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AT&T PEBBLE BEACH NATIONAL PRO-AM


February 11, 2015


Ernie Els


PEBBLE BEACH, CALIFORNIA

THE MODERATOR:テつ We'll go ahead and get started with Ernie Els.テつ Thank you for joining us at the 2015 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro‑Am making your second start in the event and first since 1996, when I guess it was postponed later in the year.テつ So, just a few comments on the decision to come back and play this week.
ERNIE ELS:テつ I missed it.
(Laughter.)
I can't even remember that far back.テつ I know it was ‑‑ it rained back then.テつ I thought it was 1998 but I guess you're right, '96.

Q.テつ '98?
ERNIE ELS:テつ It was '98.テつ But we played two rounds and it was as you said, washed out.テつ They gave us each five grand and we left.テつ Didn't quite cover my hotel bill.
(Laughter.)
But we left and haven't returned since until now.テつ So I'm pleased to be back and obviously, the weather looks like it's going to be good, touch wood.
So, yeah, I'm playing with a good friend of mine, Johann Rupert.テつ He's the man in South Africa with golf.テつ He's been sponsoring events for a very long time.テつ I've been friends with him for 25 years, so we decided to play.
We had a long evening in South Africa in December, and we decided we'll try and get into the field.テつ So they gave us a spot and here we are.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Okay.テつ Questions?

Q.テつ Why didn't you play all these years?テつ Something about the format or weather?
ERNIE ELS:テつ Oh, no, just dates.テつ I started going to the Middle East and I just kept going there.テつ I got some good work done there.テつ We did a golf course there, and I represented golf in Dubai for quite a few years and played many, many days at Classics and Swings, so that was the only reason.
But I'm very pleased that the weather is going to be good.テつ It does play a part.

Q.テつ You've only been here for a few days and obviously a couple only in '96, but the difference between the AT&T and your two trips in June in 2000 and 2010.テつ The whole vibe, the course, everything.
ERNIE ELS:テつ Obviously it's different.テつ I mean the vibe is a little different.テつ It's kind of the locals coming to watch golf.テつ The U.S. Open, obviously, the whole country comes out.テつ Weather is different.テつ Not this week.テつ I mean I'm in short sleeves today.
But normally in the summer you get the fog, you get pretty good heat and that lifts the moisture out of the ocean.
But the course is a little bit softer, it's firming up.テつ I haven't played Spyglass in 30 years.テつ I was here in 1984.テつ You're laughing.テつ '84 I was here preparing for a junior event with my dad.テつ We came up here, he always wanted to come see Pebble Beach and we played Spyglass in '84.テつ That was just before we went to the Junior World.テつ So.

Q.テつ For preparation?
ERNIE ELS:テつ I played nine holes now, so I don't remember a thing.テつ So, it's kind of new.テつ I played Monterey yesterday, which is a great course.テつ So it's a nice vibe.テつ I like it.テつ It's kind of relaxed.

Q.テつ Two things: '98 was the year they came back and played.テつ They played two rounds and then after Sahalee came back and played the third round?
ERNIE ELS:テつ Okay.テつ So it was '96.

Q.テつ Did you play that third round?
ERNIE ELS:テつ No, no, I played the one where we played two rounds and it was cancelled.

Q.テつ Since you won the U.S. Open, which obviously, tremendous highlight, what has your game been?テつ Do you think it's still there at your age and of course, we asked Mickelson the same thing.
ERNIE ELS:テつ No, I'm definitely there this year.テつ I'm feeling excited about my game.テつ I feel my putting is pretty good and touch wood, I'm healthy.テつ My back's good, my body feels good, the brain is a lot fresher.
I'm really excited about my game.テつ I'm not saying I'm going to go out there and start winning any time soon, but I feel I'm better prepared this year than I have been.テつ I feel a lot more confident about my game, and my equipment, and all of that stuff is really good now.テつ So I feel like I'm ready to play good golf this year.テつ So, whether I can keep it up there with the young boys, we'll see.テつ We will see.

Q.テつ What about the specific memories of Pebble.テつ I remember talking to you not long after the 2010 open and you admitted there was a lot of scar tissue.テつ Are you far enough removed now?
ERNIE ELS:テつ No, that still hurts.テつ When I look back at that tournament, I mean I had‑‑ I got to the lead around the turn, and then I think I doubled 10 or something.テつ But I missed just about every putt I could on the back nine.テつ I only finished like two, maybe three out of the lead.テつ I really felt like I let one go there.
That was kind of when my‑‑ I really didn't feel good after that one.テつ My game kind of suffered after that.テつ I really lost my putting after that into 2011.テつ I went to the belly in 2012.テつ Won the Open championship, but I never really regained really great form.
So, it's nice to be back and just to play Pebble and all these great courses, obviously is a treat.テつ But in 2010, I really felt I let one go there.

