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May 25, 2017

Ernie Els

Surrey, England

Q. How do you feel about your play today?
ERNIE ELS: I actually feel really good about it. I really struck the ball properly. Almost like back in the day. Felt really nice. Putter felt good. Felt okay. I mean, I wish I could have scored a little bit. Felt like I played a little better than my score, but felt good.

Q. You could have been a couple of shots better anyway. Was a two-shot penalty on 12. Can you talk us through what happened?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I called it on myself. I hit my second shot just left up against the edge of the bunker, and I thought my ball plugged, and so I told the guys, hey, listen, I'm going to take this plug, and I replaced it.

And obviously I chipped it in. But I just felt that the way the ball was lying, I could have not put it back in the exact same spot because the ball came out, I mean, just perfectly. It was lying a little bit more down, so I didn't feel good about that.

Q. There is good karma in golf. You were rewarded with this lovely chip shot?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, exactly. There you go. This ball came out just beautifully and made it. Should have been a 3 but it's a 5 (laughs).

Q. How proud are you of the work you've done and the collaboration from your team and your contribution to get the course to where it is right now?
ERNIE ELS: Thank you very much. It's been a while. First and foremost, you have to thank the greens staff. Kenny and his team, what an unbelievable job they have done. The greens are absolutely as pure as you can find. Next week we'll be playing the Memorial and I think these greens are running just as good or better than the Memorial, or Augusta for that matter.

We listened to some of the players comments through the years since we started first changing five years ago, and I think I feel we've got it right this time.

Q. Since we've got you here, one of the big changes on the golf courses, what you've done on 8?
ERNIE ELS: The county line, that little ridge that goes through there, we actually planted some more grass there to really make that prominent. Make that a strategy on the hole, so you want to drive it short of that county line or just past it. The green was really way up in the air.

For us, you know, maybe not that big of a concern but for the club player, the guy that plays here as a member that must have been a nightmare. We lowered the green down to the bulkheads down here, took all the bunkers that were on the right side. So if you miss a ball to the right, you can still putt it or chip-and-run at the same time.

Q. 1-under par today, how did you feel about your round?
ERNIE ELS: I feel good. I really feel like I swung the club really well. Struck the ball very well and putted okay. So everything was kind of there. Always a little bit nervy the first round. If you don't get it going, you can make some early bogeys very quickly.

Q. You had a penalty on the 12th hole. Can you tell us what happened?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, my second shot on the par 5, I pulled it a bit left and hit it into the bank of the bunker. I thought it was plugged, so I asked my guys if I could check it and they said yeah. I put it back and I hit my chip shot, and I just felt uncomfortable by the way the ball came out.

The ball came out way too good. So I felt I didn't quite probably put it exactly where I should have. JP and the guys explained to me that under the rules, you try and put it back the way you think it should be, but I still felt uncomfortable with it, so we took a two-shot penalty.

Q. You chipped in and ended up with a par, should have been a 3.
ERNIE ELS: One of those things. The game of golf, it is what it is. I know deep down, the ball wasn't quite where it should be, and you know, I wouldn't be able to live with myself. So be it; it's a 5 and we move on.

Q. Playing your first tournament around here after the revamp over the last nine months, I'm sure it's been quite an emotional day for you. What did you make of what you saw out there and how the setting was?
ERNIE ELS: Well, we had absolutely the perfect weather. I mean, this is like Florida, it's so warm. Kenny and his team, the greens staff, they have done an unbelievable job. I mean, these greens are just fantastic.

With the changes we've made, we've softened some holes. The eighth hole for you guys, as you know. There was just a couple of things we were uncomfortable with the course and we kind of corrected that. It's still a hell of a challenge. You still have to play really good golf but I think it's fair.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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