ACE Group Classic interview: Bernhard Langer

February 17, 2013

MORE INTERVIEWS: ACE Group Classic transcript archive

PHIL STAMBAUGH: Okay, Bernhard, even par 72. You defeat Jay Don Blake by one shot. Your 17th career victory on the Champions Tour and second in the last three years in Naples. You earn 240 Charles Schwab Cup points, which moves you into the race in the season-long Schwab Cup race after three events.

Congratulations. It wasn't an easy day.

BERNHARD LANGER: No, it sure wasn't. Got off to a wonderful start, birdied the first hole. And then hitting it close on No. 3 with a 3-iron, I had eagle putt from about 10 feet and missed it.

Then No. 4, the wind was strong from the right so I aimed down the right side because yesterday the wind grabbed it, it got near the left bunker, I didn't want to go in there, and I pushed my tee shot and ended up over there near the cart part, and then hit the second shot. I had an awkward stance. I had to stand on the cart path and had a bunch of long grass in front of the ball, hit it a little fat, came up short in the bunker, had no shot. So I played a really good bunker shot and it rolled about a foot through the green and into the fringe. And for some reason I fancied that putt, I thought I could hole that putt and got a little aggressive on it, rolled it about three feet by and then missed the return putt. I made double bogey after not dropping a shot for, whatever, the first two rounds in the first three holes.

Then came back with a very good 7-iron on the next shot to about six feet but missed a putt. And then a great birdie on 6, settled down again.

And 9 was just a tough hole. I had really good drive, 4-iron, thought the wind was off the right but I faded it a little bit and ended up in the bunker. Hit a really good bunker shot but it caught the edge of the green and the fringe and it just, instead of going straight, it just shot to the right about six feet and ended up about seven feet right of the hole and misread that putt, so that was another bogey.

Then 10 I hit two beautiful shots and three-putted from, I don't know, not more than 20 feet, missed a really short one there. So the putter was a little shaky today in the middle part of the round and then started making a few towards the end there.

No. 13, I hit a beautiful drive and a fantastic 3-wood, a little fade, and it just caught the top of the bunker and rolled back in. If that had gone maybe six inches further in the air, it would have been right next to the hole. But I got it up and down from there.

And then hit another good drive and a perfect 7-iron, actually was yelling kind of, you know, be good, get close, because it looked perfect and I had the perfect yardage, but it finished about 12 feet or so, 10 feet away and made a good stroke there.

And then 15 was a fantastic drive, only had 95 yards, had a bad lie on the fairway and hit my second shot fat and went in the water short. Then I had to drop it, hit a really good fourth shot with a lob wedge to about five feet past the hole and made that for, you know, a great bogey.

And then played very solid coming in, had a good birdie chance on 17, played a really difficult shot from hardpan, you know, where all the carts and the people go to the right there, played a really good third shot to about six feet and missed a putt again.

And then 18, hit two decent shots, really good drive, good 5-iron, middle of the green and a great first putt to about a foot and a half and that's really it.

Yeah, after not bogeying at all for two rounds, there were a bunch of bogeys today, but thank goodness a bunch of birdies as well.

PHIL STAMBAUGH: Before we go to questions, can you tell me about your birdie at 1 and 6?

BERNHARD LANGER: Yeah, 1 was 3-wood because it was straight down. I hit 3-wood and a beautiful 9-iron to about, I would say about nine feet. And 3 was a driver, 3-iron to about 10 feet. And then 6 was driver, 4-iron layup short of the bunkers, I couldn't get over with a 3-wood, and then it was pitching wedge from there about an eight-foot putt.

PHIL STAMBAUGH: Okay. We'll go to questions. Craig?

Q. After this kind of day, would you describe it as relief, joy, exhaustion from grinding it out? How would you kind of describe it?

BERNHARD LANGER: All of that. Certainly relieved now having won. It was definitely a grind. I was hoping to come down the last hole with, whatever, a three-shot lead or something, make it easy. I had a chance on 17 to make a putt and have a two-shot lead. I didn't enjoy being caught by the other guys. At one stage I think it was three of us at 11-under. The good thing is I never fell behind, I was leading the whole time. I was either leading by myself or co-leader, so that was a good thing. And in the end I was still in the driver's seat and just had to close it off.

Q. How do you get your confidence back putting whenever you start missing or struggling like that?

BERNHARD LANGER: That's a good question. Yeah, I asked my caddie am I moving my head or am I a little short and quick, because sometimes I have a tendency, the backswing gets a bit short and I kind of shove it instead of just letting it flow. In the end I actually changed my grip. Usually I hold it like this between my fingers and down the lifeline, I rock the shoulders, and in the end I just started doing what I used to do, I just swung the putter only with my right hand. Those are the two styles I putt with or have putted with. Made some better strokes that way and made some decent putts there towards the end. Actually they were all pretty good putts, there were just one or two misreads, but the speed was good and hit them on pretty good lines, too.

Q. On 11 with your tee shot when you corrected it a little bit, were you confident with your tee shots? It was not only the putts, also the tee shots. How many fairways did you hit today?