Q.テつ Two things for you.テつ What are you doing going forward now?
ERNIE ELS:テつ Event wise?テつ I'm playing the next couple.テつ Just entered into the Honda.テつ I wasn't going to play it.テつ I'm going to play Honda.
And I'll play next week.テつ So, getting geared up.テつ Setting up.テつ And then I think I'm ‑‑ I told Mr.Palmer I'll play his event.テつ So I'll play Bay Hill.テつ Then I'll probably play Houston to know before the Masters.

Q.テつ Since we haven't seen you all year and since you've‑‑ you know this guy longer than anyone else on TOUR, what do you make of what's going on with Tiger?テつ Harrington said a couple weeks ago something you never thought you would hear a golf professional say, I wish Tiger would play better.テつ It's interesting, isn't it?
ERNIE ELS:テつ Well, I mean he kicked my ass for 15 years and now, he's obviously in a different place now.テつ But in my generation he was, as you know, he was the man, he was the player, just the most unbelievable player I've ever seen.
I never, obviously, played in Jack Nicklaus's era, when he was at his best.テつ But in our era, he was the man, obviously, and it is what it is.テつ I mean I'm not sure what's going on, but he's had his health issues and everything else.テつ So he's going through a tough time.
So, obviously the game of golf, we want him to play great.テつ He's been part and parcel of why we're playing for all this money.テつ I remember back in '94, this was before he came out, '94, I won the U.S. Open and I made $360,000.テつ Now I'm lying.テつ Yeah, I think it was 360, give and take.

Q.テつ Third place money today?
ERNIE ELS:テつ 360.テつ And then now we are playing for six million a week.テつ You know what I mean?
So, he brought a lot of money into our pockets.テつ So we got to thank him for that.テつ But obviously we would like to see him play well.テつ He's still young.テつ He's not 40 yet or 45 yet.

Q.テつ You touched on this a minute ago, in terms of playing, but ‑‑ and your expectations, I don't know how different they are than five or 10 years ago, but what's it like to have‑‑ to be at your place in the game.テつ Look behind you, and not only see Rory, but see about 15 other kids that don't look much different from him?
ERNIE ELS:テつ Well, are you talking about generally us older guys?テつ I mean is it a group of us?

Q.テつ Yeah, you're the one sitting here, so.
ERNIE ELS:テつ Yeah, you know, to be honest, it's going to be a boring answer, but I can only take care of what I can.テつ I feel my level of play is coming back.テつ I feel excited about certain things in my game.テつ I feel really more comfortable on the greens and so that means I'm not going to back off going into the final day.テつ I want to be up there.
So that's a different mindset that I've had maybe for a year or.テつ So I played a lot of tournaments last year just to try and get over that kind of fear on the greens.テつ So, I feel a lot better about that, so I feel I'm ready to go.
Whether I'm good enough, I don't know, I haven't been there for over a year, you know what I mean?テつ I've played kind of decent golf.テつ I had a good finish at the PGA at Valhalla where I made a bit of a run here and there.
But I want to play that kind of golf and see how I compare with Rory and these youngsters.テつ I think I'll be okay.テつ To play at that level consistently, let's see.テつ But I truly still want to give it a go.

Q.テつ Is it possible that when you first came out it might have been motivated by Norman and Faldo and then Tiger, that someone 20 years younger could be the one motivating you now?テつ Does it happen that way?
ERNIE ELS:テつ You know, I would like to get there and see what Rory's like.テつ He's obviously dominating now.
I think Ricky and Jordan‑‑ I played with these guys, I played with Ricky down in Florida socially, so forth, so, yeah, I would like to think my best is still good enough.
Otherwise, I can go do something else.テつ But I'm ready to go, and I want to see if I can get in contention, especially into those Majors and see maybe if we can squeeze something out still.

Q.テつ Nobody wins a Major without putting well.テつ You won two opens and two U.S. Opens.テつ What happens‑‑ I remember when you came to Lytham, all of a sudden it all came back.テつ What happens, it would seem, and a lot of us play golf, obviously, that would be the simplest stroke of all the shots you hit, why does putting come and go?テつ Is it in your head?
ERNIE ELS:テつ Yeah.

