In a major tournament week, where the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship takes place in addition to the BMW International Open, the next major title on the Champions Tour is also being contested. Bernhard Langer, who only won the US Senior Open once out of 11 senior major titles in 2010, faced challenges.
Bernhard Langer: “200 yards shorter”, but “like the US Open”
We are delighted to have Bernhard Langer here, US Senior Open Champion 2010. They have won 11 Senior Major titles, their first ever. Does it feel like the US Open for you on this course?
Bernhard Langer: At least. It’s a jewel. It is a beautiful golf course. I had never heard of it before, even though there have been majors here, but I have not spent much time in Pennsylvania, besides my son having been to Penn, Philadelphia for the past four years, so it is not far from here.
The beauty – the golf course is amazing. He is lovely. He is in good condition. He is demanding. It’s a little hilly. You have extremely difficult greens with a lot of slope and very difficult – I do not think we get many straight putts. Each putt will have a break, not just a yard or two, but sometimes ten feet or more.
So it’s really challenging. You have to hit the fairway from the tee because the rough is very hard. When hitting the fairway, hit the right quadrant of the green to have any chance of a birdie.
Otherwise, you could end up making a three-putt or maybe even a four-putt. So it’s a really excellent golf test for everyone.
So in a way, it’s like a US Open, we’re just adding the word senior.
Bernhard Langer: At least. It’s 200 yards shorter than the youngsters, but I would say it’s a very similar setup to the US Open.
“We’ve been doing this our whole lives.”
For players 50 and older, is it more of a challenge to cope with four rounds of that kind of stress over 18 holes and four days?
Bernhard Langer: It should not be. We have been doing this our whole lives. Sometimes you can lose a bit of focus, a bit of concentration, especially when the temperature hits the 90s (Fahrenheit, 32 ° C +), and it’s very hot and humid, and you run four days in a row on a hilly golf course. Endurance may not be the same as it was in the 20s and 30s, and concentration may drop in a few minutes, but it can be a deciding factor.
Most of the guys have been training their whole lives and if not their whole lives then for the last 20, 30 years. You know that fitness is an important part of it. To be successful you have to hit the ball further and by knowing all this there are few players on the field who are not ready for the task.
Do you still have goals at this point in your career? What are your plans for the rest of your golf career?
Bernhard Langer: I always have goals. I will always be the best I can be. I can not control how someone plays, but I know that if I play my best, or get close to my best, on a golf course or most golf courses, I have a chance to win. It’s my goal, just to do the best I can, to play golf that is almost flawless. It will not happen. I’m not a perfectionist. I know that if I played a perfect round, I would have a score of 36, because on average I can reach every hole in two strokes. We know it will not happen. No one comes near it.
But at the same time, I make mistakes every day. I hit bad punches or putt badly, make mental mistakes, read wrong on greens or such and such. There is always room for improvement and the goal is to improve myself. If I can, I know I can win championships.
Are there certain things you need to do mentally and physically as you get older to prepare for these championships?
Bernhard Langer: Oh yes, you always have to work in those areas. The physical part gets harder and harder, because as I get older, you know, I’m not as strong as I used to be. I’m not as flexible as I used to be either. So I hit the ball a little shorter. So you are trying to delay the aging process and hope you can push it further back. Mentally, there are some who are naturally strong, others need a lot of help. So it depends on which category you fall into and how much time you have to invest in it.
“They used to go to the bar, now they go to the gym.”
How much do you mess with equipment and balls these days?
Bernhard Langer: It’s an ongoing process, I think it’s been going on for many years. When I signed up for the tournament, I looked at hickory-shafted irons and persimmon-shafted drivers. I thought, man, I used to play that. Not just for a day or two. I’ve been playing them for many, many years. When you look at a persimmon driver, it looks scary. I’ve not played in 30 years now – I think I was the last to win the Masters with a Persimmon driver in 1993, so that’s 30 years ago.
The equipment has evolved a lot, from lighter balls to bigger balls to better balls, and then the boys train. They are all athletes – most of them are athletes now compared to when they used to go to the bar and get a few drinks; now they go to the gym and work out.
How often do you look at the scoreboard throughout the tournament, and how has it changed over the course of your life?
Bernhard Langer: I’m aware of the rankings, but not all the time – that’s not my main focus. Maybe more on the last nine in a tournament or the top six when I hunt, because then it can play a big role if I have to be aggressive to catch up, or if I can play more conservatively. When I’m four strokes ahead, I do not have to make birdies and eagles. I can play to the middle of the green and make pars and force the others to make mistakes.
What did the winner of that championship do well at the end of the week to win it this week?
Bernhard Langer: He must hit the ball well and put well. As simple as that.