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May 24, 2005

Ernie Els


GORDON SIMPSON: Ernie, welcome to the PGA Championship, now the BMW Championship, and maybe first of all, you might tell us your thoughts on the event this year?

ERNIE ELS: This has always been a great championship. I think if you look through the years, you know, the who's who of European golf that's played here, that's won here. There might be a new sponsorship but, you know, I think the field is as strong as it's ever been. Vijay is not here unfortunately, but the best of Europe are here. It's a great venue, a great golf course. Next to the Open Championship, this is the best tournament we have on the European Tour. So it should be a great championship again and a great week.

GORDON SIMPSON: You've had one hand on it before but never been able to grasp it with both hands, I presume that's the goal this year.

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, maybe you as say, with the new sponsor, maybe I can win this tournament. I've been close here, I've had some good tournaments here, and the PGA has kind of eluded me but maybe it will be this year.

I played this morning, Chris Kennedy has got the golf course in great shape. I think it's the best I've ever seen it for the PGA. It's obviously a little early in the year for some of the golf courses, but he's done wonders this week. It's in really good shape.

GORDON SIMPSON: We'll open up to some questions.

Q. If one forgets about the Masters, obviously we can't do that, but Masters aside, this year has been pretty good; how do you value your form this year?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, it's been a good year. Unfortunately I didn't play well there, and as you say, it's probably the only tournament so far. Just wasn't on my game there, but anyways, I've been playing well recently, and I'm enjoying the way I'm playing again. I'm excited about playing golf again and working on my game, and I'm looking forward to the future.

Q. Why is your record better on European Tour in recent times, as opposed to the PGA TOUR; are you more comfortable playing on the European Tour?

ERNIE ELS: Well, I can't say that. I mean, obviously I enjoy playing over here. You say European Tour; so to speak, yes, but I've played my favorite events again. I played Dubai; I played Qatar; I went to China; I enjoy the golf courses there. It seems like the weather has been better on the European Tour, you know, and I like warm weather. The places where the European Tour has gone, we've had some good weather and I think the golf courses have probably suited me.

I started the year off well on the PGA TOUR, and then I didn't do as good in Florida. I finished I think I finished in the top 20 maybe, Top 25 there, and obviously played the Masters poorly. Then last week, two weeks ago in Dallas, I played better.

I don't know, I think if you look back on my record, on the Money List on the European Tour, I've made a lot of money on World Championship events sometimes and in the majors and that's why I've done so well over here.

I think on both Tours, I've played I've got good schedules, and I like the tournaments I play. I play pretty good on both sides of the Atlantic.

Q. Luke Donald said that he's looking forward to staying at his own house this week, does that make a huge difference, and does it make a big difference if you are able to go to your own place at night?

ERNIE ELS: Oh, it makes a huge difference. I mean, 99% of my tournaments I play are away from home. I've got Samantha going to school now, so she can't travel as much as she used to, so I'm on the road on my own a lot now. Believe me, it's not a pleasure. Anybody that says that it's all glamorous and everything, I mean, it is not a bad life, but it's very difficult being away from home. So sleeping in your own bed with family, it's just a blessing. It's great.

Q. Combining that with what you said earlier, that might have given the impression that you were not enjoying your golf earlier this season or this year. Do you think you got to a stage where you were travel fatigued or where the game was becoming a bit of a grind; is that fair?

ERNIE ELS: It's been one tournament. I don't play good in one tournament, that's the Masters. You know, you can look at it whatever way you want. My schedule has been the same for ten, 11 years, and there's going to be arguments as long as I probably play this game that I've traveled too much. You guys can make up your own mind, but it's one tournament.

To be honest with you, I wasn't feeling great. I wasn't healthy, but I'm not going to make those excuses. I just didn't play well.

Q. No, it's just you said you were beginning to enjoy the game again; giving the impression that for a spell you might not have enjoyed it.

ERNIE ELS: That week, yeah.

Q. When you're at home, do you find it quite difficult to stick to your golfing routine, or do you find yourself doing handiwork around the house and that sort of thing?

ERNIE ELS: I'm not a great handyman around the house. So if there's any problems, I'll have to call or Liezl will to do it.

Honestly, I'll do the school run if I can, if my tee time allows it, and that's kind of fun sometimes. Yeah, I'll stick to my routine. I've got a routine where I warm up in the gym before and I warm up on the range. I'll probably eat at home more than I do at the golf course, so I'll spoil myself in that regard.

Other than that, you know, you try and stick to your routines, and wherever you are used to doing, then I'll keep on doing that.

