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May 24, 2007

Ernie Els


SCOTT CROCKETT: Ernie, thank you, as always, for coming in to join us. An opening 68, an excellent back nine. You must be pleased with that on your first round in the tournament.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I had a good start. I was 2-under through six, and, you know, then I 3-putted 7 and 3-putted 9 for double-bogey. So I wasn't feeling great after the front nine.
But, yeah, as you say, I put some good golf shots together on the back nine and made a couple of putts. Yeah, it was 5-under on the back nine and a 68, which is not too bad here.
SCOTT CROCKETT: A great stretch 5-under through seven holes. Give us the details of the birdies. What did you on 11?
ERNIE ELS: I hit a driver and a wedge and made a 12-footer.
12, I pulled my drive left, laid up short, wedged up to about four feet.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Three in a row; 15, 16, 17.
ERNIE ELS: 15 was a drive and 8-iron and about ten feet.
16 was a 5-wood and a pitching wedge to about three feet.
17 was a drive, 5-wood just short right and pitched that up to about three feet.

Q. After a round like that, hard to look for any criticisms, but there were any changes you wish you hadn't made?
ERNIE ELS: No, I can't say that. I think you're always going to get criticism. People see things differently, don't they.
I got the opportunity to do Wentworth, the West Course, and basically did it with my eye. I've known the golf course for such a long time and I've played it so many times, I went with the changes where I felt I needed to put bunkers. A lot of the bunkers are there to play from -- you know, to give you an idea, the first hole is a bunker far left and short right. So the far left one is to play front, you hit a fade and if you miss your short you're going to go into the short right. So I've got a lot of that kind of strategy out on the golf course.
I've listened to some of the guys. Some of the guys don't like some of the stuff but most of the guys have come back with positive things. I myself hit myself into some of the hazards I put out there. So, you know, it's one of those things. If you hit a poor shot, I think you get more penalised than before.

Q. Were you walking around thinking, I must move this one there or this there?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, you walk around and think if, you know, if it's really in the most perfect area, some of the bunkers.
Yeah, I think that's why we made some changes again this year. There's a couple of things that I might talk to Chris Kennedy and the club about for next year, but I don't think I'll put anymore bunkers in.

Q. You mentioned pulling your drive on 12. I mean, were you quite close to the water?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, exactly, I was fortunate to get over the ditch. I was in the heavy rough though, so I just had to play it out. I think it just carried the ditch.

Q. Didn't bounce --
ERNIE ELS: I was too afraid to look if there was any left.

Q. The bunker at 18, had you enlarged that bunker you ended up in on the left?
ERNIE ELS: No, not at all. I've never touched the bunkers on the left. We just put the bunkering on the right. I want to play to move left. A lot of the guys like myself, the longer hitters tended to take it over the right side, and, you know, hit 5- or 6-iron to that green. To the bunker where I hit it into, it's 320 yards.
So I want to play to move left and then move into the green. So I hit it left and I hit it into the other bunker.

Q. When you're walking to the 10 tee after doing what you've done on the 9th, how much of a kind of talking-to are you giving yourself?
ERNIE ELS: Well, I've done that many times. So just do it all over again. I was very annoyed, and especially after the good start I had. I wanted to get off to a good start, which I did. And then 3-putting 7 and then making double from nowhere on 9; so I was quite annoyed.

Q. But in terms of dealing with that annoyance, which obviously you dealt with it extremely well.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I did. I felt I was hitting the ball well and myself and JP, we just kind of decided to keep doing what we're doing and try and give myself more opportunities for birdies and try and make some decent putts.
So it kind of worked out this time.

Q. When you get to the 10th tee not doing quite as well as you wanted to on the front nine, do you set yourself a target, like I want to get to 2-under, and did you do that today?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, exactly what you're saying. I was 1-over par and I was trying to get it back to 2-under par for the round. You know, did two better. Could have been maybe even a little bit better than that.
Yeah, I set myself targets. You've got to try and get yourself way back into the tournament, and the only way to do that is to hit good golf shots. You need to have kind of a target set, though, you're right.

Q. Is it also a target to try and enjoy it as much as you can? You've had a very frustrating time and I know there have been weeks where you probably have not enjoyed golf very much.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, absolutely. I'm just taking every week as it comes and trying to play as well as I can and, you know, just try and get all of the -- everything in the game of golf, from the putting to driving to iron play to everything, I'm just trying to get everything to a good standard.
Some weeks I've driven the ball poorly. Other weeks I've putted poorly. I'm just trying to get all the little ducks in a row and when I get them all in a row, I can play on a good level of play again.

