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September 5, 2007

Ernie Els


JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, Ernie, for joining us for a few minutes here in the media center at the BMW Championship. We were just talking about the fact that you haven't been here in a few years, and I don't know if you got an opportunity to play but you're playing this afternoon.
ERNIE ELS: I played nine holes yesterday. I haven't been back, I think, since '95, so it's been a while, back to this golf course, so I'm happy to be back.
I played nine yesterday, as I say, played the front nine. I think the course is in wonderful shape. Greens are a little tricky. I can see where they can put the flags away. But I'm just hoping for a good event here in Chicago.
JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Looks like you're in pretty good position going into that final event, 14th on the FedExCup after two events.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I only moved back I think four spots. I was 10th after the Barclays, and then I took last week off and I only moved back four spots.
You know, I'm really looking forward to trying to play a good event here this week and let next week take care of itself. I'd like to play four good rounds.

Q. Just talk about your decision not to play last week. When did you decide to do it? On your website it looked like you were going to play. How did that go down?
ERNIE ELS: You know, I finished the Barclays on Sunday, and I could feel the way I felt about my game, the way things were going. I started to get a little frustrated. I felt that I was doing a lot of good things there, but things weren't quite working out.
I've gone through this kind of -- through that similar time before in my career where I've played where I should have taken off, and I felt that, you know, it's important for me to do well in the FedExCup Points race, but I need to give myself the best opportunity to play well.
I felt I needed to take a week off just to get myself refreshed, so to speak.
I've also had my family with me for seven weeks on the road, and it was kind of tough on them, too, to spend their summer holidays with their old man on the road (laughing). So I felt like I wanted to take them home.
It was a very late decision. It was a Sunday evening decision. It wasn't anything planned. That's the way I felt, and I felt I needed to take a week off.

Q. It seems like the top players, three in a row is the max where they feel they can give everything mentally maybe more than physically. Do you think maybe scheduling four weeks in a row is just one too many?
ERNIE ELS: You know, as we said, when I announced all the changes at the end of last year, beginning of this year, everybody was like, what do you think, what do you think, and we all said, let's see how it all pans out. Nobody knows exactly how this thing is going to work. Let's see how it works out.
Obviously the way things have been going, I haven't realized really through the year, but since the U.S. Open we've had big events upon big events, right through until now. The guys that play Europe events like myself, we played the Scottish Open before the British Open, so there's another two weeks. And then you come over and then there's the Bridgestone, then the PGA. Then we had a week off, and then before now, and then we get a week off and then we play The Presidents Cup. Next year they have the Ryder Cup. I don't know what they're going to do next year.
As we said, nobody really knew how this thing was going to pan out, and obviously now with guys playing and making up all our excuses, but that's the way we feel. Otherwise we can't give it our best shot, so that's the way it is.

Q. You're one of the star players out here. Did they consult with you before this thing went into effect as far as the schedule was going to be so bunched up, and what did you tell them at the time?
ERNIE ELS: That's a good question. Unfortunately, no, they did not express anything to the players. They asked those questions, but they didn't come out and say, okay, look, this is what we're going to do, what do you think. It was all about -- you know, it wasn't directly asked. And unfortunately, we are in this position now because they didn't either listen or they just went on with the decision, and this is where we are.

Q. Do you feel that all 72-hole tournaments is a bad thing? Do you feel with a Fall Series Playoff we could have something like a match play situation for the last event?
ERNIE ELS: You know, personally I think -- I've got nothing against stroke play events. You know, I've got nothing against the FedExCup, either, the way it's structured. It's just -- you know, I think through the whole summer, if you look at the two-, three-month period of golf that you play, like I said, it's all these big events, it's tough to keep getting yourself up for everything.
Maybe a match play event, who knows. I'm not sure. Maybe they should play two weeks, have something like a match play or have like a different little playoff, guys that are on the bubble or something, the week in between, have that as a playoff deal, somehow create a playoff deal in the middle, and then those guys who have played well throughout the year, obviously they can -- they're not going to be kind of involved in the playoff series. You know what I'm saying? Have the guys who have played well throughout the year, don't have to do the playoff thing where they go into the last two events, and guys who are on the bubble have like a 40- or 60-man playoff deal in the middle, and then those guys go into the last two events. I'm just making this stuff up as I'm going along here.
You know, I just feel it's going to be tough for the top players like Tiger, who's had a great summer, he's been in the running and he's won a major, won the Bridgestone, won five times this year, and then now he has already celebrated -- already taken in a major win, and now he's got to play four events in a row. Same with Padraig Harrington, won the British Open, he hasn't had time at home. He was in Ireland for five days, and then to expect him to play seven weeks, you know, it's just -- it wasn't going to happen.

