Montreal Championship interview: Bernhard Langer

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September 05, 2013

THE MODERATOR: Bernhard, thanks for joining us. You had a week off. You played three straight weeks. First off, maybe just how things were going before you took the week off, how your game was, what kind of shape it was in.

BERNHARD LANGER: It's been okay. I finished 10th at the Dick's Sporting Goods Open and 4th in Seattle after having the lead briefly with nine holes to go. So I've been playing some pretty consistent, decent golf actually most of the year.

Q. What's your history here? You haven't played in this event before?

BERNHARD LANGER:
I don't have a history. I played one tournament in Canada my whole life and that was the Canadian PGA Championship in 1979 at Vancouver Shaughnessy Country Club or something like that. A long time ago, some of you weren't even born then.

Q. Have you had a chance to see the course yet?

BERNHARD LANGER:
I played yesterday. The course is very good, very interesting, good shape and tree lined golf course, small greens. I thought they were very small. Most of them are only 28 to 30 yards deep, which is quite small targets for some of the lengths they are. Narrow fairways, quite a bit of rough, so it's going to be a good test of golf.

Q. You were supposed to play in Germany this week and you decided when to come to Montreal?

BERNHARD LANGER:
I decided that several weeks ago. The German tournament is not very happy, obviously, because we run the tournament and I have a personal relationship with the sponsor and the golf course where they play. So they weren't thrilled. But I told them this year this is the way it's going to be, and hopefully next year I can play in their event again.

But it's always a difficult thing when you have conflicting interests in conflicting events.

Q. Has that happened a lot that you have conflicts?

BERNHARD LANGER:
Yeah, it happens every year.

Last year I missed a major, didn't play one of the majors we have on this Tour. That might have taken the opportunity away from me to win the Schwab Cup last year. So it's not easy to combine the two tours with the things that we do.

Q. How many tournaments (inaudible)?

BERNHARD LANGER:
We run two senior events and a whole bunch of other events that I don't participate in. But we organize probably 30 to 40 tournaments in total. But only two senior events, and those are the ones I'm usually supposed to play in, let's put it that way.

Q. How would you rate your play nowadays compared with the years that you were on the PGA TOUR and European Tour? How would you compare yourself?

BERNHARD LANGER:
The level of my play? I think it's still very similar. I haven't really lost any distance. I've gained in experience and in wisdom and understanding of the technique of the golf swing and what I want to do and what I can accomplish.

Probably lost a little bit of strength, little bit of flexibility and sometimes endurance or focus. It drops a few percent every year.
Overall, I think I'm still playing golf at a very high level.

Q. Do you play as much as before?

BERNHARD LANGER:
No. A little bit less, but that's a conscious effort. When I was young and single, I had no other nothing else to do. I played golf most of the year. And now I have a wife, I have four kids, I have other businesses. So I'm slowing down on my schedule a little bit and I'm playing about half the year, probably 25, 26 events.

Q. We witnessed over the years that German athletes are on top in most sports. Would you rate yourself as excellent as the Beckers, all the great German champions that we see around in the world of sports?

BERNHARD LANGER:
It's always hard to rate yourself because you might come over big headed and full of yourself and proud and all that kind of stuff. I certainly don't want to do that.

I achieved the highest level in this game coming out of a country where golf is not big at all, never really had a successful professional golfer before me in Germany. I really didn't know what I was getting myself into when I started. I had no one to compare myself to within the country. I think I've had a very successful, very blessed career, very long career and a good one.

How did I compare that to Boris Becker or any other, you know, great athlete coming out of Germany? I have no idea. It's not comparing apples with apples.

Q. (Inaudible)?

BERNHARD LANGER:
The biggest moment for me was probable the ones you mentioned. The two Masters wins are very special to me personally because you do that alone with your caddie kind of thing.

Again, it's hard to compare those victories with the Ryder Cup victories because the Ryder Cup is a team event, one of 12, plus all the captains and the support group behind you. Those really stand out.

But then even winning the first German Open or the first German Masters. As a German, those things are very, very special.

