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An Interview with Bernhard Langer


September 15, 2004

JULIUS MASON: It is Wednesday of Ryder Cup week, Captain Langer, what's going on?

BERNHARD LANGER: Great. Everything is great. Nice course, good weather, great hospitality. Wonderful place to be at.

JULIUS MASON: Questions, folks.

Q. Bernhard, has there been any general advice that you've given your rookies on how to cope with once the matches start?

BERNHARD LANGER: Well, there was a lot of advice. I can just give you a few examples. I told everyone that I want them to play by the rules, play fair, play like gentlemen, behave like sportsmen, let the clubs do the talking, no gamesmanship, nothing of that sort. Obviously, you know, I told them a bunch of other things, but I think it's going to be a new experience for them but I think at the same time, they are ready. They have watched many Ryder Cups on television, they have seen the atmosphere, they experienced it a little bit through TV and not everybody is going to get a chance to probably play tomorrow morning, so they are going to be out there watching the others and cheering them on and they are going to experience that and that might help them, too.

Q. Do you think you might -- that the rookies might get more playing time Friday and Saturday than past European captains have done?

BERNHARD LANGER: It all depends. There were different matches and different teams. I know of some matches where the rookies got some play early and others where they didn't. It varies. But I think my team has more depth than maybe some teams in the past and I don't think I have to worry about anybody playing.

Q. Can I ask you a couple of questions about Ian Poulter, please, first just as far as his game, his spirit, his fiery play, that kind of thing, can you just describe what you see in that way of him as a player?

BERNHARD LANGER: Oh, definitely. He's a very aggressive player. He goes for things. He doesn't lag, he doesn't play safe. He likes to go for it and make birdies. He's extremely excited to be here. It's his first time, as we know. He's fired up. He's one of those guys that I almost have to calm down a little bit because he's almost over hyper, but that's okay. That's his personality and that's good.

Q. Did you have to taylor down or taylor up your wardrobe in any way for him?

BERNHARD LANGER: No, not at all. He said he'll wear anything as long as he is here and he made the team and he's thrilled. You know, it might not be totally his choice what he's wearing, but he's so happy to be here that he'll put his legs into anything and put any shirt on that he's going to be given to look like the team.

Q. I guess perception has become reality here. People have painted you guys the underdogs, do you see yourselves as underdogs and if so do you relish that role or how do you see it?

BERNHARD LANGER: Well, of course we are the underdogs. We have been the underdogs many, many times and we are definitely the underdogs this year. If you look at the World Rankings which reflect how well the guys have played the last months or years, I don't know if we, you know, enjoy being the underdogs, but I don't mind it. The bottom line; the guys have to play either way. In the end, it's usually the team that makes a few more putts that wins.

Q. I was wondering with the three days of practice that you had yesterday today and tomorrow, how do you go about gauging what an effective practice is with those three days for your team? What criteria do you use?

BERNHARD LANGER: Well, obviously, how well the guys play, how comfortable they are with their swings, with the greens, with the rough around the greens and the whole environment. We are out there constantly, myself and the three assistant captains and we see every single shot that is hit out there. I get report and feedback and some guys are playing absolutely brilliant golf and one or two are not firing on all six cylinders or whatever. They are a little off but not much. You know, I don't need them to peak right now. They have still got a couple of days till it starts.

Q. Just wondered how you came about the partnerships you sent out today and whether they stayed together for the whole 18 holes?

BERNHARD LANGER: Well, you'll find out on Friday whether they are going to stay together. I don't know that myself either yet. But obviously there's a bit of thought that went into it, how they are going out today, and I don't have it on -- actually I might have it on me, I'm not sure. Any questions to a particular pairing that catches your eye?

Q. Just whether they stayed together in the partnerships you sent out on the first tee or whether they switched on the front nine?

BERNHARD LANGER: Some of them will switch and some will not.

Q. Do you know which ones?

BERNHARD LANGER: Because we are playing four-balls and foursomes and that's two different games, but they're not necessarily going out like this on Friday.

Q. Absolutely not. But do you know who the foursomes groups were then because we know the four-balls --

BERNHARD LANGER: I thought it was announced. Wasn't it announced?

JULIUS MASON: Was it not on the board?

Q. Who is playing with whom in foursomes.

BERNHARD LANGER: I know, was that not announced? I passed all of this what I have here for today was given and it was going to be announced, but I can give it to you again. Foursomes will be Clarke and Westwood playing Levet and Jimenez. Garcia/Donald against Harrington/McGinley. Monty/Poulter against Casey and Howell.

