Encompass Insurance interview: Bernhard Langer

June 20, 2013

DAVE SENKO:  Well, Bernhard, thanks for joining us.  You come in with two wins this year, leading money winner right now and second in the Charles Schwab Cup.  Maybe just get us started, talk about your year.  You've got to be pretty pleased with how things have gone this year.

BERNHARD LANGER:  Yeah, I got off to a tremendous start this year.  The first five tournaments were really good and then the last kind of four or five were some really good in it but always some kind of hiccup as well.  That's why I didn't finish in the top five or top three, whatever.  Kind of always ended up outside the Top 10 most of the time but close.  So just got to stop the hiccups and just keep playing solid golf.

DAVE SENKO:  What's your history of golf here in Chicago?  How much have you played here.

BERNHARD LANGER:  Very little, I think I've only played once, was it the Kemper Open?  That's about it, very little golf.  I was here for the Ryder Cup last year but didn't play.

DAVE SENKO:  You had a chance to see the course now.  Your impressions of this club?

BERNHARD LANGER:  Yeah, it's a fantastic golf course, very, very nice.  I could see why they would have had the U.S. Open here years ago.  The condition of the golf course is phenomenal, very nice fairways, good greens.  This course, it will punish you if you hit the ball offline, and if you don't hit it close on the greens you're going to have some crazy putts with these mounds and what do you call those big waves that go through the greens, just about 8 or 10 of them or 12 of them, so you had better be on the right side of that, otherwise you're going to face some challenges.

Q.  Bernhard, I've always been interested in your putting.  What is your method right now?  Do you feel like you've changed a ton over the years and are you always tinkering?

BERNHARD LANGER:  We're always tinkering with anything and everything just to find the magic and get a little bit better, so that's nothing new, and it will continue as long as I play golf.  The putting I haven't changed in 17 years, I've been using the long putter, not always well but decent at times and sometimes well, sometimes not so good.  Trying to get comfortable with something and make the best of it and I invested a lot of time in that putting stroke by practicing a lot, trying different grips with that, too.  It's not automatic, you've still got to swing the putter at the right pace on the right line, read it correctly and all that kind of stuff.

Q.  What's your plan for 2016?  Is there any talk maybe there's going to be some sort of exception on the Champions Tour or for guys who've anchored for a long time?

BERNHARD LANGER:  You know, I've learned in my years not to listen to rumors because that's why they're rumors and not fact, so I'm going to wait until I have facts.  At this point I have no plans to change from the long putter, but if I'm forced to, I will have to become creative and see what works.

Q.  Bernhard, does the approach change when you go play a tournament at a course that you haven't played before and you haven't seen the last few years on the Tour?

BERNHARD LANGER:  Well, you usually show up a little bit sooner and make sure you have one good look at the golf course at least, maybe two.  If I play a golf course that I've played the last 20 years six times every year, five times, I don't feel I need to be there on Tuesday and play a practice round or something like that if I have Wednesday and Thursday.  But on a brand new golf course like this one, I think it's beneficial for me to show up a little earlier and make sure I do my homework in the practice round.

Q.  What's the key to staying in good shape?

BERNHARD LANGER:  Eating every three hours.

Q.  Really?

BERNHARD LANGER:  People ask me how do you stay so slim, I say I eat a lot, and they look at me like I'm being funny.  In a way, yes, but in another way I think that it's part of it.  Obviously we all have different genes and I eat fairly healthy, I love vegetables and salads so I don't eat too much red meat.  But I love sweets on the other side, which is totally contradictory and I've eaten lots of that. 

But I think one of the keys is to keep the metabolism going.  You need to eat constantly, not large portions but you need to eat constantly and a lot of people don't seem to agree with that.  They think that by not eating 10 hours in a day and then having one big meal, I don't think that's the right way to go, but I'm not a dietitian or anything like that, I just know what works for me.

Q.  What do you do during a round, you snack?

BERNHARD LANGER:  Yeah, I have to snack.  If I don't eat, my blood sugar level goes and I get a little fatigued, I don't focus as well, so I need to have stuff with me, whether it's bananas, nuts or sometimes a sandwich or something like that just to, you know, keep you going.  Like a car, I guess, you've got to give it some fuel, right?

Q.  What about fitness?  Aside from walking, any other ‑‑

BERNHARD LANGER:  Yeah, I work out, I've worked out all my life, I enjoy working out.  I do a lot more when I'm home than when I'm out on Tour.  One thing I do every day is stretch at least twice a day, mornings and evenings, and also try and get a workout here and there even when I'm on Tour, some cardio, some weights.  Nothing real heavy, I've never done really heavy weights, but a lot of the younger guys do that nowadays and they find it's not detrimental. 

