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January 8, 2005

Ernie Els


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Past winner of the Mercedes Championships, Ernie Els, thank for joining us. Vijay is trying to run away with it, but yourself, Jonathan Kaye and a couple other guys are not letting him get away with it.

Good day, three straight birdies to start, talk about your start.

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, the start was perfect, I was 4-under through five. You get it going like that that early, you know, you can shoot anything. Unfortunately I hit one bad shot on the ninth hole. I tried to run up a 3-wood up against the wind into the green and I got over the top of it, hit it left, into a bunker which was about 40 yards short of the green. I was kind of up against the lip and left it in the bunker and made 6. That's what really slowed the whole thing down. Looking at birdie there and, you know, you make a 6. So it was a bit of a bummer there.

And then, I didn't make any birdies on 10, 11 and 12, which was very birdieable and then I 3-putted 13. So, you know, it took a great start and then really went a little bit backwards with it. Then I birdied three out of the last five holes to shoot a good number.

But, you know, lucky enough, Vijay didn't go too deep today. None of the other guys really made a lot of moves. So I'm still in it. I'm two shots behind and I've got a good chance tomorrow.

Q. With the forecast, with I guess Kona winds and more so, rain, how does that alter what you've seen so far this week?

ERNIE ELS: Well, it's going to be a big, big difference. The golf course is really starting to firm up now. The greens are getting a little bit faster, believe it or not. So the golf course is really starting to play the way we remember it, you know, the last five years. It's been very fiery, very firm, and I hear that it's already raining in Honolulu, so it's definitely coming in here and we're going to be playing on some wet stuff tomorrow.

Kona winds, it tends to make the par 5s play really long. So you'll see a different golf course tomorrow. You won't see guys shoot 5-under easily, making mistakes shooting 5-under. If you're going to go under par tomorrow, you'll have to play some golf, because the first hole could be a 3-iron where we've been going with wedges downwind. Second hole could be a 2-iron, 3-wood. So it's a different golf course when the weather changes.

Q. With threesomes tomorrow, do you like that idea of being there with the two guys ahead of you, does it matter? What do you think?

ERNIE ELS: I don't love, you know, playing three balls. It kind of slows the pace down a little bit. It's a little different. Especially final rounds. I can understand first two rounds, but final round, you want to be in a twosome and, you know, you want to get going. So tomorrow's going to be a little bit slower. It's going to be a bit of a patience battle out there tomorrow. But, so be it. I'm happy I'm in the final group.

Q. Does the early start time change your routine at all today and/or tomorrow? Do you have to get up very early?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I can't have my ten beers tonight. (Laughter.) No, it's going to be an early rise tomorrow morning. Thankfully I'm still on jet lag, so I've been getting up 4:30 in the morning anyway this week. So it won't be a problem tomorrow making my tee time.

Yeah, it's a different feel. It's the first time since I've been coming here that we're going to be playing three balls and going off at 8:00 on Sunday morning. So it's a bit of a change.

You know, what I hear, the stuff that's coming, I think they are doing the right decision, otherwise we could be here till Tuesday. It's just one of those things, you know, golf and the weather. They sometimes don't quite gel together.

Q. The three ball thing helps you, it puts you in a group with the leader; if you're chasing, you want to play with the leader, right?

ERNIE ELS: Exactly. That putt I made on 18, I was really thinking about it because I saw Stewart Cink at 16 and I knew if I could get a birdie on 18, I would be in the final group and I really wanted to do that. As you say, you really want to see what the leader is doing. You know, if you're going to make a move, at least you can do it directly with him.

Q. Speaking of ten beers before a final round, when is the last time somebody on a leaderboard has had ten beers before a final round, anybody since Walter Hagen maybe?

ERNIE ELS: I think that's --

Q. This is a milk and cookies tour, isn't it?

ERNIE ELS: Not even that. Just some water and go to bed. Power Bars. I haven't done that since maybe 1990, by the way. (Laughter.)

Q. How do you feel in the weather? Are you comfortable in wind and rain?

ERNIE ELS: Well, I don't think you could ever say you're going to be comfortable in it. But in my career, I've played in a lot of bad stuff. You know, you've just got to -- whatever it throws at you, you've got to cope with it, so I figure we'll cope with it tomorrow.

Q. How many guys are still in this?

ERNIE ELS: I think -- well, with the weather now, I think quite a few guys come back into it now. If it was the same as it's been the whole week, I think, you know, not too many guys, but right now, I mean, a guy can get hot. The leaders, you know, you make a couple of mistakes -- I think all the way down, six shots behind still probably has a go at it.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: You birdied the first three holes, if you could talk about those three holes and we'll take one last question.

ERNIE ELS: I birdied, first I had 7-iron to 22, 25 feet.

Second hole was a 6-iron, about 30 feet or so.

Third hole was a wedge to a gimmee range.

5 was a drive, 6-iron and 2-putted from about 15 feet for birdie.

13, I 3-putted from only about, I would say 18 feet behind the hole.

14 was a drive into the bunker short of the green. I got it out to about eight, nine feet.

16 was a little wedge about seven feet.

18, I hit a 3-iron onto the front edge and hit my first putt way past, about six feet past and made it coming back.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Last question.

Q. Was what happened at nine, did that affect you on 10, 11 and 12?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, it did. I was trying not to, but believe me, any time you make a 6 on a par 5, it gets you. I don't care who you are. It gets you. And it got me a little bit. Especially, the shot I was trying to play, a 4 was on the card, 5 feels like a bogey, and 6 was just a disaster. So I wasn't happy.

Q. You said yesterday that it's a long year, but is there any way that the first tournament of the year, with so many top players around, a statement could be made tomorrow?

ERNIE ELS: You know, I mean --

Q. Or has it already been made?

ERNIE ELS: I think two years ago, I win quite a few and then I kind of slowed down a little bit. You've just got to go, go with it. Whoever wins this week, great. But I mean we've still got a lot of tournaments left. The majors, obviously, PLAYERS Championship, those are the real tournaments that you're going to really make your statement at. If you win three or four before the Masters, obviously you've made your statement. Things like that happen, you're going to make the guys look around.

But, you know, to say that the guy that's going to win this tournament is going to be the guy to beat for the year, that's crazy, you know. We've got so many tournaments to play.

You've just got to maintain at a certain level, the way Vijay has done, and in the way I've done and some of the other players have done, that's the statement you make. You don't make it in one week or two weeks.


End of FastScripts.

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