home jobs contact us
Our Clients:
Browse by Sport
Find us on ASAP sports on Facebook ASAP sports on Twitter
ASAP Sports RSS Subscribe to RSS
Click to go to
ASAP Sports e-Brochure View our


February 19, 2008

Ernie Els


SCOTT CROCKETT: Ernie, thanks, as always, for coming in to join us, and welcome to the Accenture Match Play. A week ago we didn't think we'd be having this conversation with you. Maybe start us off about your change of heart to play this week.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I was supposed to be in South Africa right now, just holidaying with the kids. But, you know, I started off in Dubai and played in India. I took a week off. I was back home in London.
I had a nice long break in December and January. So I felt quite -- I felt like I had enough rest, so to speak. And while the kids probably would have loved to be in South Africa right now, they actually are here with me this week. They have a week off school. And actually they've gone up to the canyon.

Q. Grand Canyon?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, today. They're doing some sightseeing. But it's always kind of tough when you have kids at school and they have time off. You've got to ask them what do they want to do. But they were fine with it, coming here this week with the old man.
I just felt it is a big event. To be honest with you, my record is not great in this tournament, as we all know. But we've got a great sponsor and it's a really wonderful golf course. You know, if I have a better game and I get a bit lucky, you win a couple of matches and you can find yourself in the quarterfinals or semifinals. So I'm really aiming at that and basically that's why I'm here.

Q. You probably only have been asked this one 38 different ways. Why does it work at Wentworth and doesn't work in this event, at all? It does not compute.
ERNIE ELS: I think a major influence might be because I'm sleeping in my own bed. I don't have to fly 12 hours to get there. And obviously the 36-hole, 18-hole matches, but it's a different time of the year. At Wentworth it's obviously a different format, a different golf course. Just totally different circumstances.
And basically I've just got to have my game here this week. I haven't had my game in previous years and was waiting for other guys to make mistakes, and they haven't made mistakes; they kept beating me. So I've just got to have a bit of a different mindset, I think, coming in here.

Q. Your feelings about LaCosta, again, well-documented conditions, course, whatever the case may be. I know you lost in the first round last year. Were you here long enough to get a feeling one way or another for this course?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I really like this golf course. It's in really fine shape. Great shape, actually. The greens are running nicely. We don't have standing water around the place. That's not taking anything away from LaCosta, they just had bad luck there, every time we went there. Even with the Mercedes Championship years ago, even then we always had bad weather. I was quite excited when they moved it.
But then I lost in the first round again last year. I can't really put my finger on it, all I can say is I think my mindset has got to be different here this year. But this is a really good golf course for match play.

Q. It sets up nicely for power?
ERNIE ELS: Yes. You have to be quite accurate. There's a lot of opportunities for birdies on the par-4s, they're not too long, so everybody in the field can come in with the middle line at least. I think most of the guys can get to 50 percent of the par-5s in two shots. So it gives you a lot of excitement.

Q. Ernie, how do you feel about your game right now? Where is it?
ERNIE ELS: Well, I played those two weeks off shore, so to speak, and I played here this morning. I've been doing some work over the weekend. I've been here since Sunday, so I've been doing a bit of work on my game. So it feels all right. I'm striking it quite nicely.
These greens are very, very fast. You have to put yourself in the right spot. So strategically you've got to go with a plan. And that's really to keep your ball under the hole. But my game is okay. My game is all right.

Q. I have a news-related question. What is it like trying to raise a family out on the road all the time? You mentioned the flights, how go it can be exhausting. Talk to us a little bit about that if you would.
ERNIE ELS: Well, you've got a decision to make; either raise your family on Tour or have a home life and have them go to one school. And we decided to have them go to a school and we decided on living in the UK. And basically that's where they go to school. I try not to be away from home for more than two weeks at a time. We actually incorporate their holidays with my schedule.
So unfortunately for them still, my daughter is not a teenager yet, she's still coming with us willingly on Tour. So that's a good sign. So her breaks, she's on Tour. But they do a lot of things on Tour; yeah, there's a lot of stuff to do. It's quite a nice life. But it's also quite difficult to be away from home all the time. That's the most difficult part of it.