Q. But on the enjoyment side, did you have to make a conscious decision to try and enjoy this?
ERNIE ELS: Absolutely. Especially the way things have gone, you know, I've had a couple of up-and-downs the last couple of years, so trying to keep a good mental attitude out there.

Q. Trying.

Q. The format of the two competitions is totally different, stroke play and match play, but how different is the course between playing it now and playing it in October?
ERNIE ELS: You know, this week it's not too different. You know, there's a bit of moisture in the ground still. The greens have still got a little bit of moisture. Most of the Octobers I've been here, the course is starting to get a little bit more wet again, so the course plays a little bit longer.
This week, the way the course is right now, it's perfect. The ball can stop on the greens. Fairways aren't too firm. So it's really very playable right now. So if you play well now, you're going to shoot well.
But October, it's normally a little bit more wet.

Q. How many more ducks do you have to go?
ERNIE ELS: Well, today was pretty good. You know, I think I made more putts today than I did the last time I played tournament golf in TPC. Driving was pretty good. Iron play was good. Yeah, today was more normal.

Q. Those are the ducks, aren't they?
ERNIE ELS: Driving, putting.

Q. (Are lots of people coming up to you as the architect this week)?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I almost feel like I'm hosting the tournament for some reason. Everybody's coming towards me. As I said, you know, I've got a lot of experience of playing great golf courses around the world, the northeast courses of America, a lot of links golf courses in this country and in Scotland and even Ireland.
So I've got a lot of experience of good courses, and this is a great course. It needed length; it needed a toughening up; it needed a bit more teeth, and I did it the way I saw it. That's from a lot of experience of playing golf.
I'm sure other players would love to have done what I've done and they would have probably done it a little differently, but you know, I truly believe that it's a better golf course and it's up to another standard. Especially if you look at U.S. Open courses that we're going to play, PGA courses that we're going to play. I think it's fine.

Q. You've done it without going away from Harry Colt's original vision, haven't you.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, we tried to keep the roll-face bunkers and even the shape of the bunkers, we try to keep the same as the original look. So, you know, we didn't want Harry to turn in his grave. (Laughter).

Q. When you say that some people are critical and others are complimentary , but when they are critical do they do so tactfully?
ERNIE ELS: Normally it's guys -- the balance of the course I think it's just fine. You've got to hit a lot of fade shots off the tees, a lot of draw shots off the tees.
When I do get criticism, it's guys that can't quite hit that shot that's required. And they are like, "Well, why did you put that bunker there?" Well, I don't want to get too personal here, but you've got to draw the ball on this hole and that requires draws, and sometimes it requires fades.
You can't please everybody. Not everybody can hit every shots the same. But we want you to shape the ball here, and that's why we put bunkers where you might feel uncomfortable with because you can't quite hit that shot. What you're going to find a major championship, you're not going to get a golf course where it just suits your one shot. You're going to get put off balance a little bit. That's exactly what we've done here.
Look at Hoylake last year. You play the second hole, you see bunkers and you think, "Where the heck do I have to hit this?" You get to the next hole, and it's exactly the same thing. You know, we're not that -- on that side of the spectrum, you know, but we're trying to keep the guy off-balance here and there a little bit.

Q. What percentage of golfers out there would you say can hit fades and draws equally well?
ERNIE ELS: Everybody.

Q. How many pros have given you their opinion; are we talking a couple or more than that?
ERNIE ELS: No, quite a few. I think most of it, I think everything has been positive. It's just that they are like, why there; because we've seen a lot of play there. We want to play going the other way, so that's why we put those hazards on that side and it forces the guy to play a certain shot.

Q. Are you irritated at all by any of the comments?
ERNIE ELS: No, not at all. No, I play courses -- we all play golf courses all the time, you know, and I've always said, I listen to criticism. But it's got to be constructive. If you tell me it's all a bunch of crap, then don't talk to me, because it's not.
Like on No. 4, I'm thinking about taking one of those bunkers away on the left side, making one of them a grass hollow, because it is a bit blind over the hill, and you know, it could be a little unfair. So I'm thinking about that. But the rest of it, I think is pretty much fine.

Q. That water on the 12th has probably got most --
ERNIE ELS: That was the easiest hole on the course; it still is. It's still 32 yards between the two on the left side and the right side. So accuracy, if you hit long and straight, you're going to be fine. You can lay up and still get to the green.

Q. So when your drive was in the air --
ERNIE ELS: Different options -- yeah, I was trying to be aggressive. (Laughter)

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