I thought that Bernhard Langer was not playing this week because of a thumb injury. I guess I was wrong. He’s scheduled for a 8:20 tee time Thursday morning.
Langer’s injury has been described as a “bicycle accident,” but the inside story that I heard is somewhat more innocuous. It seems that while cycling with his family, they stopped at a crossing. Langer reached out to push the crossing button for the light and just caught it the wrong way. Freak injury.
You can read the complete interview below.
July 27, 2011
An Interview With:
PETE KOWALSKI: We’d like to welcome Bernhard Langer, the 2010 U.S. Senior Open champion, to the media center here at Inverness. I guess, Bernhard, the first question is how’s the form, and how did it go on your two events in the UK the last couple weeks?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, the form is not perfect, but it’s good enough to play right now. It still needs to get better in the long run. But I’ve been able to play the last two British Opens there without getting worse, so that’s a good sign, because weeks ago, whenever I started playing, it got worse. So I’m hopeful with that, and it seems to be okay holding up for this week, too.
PETE KOWALSKI: Is it a situation where you still have to do some rehab, icing and stretching?
BERNHARD LANGER: All of that, every morning and every evening, so it’s not a pain in the neck, it’s a pain in the thumb, and it has been for a number of weeks, but it’s just something I have to deal with.
PETE KOWALSKI: How does it feel coming into the Inverness as the champion from last year, and tell us about the year that you had after winning at Sahalee.
BERNHARD LANGER: It’s always great coming back as defending champion. It’s always a good feeling and good vibes. Obviously I had a wonderful run there last summer winning the two majors back to back and then winning three other tournaments and topping the Money List and the Schwab Cup and the whole thing. It was a great year.
I started off pretty good this year but then had my thumb issues, and since March I have played very little golf, couldn’t practice, couldn’t play competitive golf, so now I’m trying to find my way back. There was a lot of good last week. I hit a lot of good shots and played a number of holes very, very well, but there were too many mistakes.
Q. Is there anything in your swing which makes it hurt more? Does it hurt when you make more contact coming out of rough or sand or anything like that, or is it just kind of a repetitive injury?
BERNHARD LANGER: No, divots definitely hurt more, when I take deeper divots, so with the wedges it hurts more than even with a 3 iron, or even the driver isn’t too bad, believe it or not. I might be swinging harder at it, but it’s teed up, so for some reason that doesn’t hurt as much. So it’s usually when I go after when I have to go down into the ground. It hurts a little bit up here on the top of the swing when I come down setting the angle, and then it hurts at impact. But it’s been less and less, so I’m thankful for that.
Q. Is the pain expected to go away completely, and do you have complete range of motion with it?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, that’s the problem; the range of motion is not completely there yet, and my doctor says that’s what we need to work on. That’s why every morning and evening I’m having rehab done, to get more and more range of motion. That will hopefully lead to less inflammation, less pain in the long run, and then eventually the two joints will hopefully get to the place where there will be no inflammation and no pain and then I should be able to play without any issues.
Q. You turned professional at 15 years old and are meticulous with your preparation and golf that you’ve played obviously prior to that and since. Aside from that 18 month stint in the military, have you ever had an extended period of off time as far as golf is concerned as you’ve had here, and what does Bernhard Langer do away from the golf course with that much free time?
BERNHARD LANGER: No, I have not had that much time off, especially it kind of came in bunches here because my last tournament was the Schwab Cup early November, then we had two months, two and a half months off until the Mitsubishi tournament in Hawai’i, and because my thumb was hurting, I said I’ll just take six weeks off, don’t touch a club, it’ll do me good anyways to rest. So that was a long stretch, and I played four events, and now I’ve had another three or four months. So it’s been a very long time with very little golf, and that hasn’t happened since I was about 18.
When I was 15 through 18 I was assistant pro in Munich, and we had three months off in the winter because of snow, and even then I would travel to Spain every once in a while and go practice and play. So this has probably been the longest time away from golf that I can remember.
And what do I do? Well, I didn’t get bored for many weeks, and then the last few weeks it got a little tougher. But when you have four kids and a wife and I was able to work out, even with my injury. I’m involved in my church and there’s plenty of things to do. It wasn’t too bad.
Q. You said you were able to work out. Does that mean bicycling might not have been part of the exercise regime since that was kind of the root of all this?
BERNHARD LANGER: That was just a fun bicycle ride to the beach. It wasn’t really part of my workout routine. It was just riding to the beach with the family and going for a walk on the beach and then riding back. It’s nothing to do with that. It can happen anywhere, it just shows.
Q. Could you kind of recall for us the feeling of last year, winning the British Open, then coming over here and winning the Senior Open here?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, first of all, it was very special for me being European to win the Senior British Open or the Senior Open Championship. I never won the British Open, the regular one. I had five or six top threes but never a win, and so this one felt like the next best thing to winning an Open Championship. It was on a fantastic golf course, Carnoustie. I had a good showdown the last day with Corey Pavin, and it just felt great to also win my first major on this Tour, which was one of the goals that I always had.
And then coming over to Seattle and still playing some very good golf, I might have played better golf than week than I did in Carnoustie, and what made that one even more special was playing head to head against Fred Couples in his hometown when probably 95 to 99 percent of the people were cheering for Fred and the other percent for me. It was like a Ryder Cup environment where I could definitely feel that people wanted him to win, not me. So to play that well under those circumstances made it even more special.
