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


April 5, 2005

Ernie Els


JIM BLANCHARD: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. We're delighted to have Ernie Els back at Augusta. Ernie is the winner of the 2005 Dubai Desert Classic and the Qatar event on the European Tour this year already. As you know, he's been 2nd at both The Masters and the British Open last year, has five consecutive Top-10 finishes at The Masters and runner-up twice. In the 2004 season, he won three PGA TOUR titles and had two wins on the PGA European Tour. He's the Order of Merit winner on the European Tour for the past two years, and he finished 2nd in 2004 on the PGA TOUR Money List, won the 2002 British Open in a playoff, a two-time U.S. Open Champion, captured the title in '94 and '97, he owns 15 PGA TOUR titles and 40 international crowns.

We're glad to have you here again, Ernie. You've got a lot of fans in the audience at Augusta, and would you make a few comments before we take questions.

ERNIE ELS: Yes, thank you. I'm obviously happy to be back, like everybody else in the field I'm sure.

Yeah, it seems like the year really went quickly since the last time I was here. I think I played nine holes yesterday, I played 18 holes this morning, and, you know, I think the golf course is in great shape. Hopefully the weather stays like this. You know, it's quite unbelievable to play in the sunshine for a change.

But it's great to be back, and obviously I'm looking forward to a good week.

Q. What was the wait like last year for the hoped-for playoff?

ERNIE ELS: It was strange, really. I mean, obviously I was sitting on the putting green trying to hit some putts and eating an apple and stuff like that, and as you say, hoping for a playoff. I thought my chances were pretty good for a playoff, but, yeah, it was a strange time.

You know, you've obviously got no control of what's happening. I just did what I could do and I was just waiting, and as I said, hoping for a playoff.

Q. The moment when you knew it wouldn't happen, what went through your mind and what happened?

ERNIE ELS: Well, I'm not sure what went through my mind. I just heard the roar, and I couldn't see that it was Phil, but after hearing the people's applause and stuff, you know, I knew it was Phil. You know, I packed my stuff and got out of town. Well, I spoke to you guys first before I got out of town.

It was a strange, strange time, you know, those 10, 15 minutes.

Q. How do you handle the close calls here -- at a relatively young age, do you just tell yourself to be patient, I'm in my prime, maybe not even approaching your prime years yet, and one of these is going to get kicked in sooner or later?

ERNIE ELS: Well, you know, if you give yourself just one opportunity to win here, I think you've done very well. Obviously I've given myself numerous opportunities to walk away with a green jacket. Hasn't happened, but, you know, that's really -- that's a lot you can ask for right there is just to have the opportunity to have a chance on a Sunday to win this championship.

You know, it hasn't happened yet for me. I've had a very good career up to now here anyways, but obviously winning is the ultimate and it has not quite happened.

All I can do is try and prepare myself to the best of my ability to try and have another go at it, and that's exactly what I'm in the process of doing. I'm trying to prepare myself to have another go, and, you know, hopefully it's this year. You know, who knows. All I can do is prepare, stay focused, try and hit the shots that I need to and at the end of the day have a bit of luck going my way. You need a bit of luck in this game, too.

You know, that's all we can try and do. You know, let's talk on Sunday again.

Q. When you got back here this time, what ran through your mind when you came back on the grounds? Anything hit you?

ERNIE ELS: Well, yeah, I mean, it's such a special place. I still feel good about the 18 holes I played last year, the final day. It was a good day for me, you know, because that is the way that you need to play this golf course, or that's the way I need to play this golf course. To do it in the final round with all the pressure, it feels good. It feels good that I've done it and that I might be able to do it again.

The feeling that I have here, it's always special. I haven't really, you know, even thought about the shots that I missed or this could have gone or that; I don't really see it that way. I just see the golf course in a new light this year. So we all -- I'm excited about this year.

Q. New light, can you expand on that?

ERNIE ELS: No, sorry.