Q. Is match play preparation for anything else besides just what it is? Can you use it for tournament preparation, too?
ERNIE ELS: That's a good question. I think over weekends, depending where you are in the tournament, stroke play event, you're definitely going to have to use some kind of match play strategy at some point. If you look at a Sunday, you almost have to play the man at times and see what he's going to do. And if he puts it in trouble, you've got to put it in safe play.
But stroke play events, first few days you just play -- try and get as good a score as you can get and then take it from there. Match play, it is definitely a different mindset, although it's still golf. You've still got to hit from A to B. But you definitely see what your opponent is doing. If your opponent really puts it in close, you have to put it in close, as well. If he's in trouble, you can't make a mistake. So you play the course and the man.

Q. You're talking about being on the road. Are you still looking at all four in Florida and then you've got Tavistock for a couple of days, and you were talking about playing one of the two tournaments between The Masters?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I'm going --

Q. That's a tough stretch right there.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, it all depends on this week, obviously. If I have a good week then I'll have to take stock and see, maybe drop a tournament somewhere in Florida. If I have an early exit, I'll probably play the whole Florida Swing. So it depends on that, and actually weather. If the weather is -- I'm going to check out the weather for Houston. If it's not going to be great there, you don't want to have too long a week before Augusta, either. I'll look at all options.

Q. Tiger was in here earlier talking about why it's possible to win the Grand Slam. Are you surprised he would openly talk about it given how difficult that task is?
ERNIE ELS: Well, you know, he's defied all maybe law there is out there in golfing terms. I think his game early on already has shown that his game is right there. He's obviously -- I heard him mention that in Dubai, so it's obviously on his mind. I think he's got 13. If there's one guy that can do it, it's probably him. But I'd love to stop him. He definitely has the ability and he's got the mental capacity to do that.

Q. A two-parter. First of all, what can you tell us about Martin Kaymer? He said some nice things about you in general, and playing with him in Dubai. And I have a follow-up.
ERNIE ELS: Okay. I played with Martin in Dubai. You've got to watch this kid play. He's going to be something, I promise you. He's long. He's got a great touch. I love his ball flight; it's got a little left-to-right going, but very powerful. And he's got a great attitude towards the game.
I actually played with him in Germany two years ago. Actually was it last year, in Munich. And he didn't do too well there, but I could see he had some game. And obviously he's broken through now. He's a really great talent for the game. You'll see a lot of him.

Q. We've been looking -- and this will be the second part. For the last two or three years, we hear about young kids, they get pretty good reviews, but it doesn't seem like they can sustain it, very rarely. Sergio might be an exception. Why do you think that is? Do you think it's tougher now? Asking a 24-year-old to win a U.S. Open, do you think it's tougher now for kids or younger kids to progress than it was back then?
ERNIE ELS: I think it should be easier, because there's so many really quality events around the world. You can really become a world-class player in Europe. They've got some really class events there, and really good fields. So if you're a real good talent, I think you've got a chance of becoming better quicker, and then to sustain it you've just got to look after your schedule and after yourself.
Obviously the competition is a lot tougher than in my day when I was in my early, middle 20s. But the quality of all the Tours, you can really keep your game at a very high level, wherever you play. So I'm not too sure -- I think the media attention is a lot greater than obviously in my day. So maybe that's got something to do with it. Maybe they feel a bit more pressure to perform earlier or quicker than maybe earlier. I'm not quite sure. But really to play a good, solid schedule, and not play too much is quite important, too.

Q. It appeared you set up your schedule a little different this year, at least at first. You're playing all four of the majors. Was that a conscious decision that you want to be playing going into them? Is there a different thought or approach as to how you're going to prepare for the majors this year?
ERNIE ELS: Well, yeah, I'll take all three or four of them. I had a really good record at the Masters, and the last couple of years, it seems like since 2004, something went a little missing. I haven't played before The Masters for a very long time. I might still do that this year.
But I've put a tournament in the schedule and I want to see how my game progresses until that time comes, because I feel that almost I overwork myself a little bit too much on the range at Lake Nona or wherever I am, before Augusta, and I don't want to do that this year. I want to feel like I'm just playing into the tournament and enjoying the tournament where it is. That's why I put Houston in.
The U.S. Open, I haven't done well there for ages, and also because I haven't played a tournament before the U.S. Open. And I'm playing a tournament before that tournament this year, and hopefully they've got the golf course set up where we can play golf.
And then, you know, obviously the British Open, I always play the Scottish and then the PGA. We're going to play the Bridgestone. So I've got some good events coming into the majors. So that's been a big decision, yeah.

