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August 15, 2006

Ernie Els


KELLY ELBIN: Ernie Els, ladies and gentlemen, joining us. Ernie, appearing in his 14th PGA Championship this week. Ernie, nice to have you back in the PGA Championship field after injury kept you out last year. Some thoughts about being back and about the golf course that you've seen so far here at Medinah.

ERNIE ELS: I'm glad to be back, obviously. I definitely missed last year's event at Baltusrol. It's a great golf course. But as I say, I'm glad to be back.

This is a very, very good golf course. I played it this morning early, and it's in great shape. I think the PGA have done a very good job setting it up. I think it's very fair. You know, it's got some length in it obviously, but it's also got some scoring holes where you can try and be aggressive and try and make some birdies.

But it'll be a very exciting finish. It's got some great holes coming in, and I'm looking forward to the week.

Q. This course has hosted U.S. Opens, also, and you've got a pretty good record in the Open. Can you kind of compare, does the course feel like an Open this week, and what's the difference in the field between an Open course and a PGA course generally?

ERNIE ELS: I think there's a lot of similarities to a U.S. Open. But for one, I don't think the greens are going to be as penal as they get at the U.S. Open. It's not going to get they don't get carried away with that.

I feel that the PGA of America, they're not too worried about par being a winning score as a U.S. Open. I think the golf course is set up basically how the members might play it, maybe with more rough, and obviously we'll be playing off the back tees.

It's a course where you don't have to trick it up much. If you're going to hit a bad shot, you go in the rough, it's a half a shot penalty. You can still make par, but you'd better have a good short game, and I think that's fair. I think the players like that. If you get a hot round going, you can shoot something under par.

I would say the fairway width is probably the same as what they would have at the U.S. Open. But as I say, you can get the ball out of the rough a bit easier and the greens won't be as bad.

Q. How have you reflected on Hoylake and the fact that you were contending in a major again? How do you reflect on that?

ERNIE ELS: It was a good week. You know, I took a lot of positives out of that one. Being in contention over the weekend was wonderful. As I said back then, I've got to do a couple of things a little better under pressure, and that's been on my mind a little bit.

But overall, being in the final group on Saturday, and then second to the last group on Sunday was a very positive step for me, especially the golf I've been playing the last six months or so. So I've been really pleased about that. It feels like my game is not too bad at the moment. I'd like to hopefully be in contention again.

Q. What do you put the previous six months down to? What was the most frustrating, and why do you feel you have not had as good as season as you would normally expect?

ERNIE ELS: Well, I think funny enough, I think my putting for some reason hasn't been quite up to my standard. My ball striking has been okay. I wouldn't say I've been playing terrible golf. I haven't been totally off the map. But I just haven't quite been to that level where I was maybe two, three years ago.

You know, I think here and there I've tried to push a little too hard in some rounds where I could have just let the round be. So I've been pushing a little bit here and there.

I definitely think not making a lot of putts has been working on my patience a little bit. Obviously at the British I started putting better. I started working on a couple of mental aspects of putting with Bob Rotella, and I feel like a couple of nice, fresh ideas came about, and I'm kind of working on that at the moment.

My ball striking is not too bad, and I've been playing okay.

Q. Was there a breakfast this morning, and if so, what happened there and what went on?

ERNIE ELS: What's this?

Q. Was there a breakfast this morning for Ralph Russo? What happened there?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, Ralph Russo, I played golf with Ralph at the Pro Am at Bay Hill a couple years ago, and we hit it off so well. He's such a great guy. We had a good time in the Pro Am, and we stayed in contact, and he actually went down to South Africa on holiday, and I set a couple of things up for him down there. The next thing I heard was that Ralph wasn't doing very well, and they had a breakfast for him this morning in Chicago. Unfortunately I couldn't make it out there this morning.

Q. Does the PGA take on an added significance for you in the sense that it's an unconquered leg in the quest for a career Grand Slam so far?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, the PGA, my record is not terrible but it's not great in this tournament, not like the Open or The Masters or so. Obviously I'm looking forward to try and complete the Grand Slam. That's my own little goal that I want to achieve in my career. Obviously I haven't won the PGA or The Masters. Those are the two events that I'm really chasing. That's why I'm happy to be playing on a great golf course like this one because I feel like I have a good chance of winning this week.

Q. One of your playing partners, Sergio Garcia, had a nice showing and made a name for himself back in '99, like a lot of younger guys from that generation before, he hasn't quite gotten a major championship. Talk about some of the guys in that younger generation, they're going to be coming up, and what you see from their maturation process and what to expect from some of those guys in the next couple of years?

ERNIE ELS: Well, Sergio is a very good player. He's got a heck of a good record at such a young age already. He's won tournaments around the world, America, Asia, Europe, he's won everywhere. He's been a Ryder Cup star for the European Team already, so he's got a lot of experience behind him already. The only thing he hasn't done basically is win a major. He's obviously got the game to do that. You know, he's contended in a lot of majors over weekends, and it just hasn't quite happened for him yet. It's probably just a matter of time for Sergio.

Q. Could you talk about how your game has evolved since early in your career? How are you different as a player say from when you won Oakmont in '94. Technically is your swing a lot different, and are parts of your game better, worse, the same as they were then? How do you feel about yourself in a 12 year span?

ERNIE ELS: Technically I think I'm a lot better than I was when I started out. I think my swing has changed a lot, too, through the years. That's what we do as professionals. You know, you try and perfect your techniques and your game. I've worked hard with that with the help of David Leadbetter and guys like that. I definitely hit more greens than I did back then. Maybe hitting more greens, you don't make as many putts, you know. I would say early in my career I probably made more putts than I do right now. I may be a more streaky putter. So yeah, that's that.

I would also say that I've seen the changes in technology. That's also helped our game, especially with our generation right now. We don't play wooden clubs anymore, we don't play the old golf ball that only goes 270. So it's changed a lot in the mechanics of the game.

KELLY ELBIN: Ernie, Sergio and Fred Couples, 1:15 on Thursday afternoon. Ernie, thanks very much.

End of FastScripts.

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