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April 9, 2015

Ernie Els


ERNIE ELS:テつ Haven't been in here for a while (laughter).
MODERATOR:テつ Great place to be.テつ Ernie Els, he finished the first rounds with a 67, 5‑under par that included five birdies and an eagle.テつ This is his 21st Masters appearance.テつ His best Masters finish is tied for second in 2000 and 2004.
He had three Top‑10 finishes on the PGA TOUR in 2014, including a tie for seventh at the PGA Championship and fourth at the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship.
Mr.Els won the 2012 British Open in a come‑from‑behind, historic fashion.テつ He shot a back nine, 4‑under 32 to erase a six‑shot deficit at the start of the final round.テつ It was his second British Open win, 2002, and his fourth major title, which he won the 1994 and 1997 U.S. Open titles.テつ He has 19 PGA TOUR victories and 47 international victories.テつ He was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.テつ We welcome Mr.Els after a great round today.
Let's open it up to some questions unless you'd like to make a few comments about your round before.
ERNIE ELS:テつ I'll wait for questions, thank you.

Q.テつ You've been obviously struggling for a bit.テつ What clicked in today for you?
ERNIE ELS:テつ Yeah, I just felt comfortable.テつ I felt at ease for some reason.テつ I felt patient.テつ I've been working on some different shots on my driver.テつ I'm getting a little on now, so I've been using‑‑ we have always been using a very heavy shaft, but I went with a lighter shaft.テつ Been trying that for the last couple of months, and I think I've finally obviously found something nice, because I drove it nicely yesterday in practice and started feeling some good momentum.
But, as you say, there's been no sign of any form (chuckling).テつ So it's just been very special.
The one positive has been recently I've been making a lot of birdies.テつ At Bay Hill, I made 21 birdies; and Houston I made 20 birdies.テつ So I was trying to, you know, drag something positive out of those weeks.テつ So that means that when I'm on, I'm doing something well.テつ But I've had the odd bad hole here and there.テつ So I've been trying to stay patient today and felt very comfortable on the greens.

Q.テつ You had five years in a row here where you didn't finish worse than sixth, climaxing in 2004, not in the Top‑10 since.テつ Was there a hangover from the way you lost to Phil?
ERNIE ELS:テつ Definitely, must be.テつ Definitely.テつ I was trying to wipe it under the carpet that I wanted this one so badly for so many years; definitely, there was something going on.テつ Kind of, you get fed up with yourself.テつ Never with Augusta, you know, but yourself with the mistakes that you make.テつ I kind of doubt‑‑ not doubted, but I felt that I left shots out there in that span, that five‑, six‑year span.テつ So a little frustration set in there, yeah.

Q.テつ I'm from Palm Beach and I know you've been doing a lot of work there to get the Center for Autism open this summer.テつ Has it been a distraction or has it been difficult?
ERNIE ELS:テつ Not anymore.テつ I mean, obviously when you start up something like that, it takes a bit of your time.テつ But my wife is the real leader in that department.テつ She's been unbelievable.テつ We've got a great team behind us now, so things are moving very smoothly in that direction.
But you know, to set up something like that obviously takes a bit of time and effort.テつ But it's all good now.

Q.テつ I remember talking to you in 2010 when you came in here after a couple of wins, and you were very frustrated about this place and this course and your performance in recent years here.テつ What has changed maybe since then, and what kind of terms have you come to with playing this course?
ERNIE ELS:テつ You know, for one thing, for so many years there, I didn't play the Par 3, and the last couple years, I started playing the Par 3 again.
Liezl, my wife, Samantha, my daughter, and Ben, they came up for a couple of days.テつ There's definitely a different kind of mind‑set in the whole family coming up here.テつ It's more of an enjoyment.
We kind of are running out of time a little bit here, so we are really trying to enjoy what we've got left out here.テつ You know, it's been 21 years coming to Augusta, it's been unbelievable, but nothing lasts forever.テつ Samantha had a great time at the Par 3, and I just have a different appreciation I think for the place.
I was maybe in a very different place back in 2010.テつ I think there was a lot of stuff bothering me inside.

Q.テつ One clear story line at the top of the board was with you and Jordan up there.テつ He's 21 years old and you've played in 21 Masters.テつ Did the whole young/old thing strike you as you were going along?
ERNIE ELS:テつ It will probably now, yeah, from now on (laughter).テつ That's quite a nice story line.
I remember vividly my first Masters, '94, like I played it yesterday.テつ I played with Ben Crenshaw.テつ In the third round, I shot‑‑ no, second round.テつ They used to redraw after each round; shot 66 in the second round with Ben and he was so gracious, so nice, and said, "You know, you're going to win this tournament (laughing) if you keep putting like that."
So playing with him and putting the greens and watching him putt that day, I just had the ball ‑‑ I finished Top‑10, I finished 8th, and really thought it was on.テつ But it didn't quite happen.
Jordan is 21, and what a player.テつ You just cannot see this kid not win many, many majors.テつ I think he is by far the most balanced kid I've seen.テつ I mean, there are some really great kids out there, Rickie Fowler‑‑ I'm blank now with the names but there are some really great kids out there.
Jordan, you know, he's got that little tenacity to him and he's really got a fighting spirit, and he's the nicest kid in the world.テつ So I just love playing with him.テつ I played with him last week and we had a ball.テつ And I met his sister last week, met his parents.テつ They have a link to autism, too.テつ He's a special kid.

