. They know what it feels like and how each and every one handles it a little bit different.
I will, I already have spent some time with the rookies but I will spend even more time with them the next two or three days.
Q. How much of a real factor do you think it is that the perception is that the Europeans, the Ryder Cup matters more to them than it does to the Americans, how much of that is a real factor in the competition?
BERNHARD LANGER: I'm not sure if there's any truth to it, whether it's just a perception or whether it's really the case. I know that the Ryder Cup means a great deal to us. I'd like to think it means a great deal to the Americans, as well.
Q. Bernhard, going back to your experience in '91 as a player and I assume you watched in '99, what was your personal feeling about the way the crowds reacted in '91 the whole "War By the Shore" mentality and then what happened in Boston, how did you personally feel about that?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, personally I think it was a little bit over the top. You know, it's not a war. We're not shooting bullets, we're not trying to kill each other. We're actually just competing in a great contest. We're friends. We have many friendships amongst the players and their families and we continue to be friends.
So it is way over the top, but as I said, the Ryder Cup is totally different. People are for one team and against the other, just like in some other sports. It's not a U.S. Open or British Open where they applaud and cheer for every good shot no matter who has hit it, and they kind of keep quiet when somebody hits a bad shot. It is different.
But, you know, a lot of that has been made up through the press, I suppose. Sometimes the players themselves were a little bit involved, but mainly the press and then obviously the crowd gets out of hand here and there, too. If there's too much alcohol or too much of this or that, some people lose control over themselves.
Q. Do you think it's important for your guys to have a general idea of who they might be paired with as it gets closer to Friday to get comfortable? And secondly, as many matches as you've played in, how would you explain Europe generally having the upper hand in the team portion of this?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, first of all, I think I'm in a unique situation where I could play pretty much all of my guys. They respect each other. They can all play. There's no real weakness amongst them.
And all of them would love to play with each other. I don't have a situation where three guys come up to me and say, "Oh, please don't ever pair me with this guy because I can't stand him."
So that's not the case, and that leaves me a lot of options and a lot of freedom to choose and decide who plays with whom and there might not be two guys playing five matches. I might switch them around for four-balls and foursomes and whatever. We'll see as the time gets closer.
Generally as a player, I know that sooner or later you would like to know or have some idea who you might be playing or if you're playing at all. And I will let them know that as time gets closer to making a decision.
Sorry, what was the second part of the question?
Q. Second part was in your experience in all of these matches, how you would explain Europe having the upper hand in the team portion of it for the most part.
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, that's a difficult one to explain to tell you the truth. I really don't know.
At the bottom line, it comes down to who makes a few putts more than the other team. That's really what it is. It's often just one or two shots; it's been that close for many, many times. I can't explain why. All I know is I don't know what happens in the U.S. Team and in their room. I only know what happens in our team room. We get along very well. As I said, the Ryder Cup is very important to us. We try extremely hard to get there and then obviously to win the trophy, as well.
Q. You're not worried presumably by the fact that perhaps as a result of the way you've sent your players out today, you might be reducing the amount of time in which you have to move your players around to determine the best pairings?
BERNHARD LANGER: Not at all. As I said earlier, I am sending them out today to play the golf course, to get their strategy right, to get the game plan and to get a feel for the bunker, the rough, the greens. Just to play golf like they would at any other tournament.
We have two more days if that's necessary to get some of the guys together and try this or try that. I don't even think that's necessary, but there will be a few of them going out the next few days who might end up playing together on Friday or Saturday.
But to finish that, I think it would be wrong for me to send the guys out and play four-balls or foursomes and worry too much about the match and not paying attention to the golf course.
Q. You spoke a moment ago about the newcomers and giving them advice. Can you talk specifically about the types of things you might tell them, and also, what are some of your earliest first Ryder Cup memories?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, I'm going to tell them that they are probably going to be nervous but they know that. We are all, we are still nervous now. I'm nervous when I play in the Masters or most other tournaments. But a certain nervousness is good. It heightens the awareness of your senses. It let's the adrenaline go through your blood and it's actually positive. It's only when it gets too much of it, that's when it turns into a negative.
So I will make them aware that there's going to be louder cheers here than they have probably ever experienced in their life. I think they know that deep down already. They know a lot of the stuff. These guys have been watching, even though they might be young and they haven't been on the team they have been watching some of the past Ryder Cups and they have seen lots of the highlights. So they have a sense and a feel for what's going to be expected of them on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Q. What about your first memory on the first tee in your first Ryder Cup?
BERNHARD LANGER: Actually, I don't remember too much of it. I think it's too long ago. You know, as you get older, the first thing you lose is memory. It seems to be happening with me. (Smiling).
I do remember I was paired with Manuel Pinero from Spain. We played with Walton Heath. Obviously I was nervous. We probably faced one of the strongest American teams ever. I remember one of our players, I think it was Sandy Lyle, was like 9-under par, and he lost his match 2-1. That's how good the golf was.