Q. For those of us who haven't seen you in a while, wondering about -- you talked about the physical side of the game and how well you've been playing. What about between the ears? That's a blunt way of putting it. You've been in some news for things that you haven't characteristically done down the stretch in closing out tournaments.
ERNIE ELS: That's true. Really after the -- I won the Match Play, that was back in October. And then I had to go to Singapore, and then obviously it was before that with the Valderrama tournament. It would have been great to try to win the Order of Merit, but it didn't quite work out that way.
And then obviously my favorite place in the whole world probably at Leopard Creek, and making an 8 on the par-5 and losing, and then again in Dubai. Two tournaments where I really should have probably won. And, yeah, I mean -- but to be honest with you, I've taken some big blows in the last four or five years. So it's something that I know I can overcome.
But I've got a long-term view on these things. Like I said, my Callaway equipment, I've been really working hard with them to try to get the equipment to where I'm really comfortable, and I'm really getting there now or I am there.
And on the business side, you know, there's a lot of things that I also had to get set up, and it takes time. But now I really want to play golf. And that's why I've set the schedule that I have. I really want to try to get into the mix over here in the States and really try and get close to winning tournaments or even giving myself a chance. And I think if I can get over that little hill, things will go a little smoother, hopefully.
But it's been a tough couple of years for me. But I've got to keep going. I've got to try to keep fighting and keep working on my game. So that's basically the bottom line, just to keep working.

Q. You just mentioned you've taken some blows over the past couple of years. Just wondering if looking back, did 2004 take more out of you than you thought? And it maybe took a while to realize. Being so close in every one that year and what you went through?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I think so. I mentioned it earlier, yeah, I think definitely. I said after I did my knee and I thought it was going to be a good thing, if it was a bad thing to happen, maybe it was going to turn out good for me. But it even took me a little longer to get over the injury than I thought and get my game back and all of that. It's been an interesting last couple of years for me, personally and professionally. So I've learned from it and I'm still here. I'm still ready to go.
So I think in many ways it makes you a stronger person in many ways, even with all the struggles with the stuff that's going to be flying around in my head if I try to win a tournament. But it's one of those things, and that's why I love doing what I'm doing.

Q. When you mentioned long-term a moment ago, how long? Is this different than the three-year plan you mentioned a few minutes ago?
ERNIE ELS: That's still what we're busy with; we're still building on that. But as I say, I feel comfortable physically and on the equipment side also very comfortable now. So I can start pushing on now.

Q. I guess what I'm asking, have you ever wondered or thought how long you plan to be playing at a high level given all the things you have, business side and other things in life?
ERNIE ELS: We are very excited. We're going to the emerging markets of the world with the golf course design business and really getting busy in the Middle East and things like that. And some other stuff that I've gotten involved with too, now, is also starting to kick on. So I'm really excited on that part.
And I've got some good people running those respective businesses, so to speak. So I can really concentrate on what I do best and that's hopefully making six birdies, and I'm looking forward to that, actually.

Q. What, if any, influence has Tiger had on your game? Have you taken anything from him? Have either his physical abilities or his mental abilities made you a better player or think will make you a better player?
ERNIE ELS: That's a good question. It seems like it's just gone like that. But we've been around each other now for close to 13 years now. And I've seen him grow as a person, as a player, and really I think this is almost a finished product, hopefully (laughter).
But he's taught me a lot of things, especially on the course, how he can really just concentrate like that. I mean, I've seen Jack Nicklaus play on television; I've seen Nick Faldo, I played a lot of golf with him. And all these guys were No. 1 for long stretches of time, even Greg Norman, and all had the ability to really knuckle down and really push everything else aside and really concentrate on the work at hand.
But I've never seen anything like Tiger. He's a step above. And actually to me it's a treat just to play with him, just to see how he goes about his work. He hits a lot of loose shots, but the way he recovers is amazing and the way he keeps himself in it and having won tournaments at the end of the day. Dubai is a great example, again. To come out of it again.
The biggest thing I've seen is his ability to mentally concentrate, especially with you guys around him all the time, every day of his life. So it's got to be tough for him, too.

End of FastScripts
About ASAP SportsFastScripts ArchiveRecent InterviewsCaptioningUpcoming EventsContact Us
FastScripts | Events Covered | Our Clients | Other Services | ASAP in the News | Site Map | Job Opportunities | Links
ASAP Sports, Inc. | T: 1.212 385 0297