Q. Vijay is now ahead of Tiger again in the World Rankings. What's your view of that and your own ambition in that respect?

ERNIE ELS: Well, I mean, Vijay without a doubt should be, the way he's been playing the last two or three years, he's the better player in the world. I mean, Tiger, the way he won the Masters, you know just shows you how phenomenal he is.

But I mean week in and week out, I think Vijay is maybe just a shade ahead of Tiger at the moment. Obviously, there's still a lot of golf to be played this year, a lot of majors to be played. As I said earlier, you know, I'm excited about playing and practicing and getting myself as good as I can be. If I can play to my form, maybe I can get my head in there. I'm a little bit behind, but we'll see how it goes.

Q. Have you spoken to your people about Hangman's Point and how it looks and the general feel of the place is, and when are you coming over to have a look at it?

ERNIE ELS: I can't wait. We had the guys over in South Africa in February when we opened the golf course in South Africa. They were very excited about it, we signed the deal then.

I'm going to try and get there after the U.S. Open. I'm going to get over there. I've seen the pictures of the site, it looks phenomenal and I'm very excited to be involved in it. I think we can pull something very spectacular there.

Q. It's a special place all right.

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I think with Monty hosting the Irish Open at his golf course; maybe we can do the same in years to come. That would be great.

GORDON SIMPSON: Whereabouts is it?

ERNIE ELS: Kinsail Harbour. I saw the pictures, and as I say, I'm not exactly sure where it is, but I'm going there for my first site visit in June.

Q. Would you make a course as tough as Monty made his?

ERNIE ELS: I played with Nick Dougherty this morning, and he said it was pretty difficult to hit those fairways and conditions were quite tough.

So I can't comment on the golf course, but yeah, I'll if you look at my game, I like to have the fairways a little wider than normal people. I'll challenge the guys on their second shots. I like to give the guys a couple of opportunities or different ways of playing the game, but definitely get the ball in play. I like to do that. So we'll see. I'm sure the wind will play with it.

Q. Do you have to rein yourself in a bit this week with this course?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, the rough is up, but I've got a certain method of playing the course. It's given me a little bit of success through the years, so I'll stick to that and see how it goes. The greens are very fast. They are even quicker now than they have kept it for The Match Play. So you've got to be careful this week in many regards, but you know, I think the course is in a fair setup, and you know, you have to be accurate this week.

Q. What's your "certain method" to playing?

ERNIE ELS: Well, you know, try and get it in play and then take your chances from there. You know, you take four 68s and you're going to be right there. Whatever way you get to do that, I think you're going to be very close.

Q. Didn't you say before last year's PGA that you wanted to bring The Match Play mentality to how you play this week; in other words, just attack?

ERNIE ELS: You know, I probably said that, but playing stroke play around this place and match play is two different games. I think the stroke play game around here is a lot more patient game and take your chances where they come. I guess I'll have to stick with that method.

Q. Did you do it last year?

ERNIE ELS: I guess I did. I guess I tried it, but it didn't quite work out, did it? I think Scott Drummond probably played match play around here because he shot a hell of a score. I think he was 20 under par or something.

Q. Can you look ahead a bit to St. Andrews and give your recollections of past Opens and what you've heard about the changes this year?

ERNIE ELS: I actually saw some of the tees last year when we played the Dunhill there, and I must say, I haven't played the new course. I'm actually going to go up there for practice rounds before Loch Lomond and then take it a little bit easier in the British Open week.

But it all depends on the weather. If there are calm conditions like we had in 2000, you know, the guys are still going to shoot low scores. But the ball runs so far there, you can make it as long as you want; the ball is still going to run.

But if the wind whips up, I mean, those changes are going to be huge. I mean, especially on 14, that par 4, No. 12, the tees back there. So if the wind blows, it's huge changes. If it's not, it doesn't make a huge difference.

Q. Do you think the USGA will have learned from the final round or are you worried about Pinehurst?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I'm sure they would have learned from that. I had these questions last time I was in America two weeks ago, and basically, I just hope they take the golf course for what it is. The greens are designed in a certain way where the ball is just going to run off it. If they make it firm and fast, it's going to be a joke.

So hopefully they take it for how the golf course was designed to be played and set it up accordingly. I don't think it takes a very clever guy to figure that out. Hopefully they just stick with basics, really. You don't have to make Pinehurst rock hard. And they didn't have to do that at Shinnecock. So if they take it for what it is. You know, I think we'll have a very good championship.

Q. That was a joke the last day last year?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I think yes, whoever played it, even Retief would probably concur with me. It was out of control.

GORDON SIMPSON: Thank you very much, Ernie.

End of FastScripts.

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