And I think at that stage, we had just lost about 10 or 15 Ryder Cups in a row, so we were not too positive. We probably went into the matches with a mentality of, hopefully we won't lose too bad. And that's totally wrong. Now we don't have that mentality anymore. We've competed well in the Ryder Cup the last 20 years.
I remember my next one in '83 in West Palm Beach, we lost by one point. It came down to the final match. Bernhard Gallacher, playing Tom Watson and Tom Watson beat Gallacher.
As a team, even though we lost, we knew we could beat America sooner or later. We knew we had the game and it was just a matter of time, and it happened two years later.
Q. Aside from Sergio's abilities as a shot-maker, I was wondering what else maybe you would like to see him bring to these matches as a teammate or as a pace setter, maybe some intangibles?
BERNHARD LANGER: Oh, he brings a lot to the team. He's very young still, but got an old head on his shoulder. And his experience, he's been around for a long time. He's had a very long amateur career and a very successful professional career. He's been in several Ryder Cups already, and he brings exuberance and experience. He is a great guy to have on the team, inside the team room and inside the ropes and outside the ropes. A lot of guys would love to be paired with him.
Q. Tiger Woods has not been as dominant in Cup competition as he was at one point in major championships. Could you give us your explanation of why something like that, a player could be more dominant in one form of play as opposed to another?
BERNHARD LANGER: It's difficult for me to answer. Because to get the real answer, you have to ask him yourself. He can tell you, no one else. I would only be guessing and that would not be right for me to be guessing about the world's No. 1 player or at the moment No. 2. That would not be fair.
So I would rather not comment on it if that's okay.
Q. Can you comment overall as to why it's more difficult for him in team competition versus individual?
BERNHARD LANGER: Again, I'm only guessing. I'm only guessing. Maybe it's because he was world No. 1 and he feels like the crowd expects him to beat anybody he faces because that's what he's done for years and years in normal stroke-play events.
Maybe the crowd expects him to beat anybody and beat them by a wide margin, and then when it doesn't happens, it's a major disaster.
Again, I'm only guessing. I can't put myself in his head.
Q. With regard to Colin Montgomerie, I wonder if you can comment on what you feel the reason is that he thrives so much in Ryder Cup competition, not that he's had a bad individual career, but just something about him when the Ryder Cups come. And also, the second part of that, how he's perceived inside amongst your team, is he perceived as a leader because of his experience and what he's done?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, to start with the second part, he's certainly perceived as a leader. All of the guys who made the team outright were thrilled and excited when I announced that Colin will be on the team as one of my picks. There wasn't one that even questioned it to a small degree. And all of them would love to play with Colin, as well. They know his tremendous record in the Ryder Cup. They know he's a rock when the pressure comes on. They know he can perform. He hits a lot of good shots, hits a lot of fairways and greens and gives himself opportunities.
I just think coming from Great Britain, the Ryder Cup, that's where it originated, and there's such a history with it. With him growing up there, it just meant so much maybe to him as a little boy already and as he became a professional, it was certainly his dream to play on the Ryder Cup and to play many times in it and do well.
He's now very experienced. He's I believe about 40 years old. You know, sometimes playing tournament after tournament, it gets a bit mundane when you have been out there for 20 years or something. So when you have special events like the Ryder Cup, it really grabs your attention and you focus a little bit better.
Q. Darren Clarke has obviously recently undergone a new fitness regimen, got a little bit fitter, has it changed how you want to use him and has it changed his game at all? And the second part here, too, what is his role on the team off the course?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, the first part is obviously, yes, he has lost a lot of weight. He's gained some muscle. He's much fitter now than he's probably ever been in his life.
But, you know, that didn't stop people playing him five times in the past. So I'm just hoping by him being fitter, if I play him five times this week he'll have more endurance and more concentration and he'll still have all of the strengths and whatever it takes on Sunday after playing already four rounds in two previous days. So that should be an advantage to him.
Obviously he's one of the most experienced and one of the best players I have. I would think he's probably got more talent than just about anybody. It's just a matter of getting him going. When he gets going, he's hard to stop.
Q. What factors are you looking at over the next two days to help you decide the pairings?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, obviously first of all, how I see who might get along with each other. But as I said, everybody does.
The next thing; how well they practice, out there every day watching them, who is in the zone already, who is hitting it perfect, and some other guys might not be hitting it so good.
Then for four-balls I might play the guys who are slightly more erratic but make birdies. And foursomes, I might put some guys in who I think can hit the ball on the fairway, hit the green and put the pressure on the other team. So there's a slight different, what do you say, theory or, well not theory, tactic or strategy behind it. In four-balls, you've got to make birdies. In foursomes, you can win holes with par.
Q. Your opinion, please, on the new tee box on No. 6, which in essence makes it a drivable par 4. Does that make it a great match-play hole and which team does it favor?