Q.  (Inaudible)

BERNHARD LANGER:  Every day.  The fitness trailers are really phenomenal.  I think it's a great facility that we have out here on Tour.  In my case very necessary and I'm not sure I would still be here if it hadn't been for the fitness centers.  Even in Europe when I played in Europe, they had the same stuff and if it hadn't been for that, I think with my history of my bad back when I was 19, I had two bulging disks, I had a very bad neck, a bad lower back, I've had numerous things going on.  So I need to stretch, I need to work out and stay in shape.  It's preventive, too.  They help you when things start hurting or certain things go wrong, you can get some advice and point you in the right direction.

Q.  How much do you like the older, classic style golf courses like this one?

BERNHARD LANGER:  I'm not sure.  I like a mixture.  I like a lot of the new golf courses we play, I really do.  I think some of them are fantastic.  I like Jack Nicklaus' golf courses where he makes you think, and not that others don't but sometimes Jack more so, where you need to position the ball and put it in the right place. 

When you say old traditional style, to me that means kind of round greens sloping back to front and that worked for a very, very long time, but I think many of the really old traditional courses were built a hundred years ago for a stimpmeter of 7 or 6 or 8, somewhere in that range.  Now you try to putt them at 12 or 13 and the ball doesn't stay on the green.  Three‑quarters of the green is useless because you can't use it for pin positions. 

We've had or I've seen courses where they had to mow in different heights without, you know, naming names here.  It's just they were perfect at the time but with the machinery we have now, the possibility to have the greens run at 12 or 13 on the stimpmeter, it's difficult to use those type of golf courses, some of them.  And some could easily adjust if they would just tilt their green from whenever it is, 10 degrees or 15 to 5 degrees, it would be very, very good again.  Does that make sense?

Q.  Bernhard, the Schwab Cup, you've already won one and you've come close in a couple of others.  We're halfway through the season almost with the majors, which can change it dramatically.  How determined are you to win another one and add your name to those that have won two already?

BERNHARD LANGER:  I think everybody out here would like to win the Schwab Cup.  Everybody has goals and one of my goals is to win the Schwab Cup, win the money list, within majors, win tournaments.  You can reverse it.  If you win tournaments and majors, you've got to have a chance to win the Schwab Cup and the money list.  Bottom line is to really try and improve.  If I can improve just slightly, I know I can be there at the end of the year and that's my goal step by step.  I've been out here now five years, participated in five Schwab Cups and it always comes down to the Schwab Cup tournament so far.  There's never been anybody that had a thousand point lead and you couldn't catch them.  It's just the way it's set up and I think it's great, it makes it exciting and it makes it a true year‑round competition.

DAVE SENKO:  Bernhard, I asked Hale this question before about Justin Rose winning the Open last week.  You've won two majors.  How much does that change your life or change things for a player like that, winning his first major championship?

BERNHARD LANGER:  I think it changes your working life dramatically.  Wherever he shows up now, he's going to be the U.S. Open champion, that's how they'll introduce him.  His market value goes up, tournaments want him to play and participate, and he's recognized in a group of people that won a major and there's not that many, you know.  So certainly his earnings are going to go up, I think, because of it.  His recognizeability or whatever you call it goes up, so some of his contracts will pay more, the companies that he represents, whatever he's involved with.

But just as important or maybe more important, he achieved one of the goals that he wanted to achieve and that is to win a major and it will give him the confidence to believe in himself to maybe win more majors.

Q.  There are some similarities with you and Justin starting as youngsters and playing early as professionals in Europe.  Have you spent any time with him?  Has he ever asked you any advice?

BERNHARD LANGER:  I'm sure we've talked in years by.  I remember him coming out on the European Tour when he just finished 4th in the British Open and everybody thought he was going to be the next shooting star and he came out and couldn't make a cut for a year or two in a row, so he went through very difficult hard times.  We didn't get real close, but we had a conversation here and there.  He's a hard worker, he's very focused on laying out what he needs to do, what he needs to improve, at least that's how he comes over to me.  He's got his team around him, people that can influence him in the right way, help him to become better.  He's made his home over here, he's made it very clear he wants to play where it's ‑‑ the top is still the best and to be at the top of his profession and he's certainly progressing in that direction.

DAVE SENKO:  Thanks, Bernhard.

BERNHARD LANGER:  You're welcome, pleasure.