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May 21, 2008

Ernie Els


RODDY WILLIAMS: Welcome to the 2008 BMW PGA Championship, a very short drive from home for you, you must be looking forward to this week.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I'm not jet-lagged this week. It's very nice, it's wonderful to be here at home and play my home golf course. Just hoping for a good weather like, obviously, like all of us. We haven't had a good weather week here for a couple of years, so it's wait and see.
Obviously great to live at home and sleep in my own bed. I've obviously done well here in The Match Play sleeping in my own bed but haven't quite done it in this event yet, we'll see.

Q. Have you tried to figure it out, the 7-0 record? It's crazy.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, the one record is great and the other one is not so good. Same golf course. It's just a different format. We've spoken about it so many years now, haven't we.
You know, came close there for a couple of years, you know in the late 90s, and I think I finished second here in 2000. But I haven't quite done it.
You know, I'm feeling my game is coming around. I've been working with Butch a little bit and actually went to spend some time with him before the TPC event. I made the equivalent of 20 birdies at TPC, but a lot of mistakes, obviously. I've had a nice preparation into this event so far. Been working on my game over the weekend, and obviously know the course very well.
Yeah, to be honest with you, I'm not sure. It's a different format. You have to play four rounds of stroke play instead of playing match play.

Q. Could it be something as simple as the reading of the greens, are the greens different at this time of year?
ERNIE ELS: Obviously the greens are perfect in October. There's only a 16-man field and by the end there's only two guys on the golf course. So the greens are very, very good. Obviously here this week, we have got 156 guys, you know, trampling all over the greens, so the greens will be a little bumpy. More bumpy than in October, and yeah, that could be a factor.

Q. Did you seriously consider going to Moscow?
ERNIE ELS: Absolutely. I'm quite a big man u supporter, sorry for you Chelsea guys. Yeah, I seriously did, and then I saw the game -- I only saw it starting at 10:45 at night over there and if you don't get a slot back, I might not make my tee time. I still want to play the tournament.

Q. Could you have asked for a late tee time in that situation?
ERNIE ELS: I guess so. Actually in the same day that I was planning to go, I cancelled a trip. I saw it was going to be a bit of a schlep to get there and back in the same evening. Wish them luck and I'm sure they will do it tonight.

Q. Can you give us an idea of what Butch and you are working on?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, you know, I got a little bent out of shape. I think that month in March when I got a little sick a couple of times, I couldn't practise and I was very weak playing Miami. I got into really bad habits. My ball positioning went out. My alignment went out. My swing got really very loose and very long. I need to get it back into shape, basically, ball position, which is a very feel thing, and alignment, I was aiming so far right and then to aim left, it feels like it's still -- you're aiming out here, but you're still aiming right.
It's been a lot of change in that, and then trying to get my swing shorter, more compact, more an line, more on plane --

Q. You sound like us.
ERNIE ELS: Exactly. You saw my scores, I played like a 7-handicapper there for a good two, three weeks. I needed to change, and it's taken a lot of work. It still feels a little uncomfortable now and again, but I'm a lot better than I have been.

Q. And sorry to belabor it, the ball position --
ERNIE ELS: Going further up in the stance.

Q. You had it too far back?
ERNIE ELS: No, it was going too far up. I had to move it back. So now it feels like the ball is on my right foot and you know, I'm not going to be able to release the hand. Yeah, it's been a little awkward. It's almost been fun, because I really had to work on something and almost felt like my early days on Tour again.

Q. Does he tell you different things, or does he tell you the same things as you've heard from other coaches, but in a different way?
ERNIE ELS: Well, you know, if it comes back to the point, it probably is a lot similar things, just in a different way, as you say. I mean, David Leadbetter is a great friend of mine. We've worked together for 18 years. He was going to come stay with me this week, but his son had a bad accident on the football field and actually broke his shoulder, so he couldn't come.
So we're really good friends, and, you know, as a player, from my perspective, it's very tough to tell David, listen, I want to listen to somebody else for a while; let me go a different direction here. It was a bit difficult but I'm glad that he understood, and that just shows you the character of the guy, and he's a great friend.
Yeah, I saw what Butch has done with Adam Scott. You know, I think he's got probably the best swing in golf right now. What he's done with Stewart Cink, he's a very tall guy, he's taller than me, and some of the other players. Obviously at the moment, like all coaches, he's in form. He's got a pretty good track record, so I wanted to listen to him.
And I've known Butch ever since Greg Norman -- I played a lot of practise rounds with Greg Norman in the 90s, and Butch was always around him. So I heard what they were talking about.

Q. Were you struggling with these problems the week that you won, I think was it the Honda?
ERNIE ELS: Not as bad obviously, but I was; my aim was a bit right. I actually had the GOLF CHANNEL where I was staying, and I had Mr. Rupert, I don't know if you know Johann, but we were coming together that week. And there's a lesson in itself, as you know. We talked about the swing and so on, and I got myself straightened out for the Sunday, and that Sunday, it was very windy.
But I never missed a fairway the back nine, and I don't think I missed a green, or I might have missed one green. Already there it was starting to come into my game a little bit and two weeks later, I was bedridden in bed for five days and that didn't help either.

Q. Just going back to Butch again, have you enjoyed going to work with him, has that helped?
ERNIE ELS: In fairness, all these coaches, swing coaches, they all have a great feel for the game, a lot of enthusiasm for the game, a lot of them are actually even historians of the game. So they know swing from Bobby Jones to Tiger Woods. So these guys really get into the swing of things, so to speak.
Butch, he's worked with -- like Lead, he's worked with different generations of players and he's evolved with time and equipment and obviously technology. So he's very much right on top of his game right now.

