2016 BOEING CLASSIC CHAMPION BERNHARD LANGER + 5 TO WATCH
Bernhard Langer, the defending champion, is 59 and seemingly playing as well as ever. The German, known throughout his career for his attention to detail and methodical precision, will likely start the tournament a hot favorite. And, if he wins a third Boeing Classic, he’ll inch a little closer to Hale Irwin’s record 45 Champions Tour victories. We spent 20 minutes on the phone with him recently – just enough time to ask how he feels about coming to Seattle, and how on earth he still manages to keep shooting those low numbers You’ve played the Boeing Classic every year since 2009. What do you especially enjoy about coming to the event? Oh, I love everything about it - the city, the course, the spectators, the volunteers, the scenery. I always look forward to the Boeing Classic, and just seem to always be in a good mood that week. Winning the U.S. Senior Open up here (at Sahalee CC in 2010) helps too. I just love the area. Are you able to visit Seattle and the surrounding area much? Most of the time I’m in Snoqualmie of course, but we’ve (Bernhard and wife Vikki) been out on Elliot Bay, and have walked a lot in the city. We’ve been to see Snoqualmie Falls, and have also spent some time hiking in the mountains. It’s a very beautiful place, and we just always enjoy our time here.
In eight appearances, you have five top-ten finishes and two wins. You obviously do well at a lot of different courses, but you seem especially well-suited to TPC Snoqualmie Ridge. You’re right, I’ve had success at a lot of different types of courses, so I’m not sure what it is about Snoqualmie Ridge specifically. I think if you like a course and enjoy playing it, you’re going to do better than if you don’t really like it. I also enjoy putting on fast greens and Snoqualmie’s are always in superb condition. They roll very smooth, and can be pretty fast. But I think it’s a course everyone enjoys. How could you not like Snoqualmie Ridge? What are some of your favorite holes?
There really isn’t a bad one. I think my favorite is the 18th. I love when you get up to the green, look back, and see the mountains. But there are many others. The 14th is obviously an exciting hole, and the 17th is a very pretty par 3. But so is the 9th - that’s a great hole for spectators. On Sunday last year, you shot 30 on the back nine to get in the playoff after an indifferent opening nine. How did you turn it around? Over the first seven or eight holes I was pushing everything right. I knew what I was doing wrong. I was hanging back with my upper body too much, and not releasing the clubhead correctly. On the 10th tee I told my caddie what I was doing and how I was going to put it right, and I did. I began covering the ball much better, and every iron shot flew like a laser toward the target.
It was one of those stretch of holes where everything just felt right. You have 32 Champions Tour wins now. Are you going to keep going until you beat Hale Irwin’s 45? Haha, I don’t know. That really isn’t a conscious target. I might not last that long. The guys turning 50 and coming out on the Champions Tour seem so young, and they can still hit it a long way. I’m not getting any younger, or longer. How do you do it? How do you maintain this level of performance in your late 50s? I get asked that question a lot, so I’ve had some practice answering it. I think it’s a combination of several things. I was blessed with a talent which is a big part of it obviously, but equally important I think is the strong desire to keep going. I enjoy playing and winning, and obviously want to win as many tournaments as I can. I enjoy working hard. It’s important to have a great coach (Langer spent decades with fellow German Willie Hoffman, and also recently started working with Eric Kaplan from Miami). I’ve also had great caddies (Pete Coleman carried Langer’s bag for 22 years before calling it a day in 2003, and Terry Holt has been there through much of Langer’s senior career). Having a stable family life, and great friends is important too certainly. It’s just been a phenomenal ride. You turn 60 on the Sunday of this year’s tournament. How special would it be to win on your 60th birthday?
What can I say, that would be totally awesome, especially as one or two special friends will be in the gallery. But really, just being in contention on the back nine will be exciting. Whatever happens though, it will be a special day.