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February 2, 2008

Ernie Els


RODDY WILLIAMS: Thanks very much for coming in and joining us. You must have enjoyed that out there today.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I did. I hit the ball really nice. I hit a lot of fairways, a lot of greens, and, you know, played quite a steady front nine and then you know, I think the shot of the day for me was on 10. I hit a 5-wood on my second shot to just a couple of feet from the hole.
Then I hit a another good shot on 11 to just about three feet and those two holes really got everything going for me. And I played kind of solid coming in, and birdied 13, hit a good drive on 17 and pitched it up close there for a birdie.
All in all, you know, it was a round that I really needed. I said to JP yesterday evening when we finished and I was a bit disappointed with my round yesterday. Probably needed two 64s to have half a chance in the tournament, and as it turned out, you know, a 65 today, and probably need a really low one tomorrow. I can't see Henrik with Tiger and the other guys, not shooting low. So just got to keep going tomorrow.
But today, yeah, was really nice. I really enjoyed it.

Q. Just going back to the 10th, what distance was that 5-wood?
ERNIE ELS: I had 246 front and I think the flag was 266.
11 was a 7-iron, I think it was about 182 yards or something.

Q. What is it about Dubai that you like, having won here three times previously?
ERNIE ELS: Well, I've been coming a long time. I've always loved the course. The course is always in great shape. It's early enough in the year where I'm really fresh from a nice holiday in South Africa.
So I feel like playing, feel like practising. And got a lot of friends here, so I feel comfortable.

Q. How much have you played this year so far?
ERNIE ELS: This is my very first event.

Q. So how long did you have off?
ERNIE ELS: The last time I played was the South African Open -- and actually I played my event, if you want to know. I played my own event.

Q. When was that?
ERNIE ELS: Middle of December. I've had a good five weeks off, six weeks off.

Q. There's been a lot of banging on about Tiger and the Grand Slam already. How do these courses set up for you, do you think, the majors this year?
ERNIE ELS: Well, I'm really working towards the Masters. Haven't really given the other ones too much thought to be honest with you.
I know San Diego a little bit. I played the Buick a couple of years ago. So I've got half an idea how to play that course. I played Birkdale in '98 was the last time, and then Oakland Hills, I had a good U.S. Open there in '96. I think I finished fifth there.
But really, my focus is on the Masters right now. I'm working on getting my ball flight going for that tournament. I'm really happy with my Callaway equipment, using their FT-i driver, the square head. I can draw it quite easily, which I need around Augusta. And then the next month or so I'll be working even more to prepare for that tournament.
But yeah, to come back to your question, I saw a little comment, obviously Tiger whenever he plays, he's the man to beat. Especially with his career in majors right now, he's going to be very tough to beat. But again, I want to play events as good as I can, and then what about the rest.

Q. Was it a nice distraction seeing on top a helicopter covering with the Els Club written all over it?
ERNIE ELS: I must say, I did feel a little uncomfortable with that. (Laughter).
I mean, I thought the guy was just going to circle once but he kept going and going and going. I thought, I think people have seen; what they are trying to prove there.

Q. You were saying at your club launch on Monday that you're going to adopt a softer schedule this year; are you surprised to start off with such an impact in your first event?
ERNIE ELS: A little bit, yes. I think yesterday that breeze, my weakness came out. You know, that was my short game yesterday. Normally my short game is one of my strong points, and that's why I was so disappointed with my round yesterday. It was a 68, which I turned into a 72. I 3-putted a couple of times and I didn't get the ball up-and-down the way I normally do it eight times out of ten.
So if my short game was really sharp, you know, I could have shot something under par yesterday. So that was the bit of rust that I've got off in three rounds of play. But my ball-striking is pretty good. Well, it was good today. And as I say, I love the course, so I know my way around here.

Q. Seeing Adam's final round last week and what Tiger did last week, did that help get you fired up?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, actually I had that question from Tim on SKY Sports, and you know, I kind of said to him, Adam played such a good round last week, so as I said to you guys, I was looking for two 64s, so I would like to keep going low tomorrow if I can.

Q. No urge to go to Torrey Pines last week as a sort of practise round for the U.S. Open?
ERNIE ELS: No. It's too far away. If I qualified for the Hawaiian tournaments, I probably would have played there. But I'll have a good couple of days there. And I've played junior golf -- okay, we're talking 20-something years ago now, but I've played the course a couple of times. I've got a good idea where to go.

Q. It will be a different golf course in June, too.
ERNIE ELS: Exactly. The course is going to be so different. You've got to be on your game.

Q. Is that where you won the World Junior?
ERNIE ELS: No, I won a tournament actually in town. I didn't win at Torrey Pines. I won the age group before that.

Q. Can you just explain why the softer schedule and why you think that will better equip you for the majors? Are you playing less all year or just less traveling?
ERNIE ELS: No, I think it's just a bit of a quieter start to the year, you know. I'm not playing the Match Play in Tucson and I'm not playing the tournament in Riviera. I normally play those. I'm not playing those two. I'm not playing the Johnnie Walker this year.
So there's a lot less traveling, and I can spend a lit more time at home and maybe work on my game a bit more and play in certain regions on for a longer period of time.
You know, I haven't played the whole Florida Swing for a very long time, maybe ten or 12 years. So I'm playing the whole Florida Swing now and get myself ready for the other ones.

Q. Did you come to the conclusion that your schedule was affecting you in the majors?
ERNIE ELS: No, not really. I think if you look at my record in majors, it hasn't been too bad. I just felt like I needed to make a change for a change. I don't know how long you've been around, but some of these guys, I've been talking about it for ten years now, so finally I've done it. I thought I would get a bit of applause or something. (Laughing)
Q. If The European Tour makes a decision that you have to play 13 to retain membership, does that affect you in any way?
ERNIE ELS: I'm not sure. They have given me honorary European memberships. I don't know what that entails. Maybe I've got a different one.

Q. You still have to play a minimum number, surely.
ERNIE ELS: Well, that's the question I'll have to ask.

Q. Just going back to tomorrow, you reckon the rust is out of you, so 64 could be there?
ERNIE ELS: Well, depends on the weather and stuff. I'll have a lot of -- first there will be a little bit of a pressure cooker tomorrow, get through that, and then start going through my round. I feel like I'm swinging better now than I have been all week. So start thinking about it tomorrow. And now I'm still enjoying today's rounds.

Q. Apart from schedule, have you made any changes from last year? Are the clubs new?
ERNIE ELS: The golf ball is new, the Tour ix ball. I've got the blade irons in the bag since December. Yeah, and the rest is basically what I've been using. But I'm really starting to really enjoy the equipment now, you know, comfortable.

Q. Do we have a chance to see you play in the French Open next July?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I actually played with the main sponsor of the French Open this week at the Pro-Am. So we did talk about it, and he's a fine gentleman. It's got a good chance, yeah. We're talking. (Laughter).
RODDY WILLIAMS: Thank you and good luck tomorrow.

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