Q. How about the fatigue factor?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, the fatigue factor is obviously always there, and it probably helped me to be reasonably fit, get over the jet lag better and quicker than most other people. But the eight hour time change and back to back majors is very difficult on anybody when you want to perform at your very best. And I noticed I think the first day I had a late tee time or an early tee time, which helped me, because you’re up at 2:00 in the morning anyways basically with an eight hour time change, so that was good. But then the second day I had a late tee time, and I struggled. There was a time the first nine holes, I think, was reasonably okay, and then I had a stretch of four or five or six holes where I really had to hold it together. My swing wasn’t there, the rhythm wasn’t right, it didn’t feel good. But I managed to scrape it in and post a decent score, and then I started feeling better day by day and obviously had a good weekend.
Q. Did you play in the ‘93 PGA here? I saw you played in ‘86 but I didn’t see your finish from ‘93.
BERNHARD LANGER: I did. I still had my yardage book from ‘93, so that proved that I was here.
Q. As a follow up, you were the reigning Masters champion at that time. When you go into other majors after that, is there a little more, I don’t know, pressure or urgency to try and back those up, or did you come here with an expectation of doing well?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, you always come with expectations, I think. If you don’t, then it’s not a great thing. But no, I didn’t have to prove anything, if you mean that. But you think you can do well. If you win one major, why not win another one. Obviously it’s a different golf course, different whatever, demands.
But I remember playing those tournaments and I think I did okay. I didn’t do great. But I remember being there on the weekend and watching Bob Tway and Paul Azinger and all that stuff.
Q. Last year you became the first player to win the money title three years in a row, first player to win Player of the Year three years in a row. You won your first major, two of those, on this Champions Tour, and also won the Charles Schwab Cup for the first time. With the layoff you’ve had this year, what would make 2011 be successful in your mind?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, just being healthy would at this point mean the most, just being able to go back to playing golf without being hurt. I was just at the doctor and had my knee drained on top of that, so I have some fluid in my left knee now which doesn’t help me, either, walking around. So things are falling apart lately. But hopefully we’ll get all that in order, and if I can be healthy again in a few weeks, a few months, whatever it takes, then this has been a good year.
Yeah, I’ve already won one tournament. If I win another, fantastic. If not, I’m just going to try not to hurt myself more and get healthy and have some fun getting back to some good golf in the future.
PETE KOWALSKI: Bernhard, could you give us impressions of Inverness from your practice rounds, difficulty of the greens, et cetera?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, the course is very demanding. We have maybe four or five short par 4s, but then we have a lot of long par 4s and some demanding holes out there, period. The greens are probably the toughest greens you’ll find anywhere, as difficult as Augusta, maybe even harder at times, because Augusta has some flat areas. Here there’s very few. It’s almost impossible to find a straight putt. Every putt breaks once, twice, sometimes three or four times, so it’s very severe. There’s lots of mounds within the green and slopes.
The greens are the smallest greens you’ll see on any golf course anywhere in the world, I think, and to have small greens and that many undulations and hills on it makes it that much harder; especially when you come in with a 3 , 4 , 5 iron or hybrid into some of the longer par 4s, it makes it extremely difficult to get the ball onto the green to start off with, and even onto the green is a difficult putt.
Q. Does that mean you spend more time with iron play to try to put it in the right spot, or do you put more time into putting because that’s a premium, as well?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, you really need to do everything. First of all, you need to hit the fairway because if you’re not in the fairway you can’t even dream of thinking I’m going to put my second shot in the right spot. Tee shots are very important, and you have to hit good iron shots, and putting is key obviously. We’re going to have a lot of four to ten foot putts, whether it’s for par or bogey or maybe birdie. You’re going to have to make a bunch of those, and many breaking putts.
Q. When you can’t play golf for as long as you couldn’t, I assume maybe you could do some putting once you got a little bit better before the other stuff. Does that in any way help you in a situation like this when you’re talking about greens like this and the putting is going to be very difficult?
BERNHARD LANGER: You know, I thought the same thing, and I did putt a little bit at home, but when I came out my putting was the worst part of my game, believe it or not. I don’t know what I did wrong at home, but I wasn’t happy with my putting the first couple of weeks or the first few days I played. So I had to put some extra work into that, too.
Q. When exactly was your return?
BERNHARD LANGER: Well, that’s a tough one, too. I remember flying up to Iowa trying to play the senior event up there, played nine holes and packed it up and flew back home. Immediately flew two days later to Munich, Germany, where I have a doctor that I trust a lot and had two weeks of treatment, no golf. Then I played a senior event in Germany where I started off fairly good in terms of pain, but I had to play three pro ams before and then the tournament, and it gradually got worse.
Then I took three more days off, played the BMW, European Tour event, then the same thing. It started off reasonable but then it got worse. That was bad.
Then I had another two weeks off of treatment, no golf, went to the British Open, and that was the first time I could play a whole week without getting worse. And then I played the Senior British Open on top of that, so the last two weeks I didn’t get worse, I stayed pretty stable. I didn’t get any better but I certainly didn’t get worse, so that’s what gives me hope that we’re doing the right thing.
PETE KOWALSKI: Thank you very much for your visit, and good luck this week.
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