Q.テつ You stand up there and don't believe you can make it or you do believe you can make it?
ERNIE ELS:テつ There's some funny things that happen.テつ You know, you played the game long enough, Art.テつ I think when you play this game long enough, you're going to have certain things happen to you.
I remember back in the day when I was laughing at the guys using the belly putter, when I was in my 20s.テつ I remember my good friend, Trevor Immelman, won a tournament in Germany, back in 2001 with a belly and I was like, man, what are you doing?テつ Why are you using that?
And 15, 16 years later or whatever it was, I'm‑‑ I went to the belly, because I couldn't make a decent stroke.
So it's a mental deal, more than anything.テつ Because now I've gone back and watched tape of myself in the '90s and so forth, when I was making everything and even up to 2004.テつ Even up to 2010, I would say I was.
But something happens in your mind.テつ Now, I don't know if it's middle age stuff, what it is, in the air, food, maybe it's women.テつ I don't know.テつ Maybe it's something.テつ I don't know.テつ Something goes.テつ And you kind of get lost for awhile.テつ It happened to me.テつ I mean a lot of guys end up retiring.テつ Look at the history in the game.

Q.テつ When were you 12 years old did you just walk up and hit the ball without thinking?
ERNIE ELS:テつ Yeah, I did it for most of my career.テつ It's part and parcel of what we do.テつ It's a tough game.テつ It's a tough game, it's mentally, it's physically, it's a tough sport we play.テつ After awhile I think your mind just kind of flutters a little bit.

Q.テつ The situation with Tiger back when you were younger, was it fear, was it intimidation, what was it?
ERNIE ELS:テつ No, I wouldn't say either of those two.テつ It was a little bit of those two, but it wasn't an overwhelming factor.テつ It was just, the fact was he was so fricking good.
In '99 we went head to head at Disney event, '98 we went head to head in many events.テつ I think I got the better of him there at Bay Hill and so on.テつ I did get the better of him but I could see, just this hungry guy and with all the talent.
The way he swung back then, you know, I remember playing here in 2000 on the final day and me and Ricky, we were like, this guys's got to be nervous.テつ He's trying to win I don't know how many Majors back then.テつ And I thought, you know, if we get off to a good start, we can maybe get on him.
Well, on the second hole he hit a driver, this perfect little cut driver 330.テつ And then he hit a 7‑iron on the green and I think he made the putt.テつ And that was the end of that.
That was just ‑ the way he hit the ball was, I couldn't imagine anybody hitting it better.テつ He had a slight fade when he needed it.テつ His control of his irons was just incredible.テつ He made almost every putt.テつ He's up‑and‑downing it.テつ It was just something freakish.
But in 1999 I played him and I lost by one shot.テつ I remember that.テつ I think I shot 66, 66 over the weekend and lost by a shot.テつ I think we played the third or the last day together and on this one par‑5, I hit a really good tee shot and he hit one good and I was 50, 60 yards behind him.テつ And I was like, I can't, I can't do that.テつ And if he kept that accuracy up with that length, you know, I knew I was in trouble.
So, I still tried my backside off, but he was just a little bit better than I.テつ So, and I said it and I got crucified for it, but it was just, you know, that was the way it was.

Q.テつ The other part of that is, when you're down I don't know if it's a slump or whatever, when you're down, your game is down, how hard is it for you to dig yourself back out?
ERNIE ELS:テつ It gets harder and harder.テつ I mean, to keep making a come back, keep coming back, keep coming back, it gets harder.テつ As you get older, it gets harder.テつ Because the longer you stay away, the harder it is to get back to your level.テつ Because you got to get better to have better results, because the kids are getting better.テつ There's more of them.テつ So it's tough.
I've been in the hole a couple of times and I've been digging myself out of it a couple of times now and it's a lot of work and it takes a lot of time.テつ It took me all year last year to get comfortable on the greens.テつ So, it takes awhile.

Q.テつ Have you ever come close to saying I don't feel like doing this?
ERNIE ELS:テつ Yeah.

Q.テつ Not playing, but trying?
ERNIE ELS:テつ Yeah.テつ Yeah.テつ Yeah.テつ I had discussions with Liezl quite a few times and with other people, so yeah.
It's a great game, it's a great leveler.テつ Let me tell you there's no leveler like this game.テつ So you got to have respect for it.テつ Blink of an eye, you got things going on and to get rid of it takes work and takes time.
THE MODERATOR:テつ All right, thank you.テつ We appreciate your time.テつ Thank you.
ERNIE ELS:テつ Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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