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May 24, 2006

Ernie Els


GORDON SIMPSON: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It's nice to see a full house at this time in the day, and we're running short of time, so we're going to quickly move into the first part of the business. The conference will be in two sections, the first will be the announcement of Ernie's new project, and then we'll talk about Wentworth and the tournament.

First of all, I'll introduce the top able, at the end of the table obviously is Ernie himself and next to Ernie is Victor Fidalgo, who is the president of Cape Verde Investment; and Keith Haslam, operations director of PGA Golf Management. It's appropriate that we start with Ernie, I think this is the biggest project you've undertaken.

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, we're very excited obviously about the project obviously, Cape Verde Islands, it's beautiful islands and I think it will be the next great distinction for holiday makers around the world, especially Europe. It seems like there's a lot of places for people to go around the world, but Cape Verde Islands is a gem and it's a beautiful area. We're going to be involved with two golf courses down there, and a lot of developments. There's a lot of work to be done, but obviously this is the distinction for the next for the next generation, so to speak.

So we're very excited as a company to be involved with guys like Victor. We've got a good management team to run it, and I can't wait to get started with the project.

GORDON SIMPSON: Victor, a few words from your perspective.

VICTOR FIDALGO: Yes, first of all I would like to thank Ernie and PGA Golf Management for helping join us in this very good event, and to congratulate Cape Verde Development because it is leading this change we are doing in Cape Verde. We want to have a high standard. Cape Verde government is also supporting their activities, and we hope that as Ernie said that Cape Verde will become one of the most beautiful places to play golf. As you are more or less five hours from Europe, we have 52 sunny weeks, and you can have a holiday all the time all year so you can come to Cape Verde quickly and play golf. Thank you very much and wish success.

GORDON SIMPSON: I think we could do with 52 weeks of sunshine here. (Laughter).

KEITH HASLAM: PGA has been at the height of the game of golf for over 100 years. This is illustrated by the over 7,000 members we have working in 55 countries worldwide. Our role in this project is to assist the developers realise their ambitions in the business of golf and creating this fantastic new golf destination. We are delighted and very proud to be working with Cape Verde Development and such an illustrious name as Ernie Els, and on behalf of the Cape Verde Islands, to create, as Ernie was saying, this new golf destination for the next generation, exciting golf experiences, and 52 weeks a year sounds pretty good to me to be honest. Hopefully we look forward to seeing you all down there in the future. Thank you.

Q. Are you going to go with any preconceived ideas or do you sort of want to reproduce courses that you've played?

ERNIE ELS: Well, we're obviously going to look at the terrain. I'll be going out there very soon and check out what it's all about.

You know, we'll go accordingly. We'll use the land that we have. Obviously it's going to be on the coast and we'll have a little bit of breeze. So we're going to have to keep in mind that guys like yourself is going to be playing the golf course, as well. (Laughter) so we want don't want to make it too crazy.

On the same hand, we need to make it a challenge, also. But the wind will be a factor there. That's obviously a small island and we'll take it accordingly. Yeah, we're going to make each and every course a little bit different and each and every one a different challenge and adventure so to speak around the course. Obviously it will be a resort course. It's going to be very playable, basically. So we're going to see what every one is like and if we need to stretch it, we'll do that. But keep in mind that the amateur player must have a great golfing experience.

Q. You have quite a lot of scope, is there one that you thought, well, I'd like to incorporate a hole similar to Pebble or something like that?

ERNIE ELS: Well, I think there will be opportunity for that. We'll check it out. But I don't think you need to go with the mind set that, hey, listen, I've got to create a hole here that I saw at Pebble Beach or Spyglass Hill or Augusta or whatever. I think you take the natural land for what it is and go accordingly. If there's an opportunity to do a Lighthouse Turnberry hole, we'll do that. But I don't think we want to change the landscape to get a hole in.

Q. Does the land that you're going to be working with bear any resemblance to any other development you've worked on?

ERNIE ELS: Well, it's very rocky. As I say, it's an island, so there's a lot of natural landscape there that we've got to work with. I've got an idea that we can create some stuff with the rock and the land. Yeah, we'll work with that.

Q. How much are you enjoying getting involved in golf course design, and also how much of this off course activities is taking up your time away from the course?

ERNIE ELS: Well, you know, it's obviously building for the future here. At the moment business is growing quite fast, getting more developers like Cape Verde and contracts like this, obviously it helps the business.

But the most important is that I enjoy it. I feel that my future is in golf course design, and, you know, I'm fortunate that I'm in the business, I'm very young. As a golfer, I'm getting mature. Opportunities like this will put us on the map. But I want to create something really special and that's how you create more business is you've got to deliver the goods, so to speak, and do a good job. When the developer is happy and the client is happy using it, you've done a good job. So that I really.

And to come back to your second part, you know, it doesn't take I mean, it takes a lot of time, but, I mean, as Victor said, it's 52 weeks in a year. So I've got a lot of time to build golf courses and play golf. I can get around quite easily at the moment, so it's good.

GORDON SIMPSON: Maybe now we can switch over to the other type of designing which is Wentworth Golf Club. Have you felt any pressure this week as the tournament's got closer from your peers to do a good job for your peers?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I did. Yeah, it was a little bit of a pressure cooker when I took the job on. The big challenge was the period of time that we had to work with. We only had basically six months, and most of the work had to be done in the winter. So I mean all credit to Chris Kennedy and his whole crew getting it all done. There was a lot of work to be done.

