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April 12, 2007

Ernie Els


JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, Ernie, for joining us for a few minutes here in the media center at the Verizon Heritage. Nice solid round today, played late in the day, and you're the first player we've had in this afternoon from the afternoon rounds. Just maybe talk about the conditions when you started and when you finished. I know you played that back side the second half of the round.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I was hitting golf balls on the range, and I could see the wind was coming up. But you know, it was coming out of the west, so the first couple of holes were going downwind. And then I took advantage of that. I birdied the 1st and then I eagled the 2nd. So that was really the perfect start I could ask for. I got in a good frame of mind, obviously.
I played pretty solid. I, unfortunately, three-putted from just short of the 8th green, and then probably missed a couple of birdies on the back nine. But yeah, just to start off well and feel like I'm in the tournament was a nice feeling, and I was just trying to build on that on the back nine, hit some quality shots. Got kind of lucky on that bunker shot at 17. But I felt like I hit the ball solidly and my game was in good shape.

Q. Can you talk about where your game is overall and your desire to win again after your injury and coming back?
ERNIE ELS: You know, that's my main aim is to win a tournament, you know. I haven't won on U.S. soil for quite a few years now. I took almost a year off through '05, but I'd love to win, and I'd like to win a couple, not just one. I'd like to get back to some really good golf.
I'm working hard on that. My equipment is really feeling a lot more comfortable, I would say, and I've just got to keep grinding away.

Q. Obviously the last week was a disappointment for you because you felt good about your game going into The Masters. Kind of what was your mindset this week and coming into this event?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I did a lot of work before The Masters, and I felt okay, you know, it just blew out. I don't know what the word is, but mentally I wasn't there. Needless to say my game broke down. I'm not sure where it was. Maybe it was the cold weather, who knows.
But coming here, I just wanted to, as I say, get into the tournament and try and compete, you know. I didn't want to walk around going through the motions out here this week. I want to try and have a chance on Sunday. So this was a good start.

Q. I mean, you've always had some good success here. Did that help your mind frame coming here this week?
ERNIE ELS: Oh, definitely. I mean, this is -- now that the International is not there anymore, I think this is my next favorite event (laughter). My family is here, my little girl, she's going to go back to school next week so this is her last week away from school, holiday. We've got a house on the beach, so it's a wonderful place to come. Nice people. It's really a nice event after a major. This is a perfect event after a major.
JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Can we go through your birdies, eagles?
ERNIE ELS: I started on 1 and I hit a 3-wood right in the first cut, and I hit a 9-iron to about I would say 30 feet, made a long putt there.
Then on 2, I hit 3-wood off the tee and I hit a 3-iron on the green and made a putt from 25 feet.
Then 5, I hit a really good tee shot downwind, hit a 7-iron just short of the green, chipped it up to about two feet.
Then on 8, I came up just short of the green and three-putted from 40 feet.
9, I hit a wedge in there to about five feet, made the putt for birdie.
Then 13, I hit a 3-wood a little right in the first cut, again, and hit an 8-iron and made a putt from about 18, 20 feet.
17, I hit a 6-iron in the right bunker. Got a nice lie and hit it in from there.

Q. What is your frame of mind going into tomorrow not having to battle this wind like you did today? Probably going to have much better conditions tomorrow.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, just got to keep going. You can't go out there and start pushing because the weather is going to be good. I tried today to keep the ball in play. This is really a second-shot golf course. You need to be on with your irons, and I was pretty good with my irons today, so I need to do that the whole week, and then you've got to make putts on top of that.
Yeah, I'll be trying to shoot something low tomorrow morning.

Q. When you go out and see a 63 on the board before you ever tee off, does that change the mindset at all?
ERNIE ELS: No, not in the first round, no. When a guy shoots 63, you know there's some scores to be made out there. You should take it as a positive, you know. If you can get within four or five of 8-under, you know you're doing pretty well, and you've got three days left. That's kind of what I was trying to do.

Q. Has it been difficult, frustrating, to try and build your way back because of the way you've played in the past and your own personal history out there and what people know that you can do?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, it is. You know, in the last two years I haven't really been where I think I should be, and at times I've been so frustrated that I really didn't want to talk to anybody. That's just the game. You know, sometimes it kind of drives you a little crazy. I've had my frustrations, you know, and I'm sure I'll have more. That's just part of the game.
I just want to feel that the work I put in, I want to start seeing the benefits. Obviously that happened today; it was a nice benefit.

Q. You mentioned having a house on the beach. Have you ever actually spent more than a full week here and stayed after the golf? What do you do for fun here other than the golf?
ERNIE ELS: I haven't actually stayed after this week. In the past before the kids we used to enjoy the Quarterdeck a little bit more on Sunday nights, but that's kind of flown out the window, too. As I said, I enjoy it. We've got the bikes here. We go on bike rides, just do what everybody else does, just enjoy the island. There's some good food out here. The people are really nice, love the hospitality. So you just try and play a tournament while having a good time.
JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, Ernie.

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