Q. Would it work to just have a bye week, maybe have an off week right in the middle of the FedExCup?
ERNIE ELS: As I say, you know, I'm just throwing out a little -- throwing out a bone there. Two in a row, look at stuff that's happened this year and see if we can have a bit of a different way forward. You're putting the world golf players really under strain, guys like myself, guys like Tiger, guys like Phil, guys that play on the world stage because you really want to be up for the majors, and then after the majors are now, now you've got to be up for the FedEx. It's tough physically, mentally, on your family, business, everything, to keep yourself away from so-called real life for nine weeks almost. You know, it's difficult.

Q. One of the reasons for all this was they wanted to end the season earlier so that PGA TOUR wouldn't compete against American football, but obviously in a case like yours, I mean, your golf season isn't going to really end next week. I'm just wondering how much more you have to go after this, how many important events you have, in Europe, what have you?
ERNIE ELS: Well, I've got quite a schedule, but I'm probably going to pull out of some tournaments. It's been a lot of golf. I'll have to reevaluate my schedule through to the end of the year. I feel obligated to play in South Africa because it's my home, and there's a lot of things at stake for me in South Africa. So there again, you get pushed into having to play tournaments.
You get frustrated because you almost feel like you don't have your own time. You always have to work something out for other people.
I'll have to look at my schedule and see what I'm going to play because I've got like I think eight events left. So that's a lot of tournaments to cram in. I want to be ready for next year because I feel next year could be a really good year for me in majors and around the world. So I've got to keep myself fresh, my body fresh.

Q. Can you just talk about how you feel about the year? You've had some good finishes the last two tournaments?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, thanks. I've played okay since the Scottish Open, and I haven't had a win yet, but I feel like I'm playing nicely. I had a week off last week. We had plenty of good weather in England so I could work on my game a little bit, so I'm coming into this week mentally ready to play. I've got this afternoon to get my game a bit more in shape, but I think I'm doing okay.

Q. Sorry for the bizarre nature of this question, but if you seem at all lukewarm or not sure about the FedExCup thingy or what have you, and this isn't the only scheduling issue you've had with the TOUR in the last three or four years, why do you keep doing so many commercials for them?
ERNIE ELS: I think we like them. You almost have fun with them, and you kind of meet people. I think a lot of players do a lot for the TOUR. Let's face it, the TOUR does a lot for us, too. I just feel in certain ways we've kind of grown apart a little bit, especially the players and the Commissioner's office. We've grown apart from each other because of these big decisions that were made without the real knowledge of the players, you know?
The $10 million deal was a big deal. I don't think Tiger knew about it, Phil didn't know about it, I didn't know about it, a lot of people didn't know. When we heard about it, we thought, geez, that's unbelievable. It still is, but it's -- we're going to see that money hopefully 20, 25 years down the line.

Q. When did you find out about it?
ERNIE ELS: Kind of when everybody found out about it, the first couple of weeks into the season.
You know, you still want to support the TOUR. We love what the TOUR has done for us, but we just need to get closer to the big decisions because then we won't get into problems down the line, you know? I know there's a board and there's another board. There's two boards. There's a players' board, which I don't think means much. They don't have any ballot. The ballot is all done behind closed doors. That's kind of where we're growing apart.

Q. I believe you went through an equipment change earlier this year. How much time does it take a player of your stature to kind of get used to that and put yourself to where you feel you can compete and win tournaments week in and week out when you make a switch?
ERNIE ELS: Well, I think with the equipment, the game of golf, you've got the long game, short game, there's a lot of -- a lot going on in the game of golf. I think with my long game, you know, I didn't have any problem with the driver, the iron play, the wedges were great. I just needed to -- adapting the ball around the greens was quite a challenge, and on the greens, to get the right putter has been quite a challenge. You know, for the big stuff, it was quick, and I've really enjoyed it. Callaway has been wonderful to work with.

Q. Can you just talk about this course this week, what you expect from it, and is it a little disconcerting that Tiger loves this course and has had so much success here?
ERNIE ELS: Absolutely. I like the course. It's an old-fashioned golf course, meaning it's tree-lined with well-bunkered fairways, and the greens are, as I said before, are really going to be the challenge for me this week. They're very undulating. You've got to place your ball in the right area on the green.
And yes, absolutely, to know that Tiger has had a great record here, yeah, you know you're going to have to deal with him. You'd just better get ready for it, that's all.

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