Q. Seemed like you finally figured out how to play the par 5s last year and you got all the things right which you needed to do, which must have made it a little bit tougher; and secondarily, do you feel like this golf course owes you one, or is there such a thing? Do you walk in here going, "This place, this damn place, it owes me one"?

ERNIE ELS: Yes and no. I mean, you know, I don't think you can approach it that way. I don't want to approach a tournament in that fashion where I feel that the tournament or the place or golf course or anything owes me anything.

Q. Defensively?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I don't think you need to look at it that way. You do what you need to do. You've got 18 holes out there, you play them as good as you can, you're going to screw up here and there and you've just got to move on from that.

It's such a great challenge. Every hole is a different challenge. 18 is a great driving hole, 17 is a great second-shot hole and that's how the golf course is set up. So you really need to be on your game on each and every shot, and then even when you get on the greens, there's always a challenge.

It's a tough, tough golf course, but I love playing it, I love the way it's set up each and every year, and I just feel I can do well here, you know. That's an exciting feeling to have is to go out there and you know that something good can happen out there. That's the way I approach it.

Q. When Tiger was really at his peak there for those couple of years and you were on his heels obviously as a runner-up, was there a certain aura he carried with him, whether it was intimidation or invincibility or something like that, and is that a little bit gone now as guys have caught up to him?

ERNIE ELS: I think Tiger has always been a special player, ever since he came out in the pro ranks. He won in his first couple of months out here. '97 when he won out here, I think that really got the whole show on the road, so to speak, and he hasn't really looked back ever since then.

I think there's definitely an aura around Tiger. Obviously he's by far the biggest star, so to speak, out here, so he's always going to have people around him, especially media people around him. Yeah, he's a little different than the normal pro.

I think, you know, the way the guys have played, especially the way Vijay played last year, is right up there exactly what Tiger did a couple of years ago, exactly what he did; he won nine times plus a major and No. 1 player in the world. Other guys have stepped it up, too.

Yeah, it's totally a different ballgame at the moment, so to speak, with guys playing at a better level than a couple years ago.

Yeah, it's a little different out there, but Tiger is still Tiger. He's always a player you've got to really watch, even when he's not playing very well.

Q. Since you wait eight months to play this major, and it's one of the two you haven't won, do you put more emphasis and preparation on this one? Is there more pressure since it's such a big spread from the PGA?

ERNIE ELS: You know, I'm just excited that this is Augusta again. It's the first major of the year; you know, a lot of preparation has gone into this tournament already. I'm glad that I've hit some form, although it wasn't on the U.S. circuit, it was out in the Desert, but I've had a couple of wins under my belt now and I've felt the pressure.

So it's important to have played one or two tournaments very, very well up to this point because there's a different feel of pressure out here at Augusta, so we've done that.

To come back to your question, I really don't feel more pressure at all. I'm approaching this tournament like any other Masters. As I said, I'm playing okay, so that takes a bit of pressure off the practice time that I need to spend on the practice range because I'm hitting the ball well; I can really just work on my strategy a little bit more away from the golf course. I'm really excited getting it going now. I'm here already, been here a couple of days, and I feel like I can start tomorrow kind of a thing.

So I'm kind of more excited than feeling any pressure of what's happened in the past here. I feel I know the course pretty well.

Q. Obviously you guys like playing a field that's got the best players in it; the best players always like to play with the best players. How much did you look forward as a competitor to THE PLAYERS Championship earlier this year, and when none of the Big Four players did well because of the conditions, how much are you looking forward to this week maybe making up for that, maybe this becoming the shootout that the THE PLAYERS Championship wasn't?

ERNIE ELS: Well, I think first of all, let's put it this way: You guys are talking about the Big Four more than I think anybody. I think those four players, to talk about those four players, those four players have done some good things. Especially like I said, Vijay has done really something special last year. Phil has obviously played really well at the start of this year and start of last year. Myself, I've played at a pretty good standard. We've got quite a bit of ranking points, and I think that's where this whole Big Four thing is coming from.

