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October 28, 2015

Ernie Els

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

THE MODERATOR: We would like to welcome Ernie Els. World Golf Hall of Fame member to the interview room. Ernie, you have 47 international wins, including 19 PGA TOUR wins. This is your third start at the CIMB Classic. Best finish coming in 2010 with an T-5 finish. Talk about being here in 2015, your thoughts about the week, and maybe kind of here this part of the year and what's going on with your golf game.

ERNIE ELS: Okay. Well, it's the new start of a season, so quite excited about that. I've been in the region now for quite a few weeks and I've played in Macau and last week we did some work around the region, golf course design and so forth. And I traveled through China a little bit and so on. And got here on Monday and, actually, I haven't hit too many golf balls, so I might get out there and hit a couple of shots and play hopefully 18 holes in the pro-am. Hopefully, there's not too many storms around.

But loving coming here. CIMB is a great sponsor and they have been obviously supporting this event for quite some time now and to play for so much money at this start of the year is just incredible. So we got to thank the sponsor for that. And the venue is great, too. Kuala Lumpur Country Club is a great venue and I know the fairways are going to be narrow, I remember that from last time. So looking forward to the challenge.

THE MODERATOR: You've been a long time supporter of golf in Asia. Talk about the importance of growing the game in Asia and here in southeast Asia and Malaysia.

ERNIE ELS: Well, I think it's a very important market. I'm an ambassador for the Asian Tour and I love doing that. I've been playing here for a long time as you say and to see where the players have come from, some of the players back in the day, they have come a long way now. You've got guys making Presidents Cups now from the Asian Tour, you see guys playing Major Championships, basically they are covering the globe as players.

So, for the U.S. PGA TOUR to come here and give those players a chance to play against some of the best players in the world is only going to advance them even further.

So, wonderful for the TOUR.

THE MODERATOR: Talk about the state of your own game as you come into this week. You said you haven't been hitting a lot of balls, but I'm sure you have some sense of where your game stands.

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, no, I haven't had a great year, but that's kind of in the past. We're starting a new year and I'll be around for four rounds this week, whatever comes.

So I want to work on my game, see where I can go. I'm quite excited about it. I was driving the ball really well when I played in Macau, I just got to get the putter to get the ball in the hole. So looking forward to the week.

THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions.

Q. Welcome back.
ERNIE ELS: Thank you.

Q. Have you done so much in Asia, what is it about Asia that appeals to you personally and from a golfing perspective?
ERNIE ELS: Well, thanks. Obviously, starting out here I was excited to come and play. I remember playing in 1993 at the Singapore Island Golf Club when we played the Johnnie Walker there. I remember playing with Nick Faldo. I think he was No. 1 in the world then. And Greg Norman came and I remember Freddie Couples came and quite a few high ranked players came.

And I kind of followed the example a little bit and we just kept renewing contracts out here. Either with Johnnie Walker or with some other events, and you turn the page and it's been 20 years.

So it's just been a kind of a constant thing with me playing in certain events and then the golf course design business came around and so we kind of expanded in business over here. But what appeals to me is just, you know, it's different. We play out here and seeing the guys grow as golfers is just amazing to have seen the growth in this region.

So, I'm just continuing that as long as I can, because I love coming out here and we have got a bit more business here, too.

Q. You spoke about watching the Asian Tour players becoming members of the Presidents Cup and stuff like that. Can you just talk about the play of Lahiri and all he's done and when you started playing with him when he was up and coming and what he's done with his career. Has it been a surprise at all?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, no, a number of you guys asked me a number of years ago in Thailand and he was kind of coming up, I guess he was playing quite a few good golf tournaments and people asked me about him and I didn't know much about him then and then I played with him that week I think in the final round or something, and I was amazed at how far he could hit the ball and how rounded his game was already. He didn't have -- it didn't seem like he had any weaknesses.

So I kind of encouraged him to say, hey, listen, I think you got a lot of talent, you got to get going. So it's only been three years now and he definitely did that. He got into the Presidents Cup and he almost won in Macau the other week and just doing amazing things. So, great to see.

And there's so many of them out there. There's quite a few great swings, you won't know their names right now, but you're going to know later, because they have got great swings and they have got the drive.

Q. This is the third year that FedExCup points are available here at the CIMB Classic. How does that shape in your mind the tournament, change the tournament and maybe attract other people to get some points early in the season?
ERNIE ELS: Well, it's a pleasure to be here. For such a big purse, to play here and then obviously to also play for FedExCup points is very important for the U.S. PGA TOUR guys. A lot of the guys are going on to the HSBC next week, so two really big weeks for the guys.

So I think that from a couple years ago when it was really tough to get some of the guys out, you know, now with all the points available and the money available, you just can't say no to these events. So, some of the U.S. players, they love coming out here because they are really starting to experience new cultures like we did back in the day. So, I think all in all it's a very, very exciting idea and I think it's great for the game.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you for your time, Ernie.

Q. Do you think the new format with the Presidents Cup helped make it more exciting and the second question will be, do you foresee yourself as being a future captain for the Internationals?
ERNIE ELS: Well, first of all, I think, yeah, I think the points system made a big difference. The Internationals still had a very poor start to the Presidents Cup. They were 4-1-down after the first day. But with less points, it still made it very exciting at the end there. Obviously they played a lot better sessions after that and kind of got their feet under themselves and they just came up short there, but obviously it was a lot more exciting. So, I think it's a no-brainer that it's much better.

The second part, absolutely, I would love to do it. I'm not sure what the players think, it's up to the players, if they still want to Pricey for the next one, it's fine. I would love to make another one as a player. But in the future I would love to be a captain, obviously. It means a lot to me, I put a lot of energy into that tournament through the years, so I would love to do that some time.

THE MODERATOR: All right. Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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