Like Chris says, it was really a two year project. When I was a BBC guest speaker or commentator, I said it would be done by the PGA, so I doubled their workload. But they did a great job. I think the changes that we did do were a challenge, and this tournament, it's another three weeks before the U.S. Open is being played. And I think this course should be very it's got all the characteristics to be played like a U.S. Open course.

Unfortunately we don't have the weather, but, you know, more bunkers, more challenges off the tee, second shots, and we wanted to keep the positions that Harry Colt had on the course, the roll face bunkers and so forth. But still, you've going to get criticism from touring pros, and that's fine.

Q. Which hole has produced the most whinging?

ERNIE ELS: I think No. 4. We lengthened the hole and unfortunately this week, we've got the north wind blowing and it's cold, the ball is not flying very far.

You know, we brought in 3,000 ton of stuff, dirt and stuff to build that tee, a big job. We tried to lower the ground closer to the fairway so that you can see the bunkers on the left. But at the moment you can't see the bunkers on the left, so the bunkers are blind. I felt that there was so much space right over the hill that you're going to hit it down there anyway, even from the back tee. I needed to put more challenge down the left. You might have to look to even make the tee higher next year so you can see the left bunkers. You know, that's constructive criticism, so to speak, and I listened to that. But basically that's about it.

Q. Do you feel that since you are your forced layoff last year you've been almost playing catch up so far this year, and how good do you feel your game is now?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I think you're right. I think I have been playing a bit of catch up, physically a little bit, obviously rehabbing the knee. The knee feels really good now. I've done a lot of work on my swing getting my weight transferred to my left side a lot more aggressively, a lot more normal than I used to be and I think I'm there now.

I think the big thing now for me is to get mentally myself ready is that I'm ready enough to compete on Sunday afternoons. You know, it feels like sometimes I backed off a little bit feeling that maybe I'm not quite there yet to compete on Sunday afternoons, but I feel I'm ready now to take on the challenge to go the whole way so to speak.

I've got a couple of big weeks coming up and physically my swing feels good. Putting feels good, chipping. Everything feels pretty good.

You know, I've played a lot worse golf in my career and winning tournaments, so I'm playing good enough to win. I've just got to get myself switched on.

Q. Is it more difficult for someone like you who has always been somebody who has a very natural, very fluid swing; that you have to change something deliberately, and as you said, be more aggressive with putting your weight on your left?

ERNIE ELS: Well, I think it's just getting back to normal. I think, you know, my brain told me, hey, don't get to the left side. So I stayed away from the left side, and you can't do that on the golf swing. You stay away, you're going it hit it left or right. The hands are going to start flipping.

I've been doing a lot of work, even the last two months. The swing, as I say, it's really starting to feel good. I've just got to get over, so to speak, the mental block and feeling that I'm ready, knowing that I'm ready.

Q. When you see how well Phil Mickelson has done in the time you've been off your game, is that extra motivation, seeing him at the top of the game, taking on Tiger, and you've fallen to No. 6, which is the lowest you've been in years and years, isn't it?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, definitely, Phil doing what he's done the last three years, winning three majors has really given us 30 somethings a lot of hope, you know. For such a long period of time where Phil never won a major and all of a sudden he's the major man, so to speak. It's very encouraging and gives you a lot of energy that you know you can also do it.

We've competed against each other since we were 14 years old, basically all our lives, and right now, you know, he's maybe climbed a step above me, but, you know, I feel like if I keep working, keep chipping away, I can win a couple of majors before I'm 40 hopefully.

Q. I see you've turned down a decision to play in one of your favorite golf courses in Switzerland. What's your thoughts on Michelle Wie on playing on The European Tour?

ERNIE ELS: I think she will generate obviously a lot of publicity for The European Tour, for Omega, for the tournament. It's a golf course where she can compete on; it's short enough. So she can probably make the cut there and compete well. I think it's a perfect fit for her and for Omega. You know, it's a wonderful event. Unfortunately for me, you know, I'm going to play in Singapore the same week as that tournament. But, you know hopefully I'll play there in the future.

Q. Do you agree with Michael Campbell's comment that she should prove herself first by winning on the women's tour first before coming on The European Tour?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I think it's got merit, but at the same time, if you want to go against it, I think what she's trying to do is she's trying to basically play against the best players in the world, whether it's The European Tour, on the woman's tour or the men's tour. She's proven that she can make a cut now, you know, given the right circumstances. I don't think she would be able to make the cut at Augusta or at a U.S. Open for that matter. But, you know, I think at the moment, you know, she can compete in certain events against the men.

I think basically what she wants to do one day is play Augusta, qualify for Augusta some way. You know, she's only 16 right now so there's a lot of time for rules to change and things to happen in the world. So, who knows.

Q. She told you that, has she?

ERNIE ELS: No. (Laughter) No, she hasn't. That I'm just sucking out of my thumb at the moment. (Laughter).

That's the way I see it, that's my view. You asked me for my view, so I gave you that.

Q. You obviously had to do a lot of rehabilitation for the knee, and you told me the other day George had you working your pants off; are you fitter, do you think now than you've ever been?

ERNIE ELS: Yes, I am. I spoke to Derek and the boys this morning and yeah, I am. If I work this hard when I was in my 20s, I would have been maybe looking like Jonah Lomu at the moment. (Laughter). I definitely am. I feel good physically and I think the knee helped me even more get physically fit. Yeah, I feel good.

GORDON SIMPSON: Gentlemen, thank you very much for your attendance, and good luck with the project.

End of FastScripts.

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