BERNHARD LANGER: I hit a lot of fairways. I hit 1, 3, 2 was a par 3, so I missed --


BERNHARD LANGER: I missed 4, that was one fairway I missed. I missed 7 actually, but I was unlucky; it rolled into the rough like this far, so that was two fairways missed. Then I hit -- I hit 8, I hit 9, I hit 10, I hit 11, I hit 13, 14, 15, 17 and 18. So I missed two fairways out of 14. I drove the ball very well. That was not the problem today. Well, that sometimes happens when I come a little bit over the top and it starts left and I try to hold it like Arnold Palmer did. He had a strong grip, shut face, so whenever he didn't want to hook it too much, he would hold onto it. It's a natural reaction when I feel the ball starts a little left of where I want it, I just kind of hang onto it, that's really all.

Q. You were talking about the lob wedge at 15 that got you within five feet. Do you think that may have been your most important shot or at least one of your top ...

BERNHARD LANGER: Certainly one of the important shots because I went from, whatever, one in front, if I make double bogey, which is easily done after hitting it in the water, I guess to one behind, so it was key to just make a bogey. And so I got it up and down from 90 yards away or 85 yards for bogey, which was key so I didn't fall behind. But there were a lot of other key shots. In the end, every one counts. I only won by one, so there were a lot of important shots out there.

Q. You were mentioning about the bogey streak. Phil was saying it actually even extended where I think you only had, coming into today, two in your last 105 holes.

PHIL STAMBAUGH: So it was 108 before the double.

Q. Right. So when you get into this stretch where I think you had three in seven holes, how do you stay within yourself? And obviously you've been through this experience before, but how do you just stay level?

BERNHARD LANGER: Well, you just go back to basics. I still knew I was striking the ball well. As I just said, I was driving the ball well, I hit some really good iron shots out there. Just had one or two lose shots, that's really all. It really came down to, some of it came down to putting. That's where I made my bogeys today mostly, was putting. But you're going to face some difficult holes out there. Like No. 9 was a 4-iron, 18 was a 5-iron into the green. There were a couple of other longer irons into some fairly decent wind, and whenever you put side spin into the wind, it multiplies, the wind multiplies the spin. So overall my shotmaking was good, it's just my putter got a little iffy there in the middle of the round.

Q. You mentioned the putting, you mentioned the change in grip. At what hole did you make that change during the round today back to the traditional grip, the older grip?

BERNHARD LANGER: It's a good point. Well, I missed a very short one on 10 when I three-putted there. That really shook me up a little bit because I think the second putt was about two feet, two and a half feet, and I aimed it inside right or right after and I just must have pushed it a little bit, hit the hole and came right back at me, did a horseshoe on me, so that kind of shook me up a little bit. I haven't missed a putt like this in a long time.

So then on 11 I hit a birdie chance from about 15 feet or 18 feet, and I knew the line because Tom Pernice just had an identical putt. So I made a good stroke but I left it short, so that's another sign that the putter's not flowing properly. So I think I changed on 12 or 13 when I first tried my other grip. That's the grip I used the first seven or eight years, nine years when I putted with a long putter. I sometimes go back and forth. Those are the two grips I use.

Q. (Inaudible).

BERNHARD LANGER: Yep, putted the rest of the way in and putted fairly decent.

Q. When you came down to 18 and you saw the leaderboard, you were aware that you had a one-shot lead and went for the heart of the green. So the back pin position you did not want to go too close to that corner, right?

BERNHARD LANGER: Well, I knew what I had to do. I asked the TV camera guys how Jay Don finished because they had him wrong on the board. Some boards show -- my caddie said he's hitting his fifth shot on 18. I'm going fifth shot, that doesn't sound right. I said let's ask somebody, make sure we know what we need to do and it was confirmed that he made par. He had a birdie putt, not a fifth shot. He had a birdie putt and he made par.

So I knew I had to par to win, par or better. As I said, I hit a great tee shot and I was between a 5- and a 4-iron. If I would have had a two-shot lead, I would have taken a 4-iron, take water out of play and just hit it long, back edge somewhere. But since I didn't have a two-shot lead, I didn't want to go long in the back rough or in the back bunker and put pressure on myself, so I took 5-iron, which brought the right water into play. So I aimed a little further left towards the bunker and hit it pretty much the center of the green, but I still had a 50-foot putt, and the way I putted today, it wasn't my best putting round, so I made sure I got a good read and good speed on that first putt and I putted it beautifully. It rolled up there about a foot, foot and a half.

Q. We had a little bit of rain earlier this week. How did the course conditions play throughout the weekend?

BERNHARD LANGER: The course took the rain very well. It was a little wet obviously after the Thursday, Friday rain we had, but it drained fantastic. The greens were great all week and the fairways dried off well enough for Saturday to play the ball down, and yeah, no problems whatsoever. The greens staff did an awesome job.

Q. Just talk about the win with your wife's birthday also being Friday and sharing that.

BERNHARD LANGER: Yeah, it's been a great week. My wife came over on Thursday and our youngest son was with us the whole weekend because he has a long weekend with tomorrow being Presidents Day, and then we had my wife's sister was here, my wife's brother and their family, and then niece and nephew. So we had a good crew of about 10 or 11 people from in-laws and so we celebrated my wife's birthday, we celebrated my brother-in-law's 70th birthday this week as well, and my niece's, I don't know how old she was but she had a birthday on the 14th, plus Valentine's Day. So there were lots of things to celebrate, and now we've got a trophy and a win to celebrate on top of that, so it's been a good week.

PHIL STAMBAUGH: Anything else? Bernhard, congratulations again.

BERNHARD LANGER: Thank you. Appreciate it.