Q.テつ You played in the Match Play with him, I think it was a year ago at Dove Mountain.テつ There was a lot of talk about Jordan's emotions getting the best of him.テつ What have you seen from him in the year and a half since?
ERNIE ELS:テつ I think he's so smart.テつ I think he really learnt a lesson there.テつ He got it.テつ I think he saw his behavior there, and you know, he saw that that way is not benefitting him, and you know, he's smart enough that he can get a handle on that and that's what he did.
You know, I haven't seen that.テつ Obviously this game will drive you crazy; ask me.テつ You guys have been around me for many years and you've seen me lose it out there.テつ Nobody is perfect.テつ But he learned from that, and as I say, he's a tough kid.テつ He's got that tenacity.テつ He wants to get the most out of himself, and I think he learned a lot from that experience.

Q.テつ Did you say anything to him?

Q.テつ Or did he talk to you or ask you?
ERNIE ELS:テつ No, I know he knew.テつ Didn't have to say anything.テつ He was great.

Q.テつ The first hole, if you don't get up‑and‑down out of the trees, basically, what does this round look like?
ERNIE ELS:テつ I would like to say I would have probably been near par still.テつ It definitely freed me up to make that 6‑footer for par, because I had a 6‑footer on the next for birdie, which I made.テつ And then I made the 10‑footer on 3.テつ I made a good save on 4.
So I made a lot of putts.テつ Who knows, Alex.テつ But as I say, I had positive feelings about the round because my practice was good.テつ But the way my form has been, I don't think it would have been much better than par probably.

Q.テつ You've kind of beaten the odds and won one major in your 40s.テつ What would it mean to win a second?
ERNIE ELS:テつ Well, that's the plan (laughter).テつ So we'll see what happens.
I think it's well documented that I still feel like I get something out of it.テつ But, you know, these guys are good.テつ I've got a lot of talent, but you've got to get the most out of it now, we're running out of time.テつ But I'll be up for it.

Q.テつ Your second shot on 13, did you have to thread the needle a little bit?
ERNIE ELS:テつ No, I was quite open.テつ But I was trying it hit a cut, you know, the green slopes left‑to‑right, and it came out a bit right and it didn't cut.テつ So that was kind of lucky, because definitely started off at least five yards further right.テつ But it kept its line.

Q.テつ And what did you hit on your second shot on 15?テつ It looked like it was fairly‑‑
ERNIE ELS:テつ Yeah, I hit 6‑iron there.テつ I had a good one there.テつ I had 204 front, 212 to the hole and downwind and downhill.

Q.テつ What was the iron on 13?
ERNIE ELS:テつ It was Adam's 3‑iron (laughter).テつ You can play that one.テつ Easy to play.

Q.テつ Is it a stretch to say that not getting to play here in 2012 galvanized you in some way leading into that summer?
ERNIE ELS:テつ No.テつ I mean, to be honest with you, no.テつ I was hoping for an invite‑‑ I mean, obviously.テつ It was fine.テつ It was probably actually good to watch it on television again like I did when I was a kid and kind of learn a bit more.テつ I watched a lot of golf and saw a lot of putts, you know, and I think I learned a lot from that week watching it on television.
I really didn't feel any bitterness towards the tournament or anybody.テつ I was where I was; I was outside the Top‑50.

Q.テつ So it wasn't too painful to watch?テつ Some guys say it's too painful if they don't make it.
ERNIE ELS:テつ I was in a much better place.テつ I was working with Sherylle on my putting and I could see good things happening.テつ I wasn't in a dead‑pro kind of mood.テつ I was in kind of a good frame.テつ I knew good things were coming.テつ Maybe the first couple of days hurt a bit (laughs).

Q.テつ You mentioned when you played with Crenshaw and he said you'll win this thing for sure if you keep putting the way that you did today.テつ If you were to sum up sort of your career here, has that been the one thing that's held you back, putting?
ERNIE ELS:テつ I think in those years when I contended, obviously I missed some putts, especially in 2000 coming in, I was very upset.テつ I shot 68 that last day, but I left quite a few out there, especially coming in.テつ I was playing with Loren Roberts.テつ I thought it was a good omen.テつ I didn't quite make the putts.
2004 was just a fantastic day.テつ I was really hoping for a playoff, and I was upset about that.テつ But I was happy for Phil in the same way, but I was really upset after that.
I think my ball‑striking a lot of times, I was always afraid of the left shot, and that's always been my bad shot.テつ And if I look back, the left shot killed me more than the putting on this course.
MODERATOR:テつ Thank you.

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