But at the end of the day, you know, it showed at THE PLAYERS that anybody out there that's playing well and that believes in himself can win a golf tournament. I think this week is no different. I think there are certain players that this golf course really suits maybe better than other players, and for that reason, those kind of players will be in the mix on Sunday if they play their games.

But that doesn't say that nobody else can win this tournament. There's 90-something players in the field, and anybody that's playing well and feels that he can win, you know, can do it. Let's not forget -- let's not forget that.

There's other players who have done well, and if I can play to my ability, you know, I feel I can have a chance on Sunday. I think there's a lot of other players that feel the same way.

Q. What do you remember about how the galleries sounded on the back nine last year?

ERNIE ELS: It was incredible. I've never -- I've never felt that. I've played U.S. Opens where the crowd can really get up, like in New York at Bethpage, that was a loud crowd, but I wasn't in the mix there.

But for me last year, that Sunday was the most special Sunday afternoon stroll that I've ever had. K.J. making his shot on 11, those two hole-in-ones, I made eagle on 13, Phil making his charge the last seven holes; it was just electric, really. It was a wonderful afternoon.

Q. Ever since they lengthened the course, we've had softened conditions and has not ever played hard and fast. It's obviously playing hard and fast, at least right now. How do you think that will shape the dynamics in the tournament if we finally get that hard and fast?

ERNIE ELS: Who knows? I mean, you're definitely going to have shorter shots into the par 4s and you can get to the par 5s. But those greens are going to be really fast and very firm. They are already very fast. It will make accuracy into the greens really very important. You'll have to really hit your second shots very crisply. You'll have to come out of the fairways to make the balls stop on the greens.

The whole exercise will become tougher.

You might see a lot more guys hitting 3-woods off the tees just to get the ball really into play on the right sides and really getting the second shots on the right shelves because you can't miss this golf course on the wrong side, especially when it's very firm and fast.

Q. Is it so fast that it puts more of a premium on hitting shorter irons, or is it so hard that even hitting shorter irons, you can't really get it to the spots you want?

ERNIE ELS: You have to get your spots. When it's soft and we've had a lot of rain here, you can be a lot more aggressive off the tees. You can hit drivers all over the place probably and still get the ball to stop out of the first cut.

But, you know, that flies out of the window when it's firm and fast and you have to try and get it in the fairways and then really get some spin on the ball. Two putts two putts on some of these greens will be great when it's fast and it's firm. It becomes a bit of a different ballgame.

Q. Obviously there's a long history of Sunday drama here, including last year. As much as it's hard and difficult and seems like the Sunday setup allows for some low scores on the back nine, how much does that add to the lore and excitement coming down the stretch here, maybe as opposed to other majors?

ERNIE ELS: Well, I think that's a good point. I think last year's Sunday, the front nine, the flags were really difficult. But thankfully, I mean, we knew because our caddies walk the golf course before, and Ricci told me where the flags were. I kind of knew that the back nine was there for the taking. But the front nine, they've got the flags in the high spots like on 6 on the right and 4 on the right and holes like that; it's very tough to get it close, and really, par is a very good score on those holes.

It's nice to know that the guys give you a little bit of a break on the back nine, and I think it's great for Sunday afternoon charges. If you want, you know, you can get the ball feeding off the slopes and, you know, eagles and birdies are there. I think that all of the new length on the golf course, I think that makes it a lot more exciting.

Q. While you're talking about the back nine, what are the holes that you really enjoy that ebb and flow of them, tough ones and the easier ones? What are the shots that you love the most on the back?

ERNIE ELS: Well, 11 we don't like too much (laughter). That second shot down there is just -- even if you're in the fairway, it's such a tough shot. You know, you just want to put it on the green there and make 4, so 11 is difficult.

Every hole on the back nine is just -- it's got something special to it. You know, every hole has got a different challenge, and 10 is probably the most beautiful hole, especially on the second shot. You know, 12 is such a dangerous hole.