BERNHARD LANGER: That's a good question. I was out there just about an hour ago and I saw Padraig Harrington hit it on to the green from there. I think length-wise, the teams are fairly comparable. I'm not sure one team has a lot more long hitters than the other team. It just makes for an exciting hole for the spectators to see the guys. There's like a five-yard gap to run it on and I don't know how far it is to carry it on, if anybody can carry it on. In match-play, you can do that. We saw that at The Belfry at the 10th hole, they moved the tee forward, and obviously that was a much harder green to hit because you had to slice it over the water and around trees.
Q. But as opposed to the The Belfry you don't have the water to deal with.
BERNHARD LANGER: Exactly.
Q. So is there any reason not to go for it?
BERNHARD LANGER: No, there's no reason not to go for it. And even if you can't get there, you're still going to go for it. Meaning if you end up 20 yards short, it's an easier chip being 20 yards than being down the hill 100 yards away.
Q. Much was made about Tiger's so-called slump this year and the last couple of tournaments he says he's been striking the ball as well as he has all year; do you sense that and do you feel he's the key to the team?
BERNHARD LANGER: I don't feel he's the key to the team. The team is 12 players. One player is not going to be the key. You can only play him five times, and even if he wins every point, that only gives him five points. They need 14 and a half to win the Cup, okay, so that explains it already. So you need more than one player.
It's a team event. If he says he's hitting the ball better than ever, that's great for him. I don't know, I haven't watched him play the last two weeks. I was in Europe. I did notice in general he probably didn't hit as many fairways and greens as I believe he did a year ago or two years ago, but again, that's only me watching from the outside. I'm not his caddie, I'm not there seeing every shot that he hits.
Q. You said that the home team can tweak the course. Now while you also commented that it's fair, do you think there has been that tweaking in terms of the amount of rough and the speed of the greens?
BERNHARD LANGER: I don't know if tweaking is the right word. They have set it up. So they were in charge of it and they did whatever they thought was good for the matches or good for them. I was not involved, I was not asked, and I didn't expect to be asked because it's always been the case that the home team, the home captain sets up the golf course. So I didn't get involved in it because I wouldn't have had a say-so anyways.
Q. And now that you've seen it, is it more of a U.S. Open style with fast greens?
BERNHARD LANGER: No, the greens are actually fairly slow today. But I expect them to get faster. They might mow them the next few days. I don't know. I haven't talked to the greenskeeper yet. I would think they are going to be a reasonable speed, anywhere from 10 to 12 on the Stimpmeter. The rough is not quite U.S. Open. I think it's around four inches, which is playable. It's punishing but it's playable. You can move the ball out of there. It's not that you can only hack it 50 yards, but it's still punishing, especially with these greens, you come out of the rough, you have less backspin. You won't be able to put the ball in a position where you have an easy putt.
Q. Hal has made it pretty clear that he's not much for his players telling him who they think they play well with. I wondered how you are in that regard as far as listening to your players suggest partners, things like that?
BERNHARD LANGER: I've made the effort to look at past Ryder Cups and past World Cups and other team championships to see who has played well together and who has not. I've talked to my guys to get a bit of an idea who they would maybe rather play with than not. I don't see any negative side on that.
The final decision will still be mine, though. I will have to put together the pairings that I see fit best and I will try and accommodate as many as I can. But again, as I mentioned earlier, I don't have a problem with that because all of the guys would love to play with each other.
Q. We understand you presented each of your team members with a gift. Can you tell us exactly what that was and any specific thought that went into that particular gift?
BERNHARD LANGER: It was a Rolex watch just like this one, engraved on the back with the Ryder Cup logo and European Team 2004, Oakland Hills.
They loved it. They thought it was a great gift, and I believe it is. Rolex makes makes a wonderful product and the guys are excited about it.
JULIUS MASON: I understand you're going to be giving three members of the media at the end of the week a Rolex as well.
BERNHARD LANGER: Maybe, if you behave nicely and treat me well. Are you first on the list?
JULIUS MASON: I like your outfit today. Looks like.
Bernhard Langer, ladies and gentlemen.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports ...
- Team U.S.A. (9/19/04)
- Team Europe (9/19/04)
- McGinley & Harrington (9/18/04)
- Clarke, Garcia, Westwood, & Donald (9/18/04)
- Bernhard Langer - Afternoon (9/18/04)
- Hal Sutton - Afternoon (9/18/04)
- Toms & Mickelson (9/18/04)
- Chris DiMarco (9/18/04)
- Bernhard Langer (9/18/04)
- Hal Sutton (9/18/04)
- Casey & Howell (9/18/04)
- Stewart Cink (9/18/04)
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- Haas & DiMarco (9/18/04)
- Chad Campbell (9/18/04)
- Colin Montgomerie (9/17/04)
- Chris Riley (9/18/04)
- Woods & Riley (9/18/04)
- Clarke & Poulter (9/18/04)
- Europe Secure Ryder Cup After Singles Success
- EUROPE WIN THE RYDER CUP
- All the Drama from the Final Afternoon
- Europe Take Record Lead into Singles
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