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July 13, 2007

Ernie Els


GORDON SIMPSON: Before Ernie gets bitten alive or drowned, whichever comes first, you've put yourself in a very nice position, and one that you know quite well at this venue.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, thank. That birdie on the last, after the bogey on 17, 17 was playing downwind so it wasn't a good shot I hit there.
But all in all, if I recap on the day, it was a good day. I really hit the ball nicely most of the time except for on No. 12. But you know, I tried to be aggressive, had a really nice start. I birdied No. 2 and I eagled No. 3 and unfortunately I 3-putted on 5, a shot back.
I worked quite hard on the range last night so I'm feeling good.

Q. What happened on the eagle?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I hit a really nice drive down No. 3, and I hit a 6-iron. The flag was back left and I hit a 6-iron to about six feet. I was able to make that. So it was all smiles at that point.

Q. Can you tell us what happened on 12?
ERNIE ELS: Well, when it set off, obviously it was going right, but I didn't think it was going to go that far. It must have really shot off when it bounced. But it really wasn't where I was aiming, put it that way.
Then I was trying to find out if it was a hazard, because it was on the tall stuff, I found out it wasn't a hazard. So my next option was either take a penalty drop in the crap I was in or go back to the tee. I decided, I saw that I had a little bit of a backswing and a follow through to the ball, so it was basically just a hit-and-hope because there was trees in front of me and everything.
But I was a good boy this week so far. I went right through the tree and short of the green and up-and-down for par, so it was really a big bonus.

Q. (About coming into event).
ERNIE ELS: I had two weeks off. I didn't do too much. I went to South Africa for a week after Germany, played once down there with my dad. Hit a couple of sites back there and we all flew back; there was 12 of us on the airplane. And last week it was raining all the time, so I only got to play one time and practised a little bit.
So I was a little bit rusty coming up here. And like Darren, I got new shafts and all my irons and, you know, new driver. So a lot of things going on, basically. So I'm happy the way things are going right now.

Q. You said you went --
ERNIE ELS: As I say, I think I was a bit rusty, but after my position on the range and on the green, I felt more comfortable when I set out so I was more confident with my game, and the weather has been unbelievable. It's pouring now but the last few days we've played, it's just been perfect scoring weather. And yesterday I was very frustrated and today I felt I needed to make more birdies and that's what I did.

Q. What's the difference with the new driver?
ERNIE ELS: I'm hitting more than nice but I'm looking at the ball flight and this one with the black shaft, I think you saw me the other day, it's a bit of a stiffer shaft and the ball stays down. That's the one I'm using now and I'll probably use it this week and next week.

Q. How close do you think you are to playing --
ERNIE ELS: Well, I think today was more like it.
I've had a really tough time. You guys have seen me in the States and all over the place, so it hasn't been a lot of fun. But you know, I really just want to work on my game and play now. I think a lot of my business stuff is really running nicely now. There's been a lot of stuff that I've really had to put my attention to. You know, new equipment with Callaway. There's been a lot going on.
So right now I feel really comfortable again and really want to, you know, obviously play better golf and I'd like to do that this weekend, and then I'm really looking forward to next week.
I've said it for a long time, but I'm close. My swing feels good and the putting stroke is starting to feel better.

Q. The last practise round before Augusta, are we talking you were not feeling as terrific as we were lead to believe, or you're feeling better now than you were then?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, that was a Tuesday. I played with Gary Player and Trevor and probably Tim Clark. That day I shot the easiest 67 you all could imagine around Augusta, and then I missed the cut. (Laughing) I basically did it two days early.
Back then, you know, I was probably two weeks, three weeks into my new equipment. I had a lot of things going on. So you know, two, three months down the road, I'm feeling good about it. That's all I can say. I mean, who knows what's going to happen. But I just want to keep building and keep going.
I'd like to get a win. I've love to win this week. That's what I want to do. I want to win golf tournaments.

Q. Can you compare how you're playing now to that round on Tuesday?
ERNIE ELS: I think I've made big strides in my putting. With this new golf ball and the old putter that I used to putt with, they didn't quite gel nicely. The ball would shoot off a little bit. It's a different covered ball. So I've gone with a different putter face, and it's a softer cover face. So the feel of my putting, my strength in my putting is better.
I've been working with Denis Hutchinson of all people, and he obviously grew up with Bobby Locke and Gary Player and he himself has been a great putter. So we've just been kind of talking about the putting and where we want to go with it. So if I can get that going, I can really start going again.

Q. (About Carnoustie).
ERNIE ELS: If the wind is blowing, which it will be, that's as tough a three-hole stretch in Open Championship. We've got the finish at St. Andrews; at Birkdale we have a great 18th hole and also a great 16th hole. At Lytham, St. Andrews you have a pretty good stretch, but these three holes at Carnoustie, you've got length and you've got to be accurate. The 16th hole is probably the best par 3 I can think of anywhere in the world. Downwind you might be going with a 6-iron, but it's still very hard to hit it onto that green. Into the wind, you might be hitting a driver.
And then 17, you know, downwind again you can hit it over the burn into the wind, you're going in with a drive on your second shot and same with 18. Those three holes are very, very demanding.
The tournament, as we all know from last time, it's never over till it's over around there.

Q. Have you been up there yet?
ERNIE ELS: No, I haven't. I'm actually going to stay at St. Andrews and move over. So I'll probably play it on Monday afternoon sometimes.

Q. When is the last time you played it?
ERNIE ELS: Last, in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. But I have spoken to the guys and they say the rough is not as bad as last time. So I think they are giving us some breathing room.
GORDON SIMPSON: Thanks, Ernie.

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