Q. Thank you.

BERNHARD LANGER: You're welcome.

Q. There's three players on your team that are not that well known by American standards in Howell, Casey, and Poulter. Do you think that will give them any advantage playing before this crowd and can you talk about what those three players bring to the team?

BERNHARD LANGER: I think they bring a lot of talent to the team, a lot of youth, obviously, as well. Casey, actually lives in Arizona. His girlfriend is American, so he's very familiar with America in general. He's played a bunch of tournaments over here. The one guy who's probably played the least is Howell and Poulter, they are just, you know, two new stars on the European Tour that haven't been around very long. They have both excelled the last year or two. That's why they are in the team and they have -- both of them have great talent. They hit the ball, you know, a good distance. They control it. They have a good short game, otherwise, they wouldn't be on the team and those two played their way on to the team. I didn't have to pick them. They were on there.

Q. Bernhard, Oakland Hills is not a very long course and it has very tricky and undulating greens. Do you think that the European players that play for the most part on the European Tour see a lot of courses like this over in Europe or is this going to be something that's very new to them?

BERNHARD LANGER: This is something we don't have a lot in Europe, no. I mean, I played for many years in Europe and I know most of the courses we play on. You don't find many courses with greens like these, but you don't even find them in America, I don't think. The only place that comes to mind is Augusta. So the greens are very severe. Every single green out there is very, very tough and difficult. But, you know, the rest of the course is, I think, pretty straightforward. You can see it off the tee where you need to go and if you hit a good shot, you're on the fairway. If you miss it, you're going to have to deal with the rough.

Q. Do you think that because it's a moderate-length course that it's going to favor the team because maybe it's not quite as long as the U.S. Team or how is that going to play in?

BERNHARD LANGER: Well, I'm not so sure that we're not quite as long as the U.S. Team. And who cares about five or six yards, if that's what it comes down to. Really, you know this course obviously was designed a long time ago and it played extremely long 10, 20 years ago, but the equipment has gotten so much longer the last 10, 15, 20 years that the guys are hitting it so much further, so you will see a bunch of 3-woods on some of the tees, maybe even 1-irons, 2-irons, 3-irons here and there, depending on the wind, but that will be the same for either team.

Q. I'm not sure if you're aware or not but Phil Mickelson didn't practice today, he told Captain Sutton that it was not in his routine to play on a Wednesday of a major championship, if one of your players came up to you tomorrow and said, "Captain, I don't really want to play today, it's not my routine to play the day before a competition begins." Would you discuss that with them?

BERNHARD LANGER: Well, I would obviously discuss with him why and find out how he feels and if he feels adamant about it and he thinks he will perform that much better if he takes a day off, then I will consider it. But I don't think -- I don't know any of my guys who would take a whole day off just before a big competition.

Q. How wise is that, do you think, to skip a practice round, and what can you read into the way the U.S. Team is preparing that's so much different than the structured format that you're using?

BERNHARD LANGER: I'm not going to go that way. I can't read their mind and I don't know what's going on and I really don't care. I'm trying to prepare my team to the best way possible that I see fit, and I'm not telling them necessarily what they have to do. I'm just trying to guide them and encourage them and tell them what I think is best. If they don't agree with it, they can talk to me about it, but so far there has been no disagreement. But I can't talk for Phil Mickelson or for Hal Sutton. I'm sure you've talked to Hal about it and he's given you a proper answer for that.

Q. Having seen Colin out in the practice rounds a little bit, can you talk about the reception he is getting early on so far this week from the galleries?

BERNHARD LANGER: All of the guys have received wonderful reception. They are out there doing a good job. They are hitting good shots, they are talking to the people, they are interacting with the crowd and the crowd loves to see them and be close to them and interact with them a little bit and watch good shots. It's been wonderful.

Q. Phil Mickelson mentioned that maybe it's not wise to agitate Colin because he seems to play better. Do you agree that maybe he takes his game up a notch in hostile environments?

BERNHARD LANGER: He has done in the past, yes. I played with Colin many times and I know that's what's happened on many, many occasions. When you agitate him a little bit or he gets a bit ticked with a photographer or something, he's even more focused and more determined.

Q. If I'm not mistaken, you have the most playing experience in the United States of any of the European captains. I was wondering if that, with the matches here, if that is any advantage or disadvantage for you?

