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February 1, 2007

Ernie Els


SCOTT CROCKETT: Thanks for joining us in the dark here, we can all see what's going on, problems with the lights, but no problems for you this morning, you must be very pleased.
ERNIE ELS: Thanks. It was a nice start. You know, anything under 70 is normally a good start. The conditions were perfect this morning. Golf course is just in unbelievable shape.
So, yeah, actually, I 3-putted my second hole this morning on No. 11, made bogey. But on the very next hole, I hit a beautiful drive and a perfect 7-iron and it went in the hole. It got me into red numbers and went on to a nice stretch. I birdied 13 and 14 and 15, and then birdied 17 as well.
So made the turn at 5-under and I played quite solid on the back. The back nine was playing a little bit more tough. But I 3-putted again on No. 4, my 13th hole and just parred all the way in. It was quite tough coming in.
SCOTT CROCKETT: We can all see from the record books how well you play here. Does it suit your eye, do you just stand there and think how much you're going to enjoy it?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, as I say you feel comfortable on the course. I love the way they set the course up. It's always in perfect shape. I feel excited playing here because I enjoy the golf course. Yeah, I feel like I can make some birdies out there, so it's always a nice feeling.

Q. You didn't mention your opening tee shot which was quite an adventure, wasn't it.
ERNIE ELS: Actually a bit right. I couldn't see it bounce but it must have taken quite a bad bounce and it went almost out-of-bounds I guess, almost on the par 3 course. I asked for a ruling because I was near one of those little irrigation little pipes and didn't get a drop but I chipped it out.
Actually made a good five, par on the 10th and I 3-putted the next. So, yeah, it was a bit of an adventure the first couple of holes.

Q. You didn't particularly play the par 5s well despite having a score of 6-under. Any thoughts on that?
ERNIE ELS: Well, I had two birdies on the 5s. Yeah, you're right. I didn't get a good tee shot on my first hole, the 10th hole. I was lucky to make 5 there. And then I didn't quite get into the fairway on 18 either. I hit it a bit left and a bit short and I didn't go for the green in two and made par there.
But you're right. You've got to try and score on the 5s here. I made two birdies on them. I'd like to play them better tomorrow.

Q. 7-under after 12 holes and you still finished 6-under. How disappointing is it to play like that?
ERNIE ELS: Well, you know, as I said, the last couple of holes were a little bit more difficult. No. 6, for instance, it was a drive and a 4-iron, a par 4, which is pretty long normally.
The next hole is a 5-iron and the next hole is a 7-iron. It wasn't all that easy coming in, but the 3-putt for bogey on No. 4 wasn't too pleasing.

Q. It was such a good field so early on in the season, how does it feel being on top of the leaderboard at lunchtime with the conditions getting harder as the day goes on?
ERNIE ELS: Whenever you've got an early tee time, you've got to take advantage. As I said, the start wasn't great, but I got it under control quickly after that. To be 6-under after the first round, you always take that. We all know it could have been a little better here and there, but at the end of the day, you take 6-under par. You're in the clubhouse, the first one out of the way and no damage really done. So I can look forward to the next three rounds really building on this opening round.

Q. Going out in the morning, did you like to get a number up there?
ERNIE ELS: I'd prefer to go the other way, to go Thursday afternoon, Friday morning because you kind of just feel like you're continuing.
I've got a whole afternoon off. I've got to go do some corporate stuff now which I'm really looking forward to. (Laughter) Takes your mind a little away from what you're doing. I'm going to hit some balls later on and then you get going tomorrow, you know.
But yeah, you get an early time, whether it's the first round or second round, you've got to get out and score because that's your best opportunity.

Q. Do you have any number in mind at the end of the tournament?
ERNIE ELS: I'll take four of these. (Laughter) That should be okay.

Q. Tiger when we were talking to him yesterday, he said that he's only going to get better, referring to your three-year plan, what do you say about that?
ERNIE ELS: You're very positive. (Laughter) we're all trying to get better, even the No. 1 player in the world, we're just trying to get better. It's just the way, you know, the game works. We are never really satisfied. My first round today, mentioned I felt disappointed, it always goes to show you can always do something better. I've told you my plan and he wants to get better. Hopefully he doesn't get too much, you know, what's the word, a lot better than he is right now.
So, who knows. I've got to just concentrate on my plan and what I want to do, and you know, I figure it will be good enough to compete against him this year anyways and we'll see from there.

Q. A couple of years ago there was a sense that you played probably a little too much, you traveled to the Far East and back to Europe and across to America. Are you cutting back this year? Do you have a strict plan as to how many you're likely to play and where?
ERNIE ELS: I'm going to still play the International Schedule.
I feel the game is changing quickly. You know, I think the real market is here and the Far East. So I will take my game to the Far East. I'll go to Shanghai definitely once, maybe twice this year. I'm going to go to the Johnnie Walker which I've supported for a long time. But I think I've got enough time after the Johnnie Walker with enough time in the U.S. to really get myself prepared for the Masters.
I'll still do a little bit of traveling, but definitely not as much as I used to in the past.

Q. Just on that front, Ernie, how are you with the PGA TOUR on getting releases, has that all been cleared up?
ERNIE ELS: Yes, I'm fine. Everything's pretty much hunky-dory. I play where I want, when I want mbasically, so that's fine.

Q. Have you thought FedExCup, how many you're going to play?
ERNIE ELS: My schedule is the same. I just felt I want to do what I've always done. You know, I have cut back from, say, five, six years ago from zigzagging around the place.
I still feel I want to support international golf and that's what I'll do, and I enjoy doing that. When the FedExCup comes around, we'll do that. I'm playing four or five, you know, in a row at the end of the year August or September or something. That's the only change there is in my whole schedule. The rest of it is the same.

Q. You won't add to that to chase the FedEx?
ERNIE ELS: I'm pretty happy with what I'm doing.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Thanks very much, Ernie.

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