But all of them are birdieable. If you hit the right second shot, you can birdie each one on the back nine if they have the flags like they had them last year. You can feed it off some of the slopes, like 14 you can hit way left, feed it down the slope. 16, same thing. It seems like there's a bit of a backstop and it's nice to know, but they can also set it up where it's almost impossible, you know, like put it on the back shelf on the right on 16 and 14 on the front left. So they can really make it tough, too.

But the second shots on the back nine, it seems like that's your scoring shots.

Q. I was going to ask you, I think I saw Jos up with you?


Q. And how are things?

ERNIE ELS: They are good, thanks, yeah. Very good. Yeah, we're good friends again.

Q. Was there a method in his madness, do you think?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I think for me, yeah. I think definitely.

I can talk to him in totally different ways than I can speak to maybe --

Q. Me?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, or Liezl or my dad or anybody like that. I think we've got a good way most of the time.

Q. Do you feel that he was doing something deliberate a few weeks ago or was that completely --

ERNIE ELS: No, I think it was just one of those things, I guess. Just one of those misunderstandings, I guess.

Q. Has he been with you here before?

ERNIE ELS: Oh, yeah, yeah. The last four or five years, yeah.

Q. He was with you on the green last year when you were waiting for Phil, wasn't he?

ERNIE ELS: He was waiting with me, exactly.

Q. Do you consider yourself, your career here, successful, or because you've been right there, right there, right there, you just reeled off how many Top-10s in a row it had been, but it's all about the wins for you at this point; isn't it pretty much?

ERNIE ELS: Well, I think if I go back, again, '94 was my first year and I finished 8th. That wasn't a bad start. I think right from the get-go, I think my expectations always here have been to win this tournament. So if your expectations are that high, anything less than that is a bit of a disappointment.

But, saying that, you know, it's been a good ride here. I've had so many chances and had so many special Sunday afternoons that, you know, who knows. If I never win this tournament, I've still played some good golf here and I've had some good times here. But obviously, winning is everything right now, so I'd love to win this tournament.

Q. Yesterday Olazabal missed a couple of short ones, and he said his confidence will never waiver coming to a place like this because he's had success here. How fragile is confidence out here and how important is confidence to you when you go into a big event?

ERNIE ELS: Well, you know, my confidence is good. You know, it's such a long, tough week that every day is very important. You can't let it slip too much. Even sometimes a 75 is not a good score, but it doesn't really take you right out of the picture, the golf course is so tough.

You always just want to kind of hang on and try and be there. I said before earlier that I've played it so well on Sunday last year, and that is the way I need to play this golf course. I've got to be aggressive when I can be, stay back a little bit here and there. You can't go for every flag. I think with experience I've learned -- it taught me a little bit, a lot of lessons here. I want to play the way I played on Sunday. That's the way I want to play this golf course.

I feel like my game is on a good standing now where I can do that. I'm hitting the ball well and putting okay, so that's the way I want to play. If Lady Luck is going to be on my side, I don't know. You know, I'm going to be as positive as I can be coming into this week, but Lady Luck needs to be on your side every now and again. You need to get lucky here and there, and hopefully it will happen this year. That's where the fine line is, you know, a shot here and a shot there, maybe a chip-in, or maybe I can lip a putt in here and there. That's where it changes. If you don't get that, you're probably not going to win.

Q. What is strict par for you today, and how does that differ, if at all, from wet conditions?

ERNIE ELS: I mean, even par is par here. I think if you asked me that question seven years ago, I guess a lot of guys would have said 4-under on a good day in perfect weather conditions. But the course has changed; it's longer, there's a first cut now. You know, the course right now is playing very tough, so if you shoot even par around here, you know, you're doing okay.

Q. And in wet conditions?

ERNIE ELS: Well, wet conditions, obviously it changes a little bit. The greens become more receptive, maybe a shot better or two, yeah. You take four of those, you're going to be right there, firm or soft.

JIM BLANCHARD: Ernie, thank you for being with us.

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