BERNHARD LANGER: I don't think it plays a huge role playing over here a lot. First of all, I'm not playing, I'm only captaining. Secondly, all of these guys have played what might count a little bit as a Ryder Cup experience more so than the average tournament, that's all.

Q. And then also, for as long as you've lived in Boca Raton, are there any ways, if any, in which you feel Americanized?

BERNHARD LANGER: Oh, I'm Americanized to some extent, of course. I spent the last 20 years, I've spent about six months or more in this country. You know, I'm married to an American woman. We have four kids, two who were born in Germany, two in America. I have lots of friends and in-laws in America and I feel comfortable living in America, but that has nothing to do with the Ryder Cup this week. I have a German passport and always been German when it came to the Ryder Cup or you're European. I played on the European side for ten times as a player and I am their captain, and there is no doubt whatsoever who I want to win this week.

Q. I realize that this could change on Friday but the pairing of Sergio and Luke Donald, just wondered what your thoughts were there, what you wanted to see between them today, why you thought that might be a good pair?

BERNHARD LANGER: I want them to win a point, and I think they are capable of doing that. They are two great players. I think they like each other. They like each other's company. They can do anything with a golf ball. I think they will fire each other on and be there for each other, encourage each other and go through thick and thin. That's what I'm looking for.

Q. And second of all, is Sergio's game, how does it compare right now to earlier this season when he won a couple of times over here?

BERNHARD LANGER: I don't know. We're going to find out when the tournament's on. Practice is always a little bit different. The guys are a little bit more relaxed. They are not, you know, under the stress yet that they will be. But I think Sergio has been playing quite nicely. He was in contention last tournament he played in the Swiss Open. He's one of most talented players that plays golf.

Q. Obviously with these greens, putting is going to be critical. Hal said in his press conference today that he thought he had one of the greatest putting teams ever and that there was true depth and not a weak spot in the roster. Could you comment on the abilities of the members of your team?

BERNHARD LANGER: Well, I think all of our guys can putt, too. You can't win golf tournaments or finish high if you can't putt. It's very simple. I mean, if you look at any player on the Tour, it doesn't matter who, half of the shots are putts. If you shoot 70, you're going to make about 30 to 32 putts or 28, so almost half of that is putts. If you're not going to putt, you're not going to be out on TOUR very long, only a player who hits bad shots but can putt great, he will survive on the Tour for a while. But somebody who plays good and putts terrible, he's gone in no time.

So all of my guys are good putters, too.

Q. Along the same lines on the greens, obviously they are going to firm up more as we get into the week, does that neutralize any strength that one team may have over the other on the greens, or does it give an advantage to one or the other?

BERNHARD LANGER: Well, whenever the greens are firm, you want to come in with shorter irons and you want to spin the ball a lot. Again, I think both teams have guys who spin the ball tremendously. I think Tiger spins it a lot. Mickelson does. Garcia spins it a great deal and a couple other guys.

It all depends on the weather, too. They could try and make the greens firmer, but if it rains tomorrow or if it rains sometime in the next few days, it will be a little bit softer again. It just puts more premium on hitting the fairway. If the greens are firm and you're coming out of the rough, you're not going to stop the ball on these greens very easily and then chipping gets a little bit tougher and you're going to have longer putts to save par.

Q. Two things, first, the number of nationalities on the European Team it's smaller than the last time around, could you talk about that a little bit and whether you view that as just a coincidence, how you interpret that?

BERNHARD LANGER: Probably a coincidence. I was surprised there was not a Swede on the team, but we had Freddie Jacobson who was so close to making it. Also, we have a lot of English players on the team, more so than we had for a very long time. We have three Irish, I believe. So the Great Britain part is very strong represented this time around, with one Scot in there. But that changes. It goes in cycles. I don't give that anymore meaning than that.

Q. And could you just look back to when you first played the Ryder Cup more than 20 years ago and as you walk around these grounds and see how much it's grown, could you ever have imagined that it would have become this big?

BERNHARD LANGER: It's awesome. It's fantastic to see where this event has gone especially in the last sort of 20 years. It's unbelievable. It's always an important match, more so maybe than in the past to Europe than to America, but it almost seemed like once they started losing a couple of times, it became important to the Americans as well.

But again, it's not just America and Europe, these matches are watched all over the world. It doesn't matter where you go on the globe. People are watching this event. It's exciting. It's just a wonderful match to watch and I think by being so close over the last 20 years we've played, that often it comes down to the last game out on the golf course. That's more exciting and makes people continue to watch it. If one team was eight points ahead they might switch it off an hour before it's over but it has not been the case lately.