Q. What are you doing to sort of double-check on your alignment now? Do you get your caddie to tell you?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, JP was with me right through the change with Butch. You know, we've got some tools now -- well, not tools, it's just two little white sticks that we put on the ground and just, you know, check my body alignment and my target ball alignment, and all of the other changes -- I've got a little thing you strap onto your right arm to shorten the backswing a little bit with a full shoulder to it. So got a couple of gadgets that I've got.

Q. As well as the swing thing, have you been working with Josh in the gym there?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, at my age, you've got to keep going and keep the heart going, you know.
Yeah, I had a really good week last week with Josh. I got my strength back now and really got into it. You know, feel in good shape. So hopefully in a couple weeks time, it will really payoff at the U.S. Open, obviously.

Q. Only three other players have won the World Match Play and the BMW PGA in the same year; what would it mean to you to make it four?
ERNIE ELS: I haven't really thought about it to be honest. I've won quite a few Match Plays, so I've had quite a few opportunities to make it a double, which I haven't done.
This is a tournament set really on its own, and I'd obviously love to win it. I've got a good chance this year I think.

Q. What's the hardest thing about trying to get back to No. 2, is it the technical hurdles or the mental?
ERNIE ELS: I think technical more than anything. You know, when you're aiming at a spot and the ball, when you look up, is not quite going at where you thought you were aiming, it's kind of tough to get yourself thinking about shooting 63s and 64s.
I think technically, I got out of whack, and I need to get back. I'm still getting back. Like I said to Butch when I started working with him, I was probably a three out of ten, and I'm slowly getting up to maybe five or six now. Hopefully by the second major, I'll be up by seven and going forward.
I think when the technical side becomes very comfortable, I think the game will just fall in place.

Q. If it's not you this week, who do you think it might be?
ERNIE ELS: Well, I think Padraig Harrington has got a good chance this week --

Q. He's not playing.
ERNIE ELS: Oh, he's not playing? Sorry. I think Cabrera. He's playing, is he? (Laughter) Sorry. I think Cabrera's got a good chance. He's played well here. I'm not sure if he's won here but he's been close. Even a dark horse, I would say Monty. Monty's been struggling with his game a bit, but you've got to drive it well around here now. It's going to be very fast if the weather stays the same. Greens are going to be tough. They are going to be firm. So ball-striking's going to be a premium, so I think he might be a dark horse.
And then one of the younger guys, Justin. Justin played well last year.

Q. What about Martin Kaymer? What do you think about him now?
ERNIE ELS: I'm glad I played with him when I did. I think I played with him in Germany two years ago. You know, I said to him then, he hits this nice fade, really hard, power fade, and very long off the tee. He had such a nice attitude the day we played with. Just really enjoyed him and enjoyed the way that he presents himself. Really happy for him when he won this year. I know he works really hard on his game. He's just got to be a little bit patient now. He's trying to get to that next step very fast, like a young, hungry player should be. But it's going to maybe take a little bit of time before he gets there. But he's got so much game and really proud of him.

Q. When is the move to Florida, or is this the last tournament where this is your main home?
ERNIE ELS: Well, you know, we're moving over there for a little bit longer period of time. I find it quite difficult here in the off-season. Decembers, we normally go to South Africa. But in January, February, November, October, and even a bit of March, I'm here in England, or I spend a lot of time here, and find it difficult to practice. I don't know how you guys do it. I take my hat off to you guys. (Laughter) Practise indoors or go out there with gloves on, I find it difficult.
You know, I just feel like I don't really have much of a life outside of taking the kids to school and coming back and sitting in the cold. And obviously for Ben, you know, we found a very good educational system in Florida down there for him. I've got a lot of friends down there. My golf design business is down there.
So it makes sense for us right now to move there for a longer period of time. I'm not leaving the U.K. I'm keeping the house and we'll spend the summers here. We'll spend the good time here instead of sitting in the snow and rain.

Q. You're not selling?
ERNIE ELS: No, I'm not.

Q. Do you agree with Gary Player about the drug tests?
ERNIE ELS: I guess I haven't seen it quite yet, but I'm sure I think to keep the sport clean and keep it honest, I mean, it's funny now with the run-up to the Olympics, the press is hot about these athletes that's taken all of these performance-enhancing drugs. You know, obviously in their sport, in the 100-metre sprint, if you take a drug, it makes you faster, stronger; it makes a huge difference. In golf, probably won't, but still, we need to be on par with other sports around the world.
It looks like we might be getting a spot in the Olympics coming soon, so we need to keep it clean.

Q. Gary took a lot of schtick for what he said at The Open about the drugs. Do you think he did the right thing on speaking out of it and that he's led to all of these reactions?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I think when he said it at the time; obviously the biggest tournament in the world, to say it there, and obviously knowing Gary, he said it with a purpose and obviously he felt very strong about it.
I think it definitely took a lot of attention away from what we were doing for that week, and I think that's why guys were trying to either downplay it or not even talk about it, because you're trying to stay focused on the tournament that you're playing.
You know, in hindsight if I were to look back, I think he did the right thing. Somebody had to come out with a strong view on that, and Gary, you know, being a nine-time major winner was the right guy to do it I guess.

Q. Do you think he should have named names? You said at the time you thought he should have named names.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, sure, absolutely. I think if you come out with a strong statement like that, I think that's what you should do.
RODDY WILLIAMS: Well, Ernie, thank you very much. Thanks for your time and good luck this week.

End of FastScripts

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