Then maybe even my first big tournament as a golf professional, I was 19. I won the World (indiscernible) Open under 25 years of age, and I won that by 17 shots. Those were milestones in my career that were all very, very important at the time or winning my first Tour event, the Dunlop Masters beating some very, very strong competition. Obviously it's not the Masters, not the U.S. Masters, but they were still at the time big steps in the right direction to get me to a point where I could win majors and could become No. 1 in the World Rankings and be one of the best player in the world.

Q. (Inaudible)?

BERNHARD LANGER:
Which one?

Q. (Inaudible)?

BERNHARD LANGER:
Well, the under 25 was my first international win and then the Dunlop Masters a year later was my first win on the Tour, an official event.

Q. What would you change in the game of golf?

BERNHARD LANGER:
Well, that's a very good question. Since I'm not the big boss of golf, I really haven't spent a lot of time thinking about that or contemplating it. If I was I would probably give you a straight answer. I really haven't spent any time on it or wasted any energy on that.

Q. (Inaudible)?

BERNHARD LANGER:
Yeah, well, I was just going to come to that. If I was in charge, I wouldn't ban the long putter or the belly putter because it doesn't really make a lot of sense to me.

I probably would make some change in the equipment, reducing the length the golf ball goes or something like that to just make golf a little bit cheaper. Golf has become more and more expensive because we need longer courses.

When I grew up, a golf course that was 6,600, that was a long golf course. Now we are playing golf courses 7,600, okay, a thousand yards longer. That's two par 5s, pretty much. So you need more land, you have to buy more land, you have to take care of that land every day. You have to mow it, you have to cut it, whatever you have to do with it, fertilize it, on and on and on it goes.

But, you know, at the same time, I understand part of the fun of golf is to hit the ball a long distance. I mean, let's face it, why was John Daly so popular? He hit it a longer distance than most of us and people loved watching him. People like yourselves enjoy hitting the ball 300 yards if you can. Some of you can. It's part of the fun of golf. It's a fine line, you know, where to draw the line, what to do, what not to do.

But we have the so called experts, right, that make all those decisions?

Q. Explain yourself on the long putter. Why are you so against it?

BERNHARD LANGER:
I'm against the ban; I'm not against the long putter. I'm using it myself, but that's not why I'm against the ban. I can putt with a short putter or find another way to putt.

I just think after 40 years having the long putter legal and the belly putter or anchoring as legal, I don't see a need to actually make it illegal.
I think it's going to hurt some golfers more than it's going to help others. You have older people or people that don't putt very well, but they like the long putter or the belly putter and they can still play and putt decent with that.

If they have to go back to the short one and they don't enjoy putting, they might go and play crochet and give up the game of golf. We can't afford right now to lose more and more people in the game of golf. We need to grow the game and I don't think this is the right way to grow the game. That is my main reason.

The other argument I would say if the long putter or the holding it against your body, if it was that easy to putt with it, why isn't everybody using it? How many people use the long putter? Fifteen percent at the most, okay.

Q. Do you feel it's improved your game when you switched to the longer putter?

BERNHARD LANGER:
I don't know. Because if I hadn't switched, I would be using a short putter. I really don't know if I would be putting better or worse with a short putter, but I feel comfortable with a long putter so I'm using it.

Q. Was it that type of decision you made when you had trouble putting at that time?

BERNHARD LANGER:
Yeah, of course. But what I'm saying is who is using the big headed driver? 100 percent. I don't know anybody using the persimmon driver or small headed driver with a steel shaft and 43 inches. Nobody. Why? Because it's an advantage.

Who's using the long putter? Fifteen percent, ten percent. If it's that easy, if it's advantage, everybody would be using it. That's not the case. So I take it as it must be not advantage, not to the majority.

Q. Did you have a discussion with them?

BERNHARD LANGER:
No, nobody ever asked me anything.

Q. And what are you going to do in a year and a half when the ban is on the long putter?

BERNHARD LANGER:
We'll find out. It's not a year and a half. It's two and a half years. When that time is right, we'll see what we do.

Q. (Inaudible)?

BERNHARD LANGER:
I don't know if they are going to change their mind right now. They are not. We'll have to see what the future holds, if anybody is going to fight it or not. If it stands the way it is, I'm just going to have to find a different way to putt.

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