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August 23, 2007

Ernie Els


NELSON SILVERIO: Ernie, thanks for spending a couple minutes with us here. Great way to start the tournament. How about some opening comments.
ERNIE ELS: You know, I saw some low scores this morning and playing in the Pro-Am yesterday, I could see it was quite soft. You know, whenever you get this type of golf course soft, you've got to take advantage.
So I felt teeing off this afternoon, I needed to get something going, and luckily I did. I birdied my fourth hole. Made a nice putt there from about 18 feet and then actually made an eagle on 5. I hit driver, 3-wood just through the green and chipped it in from the back of the green so, that was a perfect start.
Actually made another eagle on 9. I hit a nice drive and 5-wood up the hill and made a nice putt there from about six or eight feet.
But unfortunately I made a bogey on 7, the par 4. I kind of thinned my approach with a sand wedge through the green. I had no shot.
So I made the turn in 4-under, and then I had a long way from 10. Could go into the clubhouse and have a quick lunch. On 10, I drove it near the green in the green-side bunker and holed a very good putt on 10 from about 12 feet for birdie.
Then I really played solid on the back, but my approach shots, I didn't get it close enough to the holes and when I did you know, I kind of misread some of the putts. You know, I was fortunate enough to make birdie on 18. So, there you go, 6-under, and you know, not bad for the first round.

Q. Did you really stop and have lunch?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I did. (Laughter) Walked off 9 and I had Angel and his group on the tee and they were still waiting for the green. I knew it was going to be at least 15, 20 minutes, so was starting to feel a little shaky.

Q. What did you have?
ERNIE ELS: I had some beef or beef something, beef sandwich or something. (Laughter) I took all of the food away, so the lady was helpful, went back in the kitchen and got me a nice sandwich and I was ready to go again.

Q. Having success here before, do you start out with confidence on the first tee because you know you've won here and you like the course?
ERNIE ELS: Well, it's always good to come to a place where you've been quite a few times and where you've done well. I've been to many venues on TOUR for many years where I haven't had success. So it's nice to come to a tournament, to a golf course where you've played some good golf.
But still, you've got to go out and hit the shots and make the putts. I was just really focused on hitting good shots and trying to get something low out there.

Q. Did today have a different feel based on the new event; did it have a different feel than the normal tournament?
ERNIE ELS: The FedEx? Yes and no.
I mean, there's been so much talk about it, so you can't but know that something different is going on. But you know, for one, the purse for the next four events, the purses are so big that you want to play in events coming up. It's not like we're going for 10 million in cash. Big difference. (Laughter) We've got to wait for this cash until you're 65, big difference.
But still, there's quite an incentive. You know, the four purses are really good and the four golf courses we're going to play -- I haven't played Boston; I hear that's pretty good, too. So it really doesn't -- for me, you know, I'm a foreigner. I don't know anything about your playoff system in sport yet. We play World Cup rugby or World Cup Cricket. That's the playoffs I know about. So to bring that into golf is kind of weird. So I'm just taking it as I come.

Q. After playing well at the PGA, is it helpful to have something meaningful to play in order to have something to build on?
ERNIE ELS: I think after the majors, this probably must be the next bigger thing, if you want to call it that.
But the majors take so much out of you and you put so much into it. And a major championship is still what you want to win out here. But as you say, these are big enough to really get your attention.

Q. You've talked for some time about everything is very, very close; haven't always seen it in the results, but from the Open through the PGA, it seems to be.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, it's starting to -- how can I say, starting to click over a little bit.
I'm hitting the ball really nice. I'm really happy with the Callaway stuff that I'm playing with. I'm really used to the ball now and all of the equipment and my swing feels good.
So all I've got to do now is really try and be aggressive and try and get low scores out there.

