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DUBAI DESERT CLASSIC


March 2, 2005


Ernie Els


DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

GORDON SIMPSON: Ernie, welcome back to the Emirates course where you have won a couple of times. It's been a big day here on the European Tour with the announcement of the Ryder Cup Captains. Just out of interest, is that an event that you pay a lot of attention when you're in the U.K.?

ERNIE ELS: Yes, it is. I always watch it. It's obviously a big day for you guys.

GORDON SIMPSON: And Woosie.

ERNIE ELS: It's not important to me but it is for you guys, so I'll try and comment on it.

GORDON SIMPSON: No one has won twice here, let alone three times. How would that sit with you, winning for a third time at the Dubai Desert Classic?

ERNIE ELS: It would be great. I've been coming here since 1993. I missed out on a couple of Classics, but I've always enjoyed playing this golf course. When I took it to the (Dubai) Creek, I didn't enjoy that too much, but always enjoyed this golf course. And the golf course I must say this week is really as good as I've ever seen it. I mean, the overseed really took well. The course looks great and it plays great. So you should see some very good scores if the weather holds up.

GORDON SIMPSON: 61, perhaps?

ERNIE ELS: Well, the weather, if it's quite windy can be difficult, but if you get out on the greens you can make some putts. They are quite soft at the moment. For some reason they have had some rain here, so the golf course is playing a bit longer than normal but it's in really good shape.

Q. We read early this week that you had been interviewing with the local papers and said the first few tournaments this season are the best you've ever been playing?

ERNIE ELS: A little misquoted there. I said I was playing really well, not as well as I've ever played. But I'm playing well. I've just got to -- you know, I didn't finish it off. I didn't finish the job, as they say, in the first four weeks that I played. I had chances to win each and every time and I didn't quite do that.

I feel like I'm swinging well and really hitting the ball well. I played this morning and I feel I'm really hitting the ball well. Just a matter of putting everything together. This morning I didn't -- I didn't quite putt the way I wanted to, I missed quite a few shorts putts. I think I shot 2-under this morning. I feel like everything is there or thereabouts, I just know I'm putting it all together and making it a final package kind of a thing and that's exciting for me. If I can do that, we know what's on the course and that's what I want to work on. Hopefully that falls together this week.

Q. In some ways, this is a bit of a surprise to see you miss a World Golf Championship event last week and come here. Can you tell us what was the thinking behind what got your schedule that way?

ERNIE ELS: Well, it's kind of easy. I wanted to take some time off. I didn't have much -- I had a couple of weeks off in December, but I had to play quite a few events in South Africa to help the Tour kind of a thing and only had two weeks off. Then I played four out of five weeks to start off with. I just felt like I needed a break. You know, we made quite a few golf course sight visits. And my foundation, I had to spend some time with the foundation and the kids. We opened the golf course in South Africa and had three weeks off, but I had to work a little bit. And to be honest, I didn't feel like going to the Match-Play, flying 30 hours there, probably 20-something hours back here, and that's basically it.

Q. I saw an interesting name in the draw, Matthew Kent, a South African who came and played and won a tournament there. Will you be keeping your eyes open for what he is going to do?

ERNIE ELS: Yes, he has a hell of a future ahead of him, like Charl Schwartzel. He's only 20 years old and he's already won a tournament on the Tour. Matthew's a great player, he's a great amateur player and you know, he turned pro, he's very young, but that's what he wants to do the rest of his life. It's great that they have given him a chance to play here. I think when he settles down, he's really going to be a player for the future. I feel really excited about that.

Q. What's with the blue band you are playing with - is that some sort of self-help?

ERNIE ELS: No, no, a lady just gave to me on 18. I think it stands for something, but it doesn't fit me so I can't wear it.

Q. Is there a specific part of your game that needs a bit more work than other parts to take you to where you want to get to?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I think I spent a lot of time on my long game. I feel like my long game is really good and my short game is not quite as sharp, and that's what I want to work on the next couple of weans, get my short game as sharp as I can get it. As good as your long game is going to be, you're still going to miss some greens here and there and you still have to make some short putts and get the ball up-and-down. So I've got to get that sharper, so I guess I've got to work on that a little bit more.

Q. Can you tell us what happened with the flight in Jo├ó´┐Ż´┐Żburg?

ERNIE ELS: They say you have to try everything once, at least. But, no, it was funny. I checked in -- my family took the airplane back to London. They were flying out Saturday and I flew out yesterday. But I live in George when I'm in South Africa, it's a little airport that you have to fly through Johannesburg. The guy wouldn't give me a boarding pass but he checked my luggage through. There was a big rugby game going on the Cats were playing the Bulls, and we were watching that game and I gave myself half an hour to get a boarding pass. And when I got to the check-in desk, it was closed. (Laughing). So I thought they gave my seat away and everything, but we made a plan. I pulled one of my brother's buddies off the plane, took his seat, gave him my ticket; and he flew here first class the next day and I flew in the back of the bus. (Laughter.) And I was middle of the row, yeah.

Q. When was the last time you flew commercial?

ERNIE ELS: I think back in '92.

GORDON SIMPSON: Did you enjoy it?

ERNIE ELS: It was good for the mind. You appreciate the better things in life now. (Laughing).

Q. I wanted to ask you, some players would prefer to play three weeks in a row and then go into another tournament. You have just taken a three-week break, so how does it feel? Are you more comfortable playing three weeks and then playing another week or just taking a rest and then play?

ERNIE ELS: Well, you know, I've played good golf and I've taken my time also to get back into working order. But as I said, I feel good about my game and the way I'm hitting the ball so I've got to work on my short game. But, you know, obviously, you would think that you play your better golf after three weeks of playing because you know where you are.

But as I say, I've played really well off a long break. I don't take too many long breaks through the season. My next long break will probably be somewhere in June, July when I have two weeks off or more than two weeks off. For the next four or five months, it's a lot of golf with a week off here and there and a lot of traveling; so I needed to do that just to recharge.

GORDON SIMPSON: Any further questions?

ERNIE ELS: Aren't you going to ask me about the Ryder Cup? About Woosie?

I think Woosie, his name speaks for itself, doesn't it? He's a stalwart of the Tour for so many years and won so many tournaments. The great thing about Woosie, he's so current, he's currently in the game and he's with the guys and he's played many Ryder Cups. Between Woosie, Faldo, Monty, Langer, I mean, Sandy Lyle, all of these kind of guys, I mean, you can just flip a coin and pick one of them, really, because they have all meant a lot to the Tour and just a matter of timing it right or getting the right venue for each and every guy. But those guys are the obvious captains in the future.

Q. So many people envy your swing. Can you describe what your swing thoughts are and how it feels when everything is working perfectly for you?

ERNIE ELS: You know, you work hard on your swing, you try and get all of your basics right. I think your fundamentals must be right, ball position, grip, I've worked hard on those aspects over the years. My rhythm has always been there, always helped me out when the technical part of my game wasn't going well. So, I think it helps when you have nice rhythm. You know, it's not like I'm trying to swing it that way; it happens. When you get all of your fundamentals right and you work on it, you know, that's basically that. Try to get it in a good position at the back and not rush it through the swing and keep a good balance.

GORDON SIMPSON: Thank you very much, Ernie, and good luck this week.

End of FastScripts.

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