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April 14, 2007

Ernie Els


STEWART MOORE: Ernie, first and foremost, thanks for taking time to come in with us here for a couple minutes on this up-and-down day. Maybe if you could kind of talk about the opening hole, what happened there, a little bit up-and-down, and the satisfaction of finishing with a birdie.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I don't know what it is with me, Man. I hit a driver on the 1st -- I guess I didn't really need to hit driver, but I felt I was swinging pretty well on the range, and I leaked it to the right, just past the cart path, and I needed to hit a shot through the trees. But there was a little acorn or something in front of my ball, and it kind of shorted up a little bit. The ball didn't come out the way I wanted to. It came out a bit further right. It hit a tree and came back. Then I didn't have much of a shot. I hit it into the bunker, out of the bunker and two-putted from about 12 feet.
You know, I'm not sure what I was thinking there, but that's what happened. It's hard to explain. Obviously that wasn't a great start.
I pulled my drive on the 2nd hole, pushing it on the 1st, pulling it on the -- lucky not to get out of bounds, made 5 there. So that was, to say the least, a very shaky start. It's really not what I wanted to do.
Then I made a really good birdie on 3, made a birdie on 8 to get it back to even. But kind of the damage was done a little bit. You start with a 6 on the 1st and it's going to be kind of a tough day.
But birdied 8. Then I birdied 10. Then I hit another poor tee shot on 11, made bogey there.
I birdied 13. And then 16 and 17 were -- that was really bad.
You know, 16, I hit a 3-wood off the tee, and I could have hit 3-iron or 5-wood, I would have had a pitching wedge or 9-iron in there. I hit 3-wood and hit it too far. Then I tried to hit a cute shot around the tree, which didn't quite work out.
You know, 17, I hit -- I thought I hit a good 9-iron and it flew into the back bunker. A lot of errors today.
The birdie on 18 was a great feeling, obviously. But sitting here, you know, I feel a little disappointed about the round. Thank goodness I didn't shoot myself totally out of it. But it was a tough day today.

Q. Playing conditions tomorrow, what do you think?
ERNIE ELS: Tomorrow?

Q. Today, too.
ERNIE ELS: Today was perfect, just beautiful. I mean, beautiful temperature. I could see the numbers the guys were scoring on the board. I knew there was birdies to be made out there. It was just a beautiful day out there.
You know, I just didn't quite play the way I wanted to.

Q. You won the two U.S. Opens, people think of those courses as being very hard. Tomorrow's bad conditions, good for you?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, we really haven't had too tough conditions all week. Maybe the first day in the afternoon it blew quite a bit. But yeah, it sounds like it's going to be a north, northwest wind or something tomorrow. So it's going to be totally opposite from today. So that will test the guys tomorrow.
I feel up for it, let me put it that way. I feel I want to have a good battle tomorrow, and hopefully it goes my way tomorrow.

Q. You look like you really just can't believe the round you finished. How do you go back tonight and regroup?
ERNIE ELS: You know, I've been doing this so many times now, so I need to get out of this little rut. At least, as I say, I caused a little bit of damage but not too much today.
So I need to go back to the board tonight and get myself ready for tomorrow. I still feel like I'm hitting solid shots, still feel my game is not too far away from where it was yesterday or the day before. I just need to eliminate the mistakes I'm making.

Q. What are your options on 16 on your second, if any?
ERNIE ELS: Well, I changed clubs. You know, I had a 52-degree wedge which I was going to play low and hook, but I only had 118 yards, and I felt if I hit that club too solid it was going to go through the green. When I stood over my ball, it felt like I was on a bit of a downhill, so I took the 59-degree. I wanted to hook the face and hit the same shot and hit it hard. Obviously the ball came out too high.
It's the only spot you don't really want to go on that hole. I hit a 3-wood 294 yards there. I didn't expect the 3-wood to go that far.

Q. What did you see on Jerry's hole-in-one, and did that kind of add to -- you were already feeling like you gave a couple strokes back.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I know, it was like a small little dagger. He hit a beautiful shot, just covering the flag all the way, most beautiful shot you've ever seen.
But still, us pros, we hit quite a few of those good-looking shots, but they don't really go in. This one went in the hole and it was just a beautiful shot.

Q. Have you played a competitive round where your partner has hit a hole-in-one before?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I've played quite a few.

Q. Do you remember the last one?
ERNIE ELS: Geez, the last one I think I made in 2004 at the Open on the 7th hole. You know, I can't think now. I can't remember the last guy I played with. But I know I've played with a couple of guys.

Q. Do you come into tomorrow worried about some of the inconsistencies you've had with the game, or are you thinking I dodged a bullet on Saturday, here I am?
ERNIE ELS: I've got to go with the latter. I've got to feel like I dodged a bullet today. After that start I could have shot anything, but I came out with 71. Thank goodness I shot so well the first two days that I've still got a shot at it. I've got to feel like -- I can play a lot better. I've got to play like Ernie Els tomorrow, and if I do that, I'll have a really good chance of winning.

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