Q. As much as you must have felt it, how much did it help to have how you played at Carnoustie, how you played at your now favorite course, Southern Hills, to do what you did?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, you know, it was big for me. From the Scottish Open where I kind of felt my game was coming around.
The British, I'm still a little disappointed to be honest with you. I had such a wonderful chance to win that tournament, but I guess my confidence or the game wasn't quite to where I felt I really could win, you know.
But then at Southern Hills, as you say, is a golf course that I've never really done well and I've really always felt uncomfortable, found a way to play the course and I really enjoyed that weekend. I really enjoyed Sunday having a bit of a go.
So I feel my game is where I can really start scoring.

Q. I was in line with Jos at the airport leaving Tulsa, and since you can't shut that guy up, we ended up talking about you. He said the confidence level seems to be coming back, and I'm wondering, does the confidence come because the results are there, or do the results come because the confidence is there? Can you separate those two? And do you believe what he said?
ERNIE ELS: I think it's all about results, isn't it. You know, sometimes you don't even hit the ball really well from tee-to-green, but you find a way of scoring and that's confidence. And I think that's the way, if I can bring Tiger into this conversation, again, that's how he plays a lot of times. He's not always on his game but he's so confident that he's going to get scoring. He's going to get to a score at the end of the day.
I think my confidence level is a bit low. Even though, as I said to you guys so many times walking off with a sour face going, well, I'm not playing badly; but I'm not scoring. And I think that's all to do with how your confidence level is. You know, if it was zero to ten, maybe I was at a five most of the year and now it's climbing up to maybe a seven.
You know, as the scores start coming, as the results start coming, the more confidence you get. The easier you can start scoring, you don't feel so tense out there and you can feel more free.

Q. If you're only a six now, have you been close to ten?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I've been close, I've been up there.

Q. Been a while?
ERNIE ELS: Been a while, yeah. (Laughing).

Q. And keeping the momentum going into next year?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, the momentum is going at a nice pace and believe it or not I have to pace myself and look after my body and keep myself physically in good shape. At my age, you know, I've got to keep on doing that if I want to get to that next level. I can't let anything slip too much.
So the next four, five months, you know, try and get some good results, keep getting the game better and hopefully I'm going to have a good one next year and be really ready to go when the big tournaments come around.

Q. I was wondering if you can talk about playing four straight and how do you prepare for that mentally and physically? What's the most you usually do? We had Steve Flesch in here talking about playing 11 straight and guys have played eight or nine in a row. What's the most you do?
ERNIE ELS: Well, when I was younger, I used to play at least four and then take a two-week break. Nowadays, I play two, maybe three, take a week off.
But you know, let's see how this week goes. If I have a really good week this week, we'll see. (Chuckling).
You know, I've prepared myself to play the four weeks, and at least Boston starts on Friday, so you've got an extra day to get yourself prepared. And then you go into the last two.
But the heat is going to be a factor. If it gets really warm, it can become a bit of a factor. It's starting to get a little warm out here. But I've been a pro for 15, 16, 17, whatever years, and I've played a lot of golf. I mean, four weeks, we'll see by the end of the week; you know what, it's not that bad.

Q. Curious, we were talking about this amongst ourselves today; how well do you know Rory Sabbatini, a fellow South African?
ERNIE ELS: I used to play with his brother. His brother is my age and we used to play a lot of provisional golf, they are from Durban and I'm from Joburg, and Rory was really small so I don't really know him from those days but obviously I know him from ever since he's come on the TOUR. I've known the family most of his life.

Q. Is his brother like him?
ERNIE ELS: What do you mean? (Laughter).

Q. I don't know, brash.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, they are a confident group of people. (Laughter) I mean, Gary, he was confident with his abilities so to speak. You know, they were up for the fight, so to speak, always.

Q. Did he ever egg you on a little bit, Gary?
ERNIE ELS: No. I mean -- no, not really. Not at all. I got along with him fine. Get along with most of the guys out here fine. Obviously you hear things here and there. Guys just laugh it off, really.

Q. Like what? What did you hear?
ERNIE ELS: Let's just leave it at that.

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