Q. Very much along those lines, you've seen what this event has become. You've also seen the change in worldwide golf, how much of a world game it has become in the last couple of decades. Now with so many of the world's top rated players not part of this competition, could you see this one day becoming a three-cornered event or would you leave it the way it is and have the two, the Presidents Cup, the Ryder Cup?

BERNHARD LANGER: I remember years ago we tried something like a three tour championship because I was part of it three or four times. The players actually liked it. We thought it was a good idea. But it's kind of difficult to do match-play in a sense unless you do a Round Robin kind of tournament.

I think with the tremendous history that we have in Ryder Cup and now also starting with the Presidents Cup, I can't see it changed. You know, the Ryder Cup has been played for almost 80 years now and it would be a shame to maybe even change it. Just leave, when you have something great going, why change.

Q. I wondered if you had any theories or observations about why the Europeans seem to be so proficient and comfortable with match-play, particularly playing with partners?

BERNHARD LANGER: I really don't. We don't play a lot of team golf. The only other team events we have used to be the Dunhill Cup, which we don't play anymore, and the World Cup, which still exists, but not everybody participates in that. Otherwise we had one other tournament called the Seve Trophy, which is continent against Great Britain and Ireland. Otherwise, we don't play anymore team championships.

I just think the guys have just been friends or many years. They travel together, they share cars, stay in the same hotels, they go out to dinner together and all that kind of stuff. They just know each other. They don't go their separate ways on the regular tour tournament year-in and year-out.

Q. You've played under five European captains. What have you learned from them and how would you characterize your own approach to captaincy?

BERNHARD LANGER: Well, I've learned a few things. Obviously I've seen how they captain, what they do. I picked up on a few of these things and I've incorporated that into my captaincy. But like I said the other day, or I don't know when, I've had this question many times, I'm going to captain like Bernhard Langer captains. When I've got to play golf, I've got to play golf like me. I can't play golf like Trevino or Nicklaus or anybody else because I don't have their game. I don't have their grips or their swings, I can't hit their shots. I've got to play my strengths and not my weakness. I've not here to copy anybody else as a captain or me as a player. I'm here to drop what they didn't do very well, learn from all that, work it into my style of captaincy and play to my strengths and not to my weakness.

Q. You've played a lot with Colin Montgomerie and had success with him in the Ryder Cup, what is it about his game that makes him such a good team player?

BERNHARD LANGER: Colin is totally committed to the team. He's not here with his ego, he's not here to make four or five points so he can say he's the best player or any of that. He's here to win 14 and a half points for our team and take home the trophy. That's what makes him I think so good and that's why the other guys accept him so much as well.

When he was the leading player and he won seven Money Lists over there, he was the same as he is now. When it comes to Ryder Cup, he's playing for the team and he wants the team to do well, and the guys can feel that and that's great.

Q. Do you have any players you anticipate will play all five matches? Obviously subject to change between now and then but are you anticipating that some will?

BERNHARD LANGER: There could be some, yeah. There's going to be a few, I suspect because there's a lot of golf to be played. I will obviously watch them the way they play, as I send them out Friday morning I'm going to watch them. If anybody might play poorly, I will probably talk to him and pull him out or if anybody plays great, I'll be stupid not to play him again. So I'm just going to go match to match and day by day and work it that way. I cannot say right now I will definitely play this guy five times and this guy one time. I'm not going to make that mistake. I'm going to continuously watch him and see how comfortable they are and how well they perform.

Q. You probably already answered this as well, but have you -- will everybody definitely play over the first two days?

BERNHARD LANGER: I think that's a good strategy. I'd like for everybody to get a game in, at least one game and I think I'm going to stick to that. But again, you know, I'm going to have to watch what happens out there Friday morning, Friday afternoon and then take it from there.

Q. We all know you're a man of God, but when you say your prayers tomorrow might, will you be asking the Almighty to let the Europeans win?

BERNHARD LANGER: No, I will pray that His will will be done. It doesn't matter what I pray for. His will is going to be done any ways. I'm not going to change or twist His mind and His will. He's almighty and all powerful. I will certainly pray for blessings and wisdom. I will pray that I'll have wisdom and courage to make the right decisions and say the right things and do the right stuff, and that's all I can do.

JULIUS MASON: Captain Langer, thanks, folks.

BERNHARD LANGER: Thank you.

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