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January 7, 2005

Ernie Els


TODD BUDNICK: We thank Ernie Els for dropping in after an 8-under 65 in the second round of the Mercedes Championships. Ernie, no bogeys today, eight birdies and a very nice day out there.

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, it was nice. I played good golf today. I kept it in play most of the holes. Only negative I could say about today, I didn't dominate the par 5s the way I probably should have. I played them 2-under par. With my length, I could basically get on in two on the par 5s but I never had an eagle putt, but I made two birdies on them.

But other than that, I really hit my iron shots really well on the front nine. You know, almost made a 1 on 8. I was eyeing that one, it's a nice car. Made two there.

I played two good nines. I kept it together.

Q. You had one eagle putt today.

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, on the par 4, for goodness sakes. But anyway, yeah, I felt like I played good.

Q. Have you ever made eagle on a par 4?

ERNIE ELS: Oh, yeah. (Laughter.) Quite a few.

Q. You've never shot over par here?

ERNIE ELS: Touch wood. Touch wood. (Smiling.)

Q. What is it, this has got to be up there with some of the courses where you just have an incredible comfort zone, I guess?

ERNIE ELS: Absolutely. I enjoy the course. It's quite friendly off the tees. You can get yourself in position, and from there, you've got to hit good iron shots when the wind blows. I tend to play it really well when the tradewinds are blowing. I don't really like it too much when the Kona wind blows, that's very difficult.

But I just feel comfortable here. I feel like playing golf when I come here. It's the first week of the year. Hawaii is not the worst place on the planet to come to. They look after us great here. It's really a wonderful week. It's almost better than THE TOUR Championship, just because of the venue. It's also a limited field. It's a really special place.

The greens are very grainy. The year that I went so far under par, I had my pace right and the lines right, so I can read them pretty well. I've just got to get the pace right.

Q. Is there part of you in the midst of playing two good nines that you look up on the board seeing that Vijay is going to get your 31 record today?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, exactly.

Q. Is there any part that says, "Geez, when is this guy..."

ERNIE ELS: I think Vijay likes this course, obviously. He has a very good record around here. He's got so much confidence now. You know, a guy like Vijay, I myself, Tiger, Retief, the longer hitters, you can have some fun out there. You can really bomb it out there, unlike other golf courses we play on TOUR. You can have some fun and you can go after it a little bit.

Vijay is the perfect candidate to shoot a low one around here.

Q. Is there any feeling similar to your tournament here in 2003 when you did just go so far under par, is there any similar feeling so far this week?

ERNIE ELS: Well, yeah, I mean, just about everything went right for me that year. I was holing shots from the rough and chipping in, making putts, hitting it miles. I made a lot of Eagles on the par 5s that week. So I definitely drove it well and hit the ball well. I'm doing the same this week. I'm hitting it quite nicely. Felt like I made a couple of silly mistakes yesterday. I still got out and shot a 69 but it could have been a couple of shots better.

Yeah, there's a lot of similarities this week to that year. Yeah, I feel like I'm driving it very well, solidly and I'm hitting my irons well. It's just a matter of putting everything together.

Q. You look up and Vijay is still on top of the leaderboard and you think, my God, it's 2004 again; what's the feeling chasing that guy?

ERNIE ELS: No, it's a long year. He's obviously got some momentum going. He's playing great golf. Let's not get that wrong. But it's a long year. We can all play this game. I get my act together, you know, it will be game-on and the same with Tiger and the same with other people.

If he beats me this week, you know, well played, but there's another week next week and there's a long year to go.

Q. You've been asked this during the week, and the end of last year, it looks like we have four, five, six guys now who are right at the very top of golf. Is that exciting? I mean, do you enjoy this challenge and looking around and just with Tiger and Retief, and you and Vijay etc., etc.?

ERNIE ELS: Absolutely. I think it's great for the game of golf. You know, there's a lot of challengers now for the No. 1 spot.

You know, Vijay deserves where he is, but, you know, there's a lot of guys chasing him and trying to do what they can. I think it's great for the game of golf. I think it's much better now than it was five years ago when Tiger was so far ahead of us. It shows you how the guys have improved their own games and how the level has been stepped up. So I think it's great for the game.

Q. You talked about getting -- when you get your game on, I know at NEC you were talking about how you were basically pretty much spent through the rest of the year. What did you do from the end of the year to this point to get your game on?

ERNIE ELS: Well, after the NEC, I think I went to Switzerland and after that I had a couple of weeks off. I started getting myself together there. I had a good end of the season, a couple of tournaments there, and then I played some in South Africa again at the end of this year. I've only had two weeks off.

But, you know, I just feel if I get myself together, if I'm focused on the right stuff, on positive things, I can play good golf, and perform well. That's what I'm concentrating on. I want to be ready to play when I need to play, and I was not ready at the NEC, so be it. I had a tough week the week before and I wasn't there.

I feel like if I get it together, you know, I can play with the best of them.

Q. I don't know if there was any adjustments or anything, but just the thought difference from yesterday to today, is that difference between what you shot yesterday and today, is that part of that focus?

ERNIE ELS: I think yesterday, as I say, I made some silly mistakes here and there. I was trying to be aggressive enough, and today I felt -- I felt very comfortable today because I knew if I eliminate those mistakes, I was going to shoot a good score because I feel I'm really hitting the ball solidly and if I can keep my focus and just stay patient, I was going to shoot a good score, so I feel that I can keep that same feeling I had today into the weekend.

Q. So are you really the one that gets in your own way sometimes, it's not your swing?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I think week-in and week-out, there's always something that's not quite up to par, and, you know you've got to manage that. Sometimes it's the head and you've got to manage that, get yourself into a better frame of mind at times.

Other times it could be your driving, so you've got to -- you've always got to adapt and get yourself motivated or going in your swing technically or mentally.

Yeah, I think you're right. I'm probably my own worst enemy and my best ally, should I say. Sometimes I get in my own way and sometimes it goes well.

Q. A couple of quick unrelated questions. Do you have any plans to be at the Women's World Cup this year?

ERNIE ELS: Can I play? It's at my home course, Fancourt.

Q. I just didn't know if you were going to be in town that week.

ERNIE ELS: I think I am probably going to be there. Are you going down there?

Q. No.

ERNIE ELS: Come on. It's a short flight.

I'll be there. I think I'll be there.

Q. I just wondered your thoughts, because they were supposed to be down the road at first.

ERNIE ELS: That golf course is not quite ready yet at Fancourt, so they have really --

Q. Which course?

ERNIE ELS: They are trying to get it ready. I don't know if they are going to play the Links.

Q. What's wrong with it?

ERNIE ELS: No, the Links is fine. The Montague, they are still getting that ready. The greens look right, but I don't think the fairways are there yet.

Q. They are playing the Links, aren't they?

ERNIE ELS: I thought they were playing Montague. If they are playing the Links, they are perfect. I played it. Good shape.

Q. What did you shoot?

ERNIE ELS: I shot a couple over. Left-handed.

Q. Are you going to have another practice round with Michelle on Tuesday?


Q. Sony?


Q. Wonder what you think she's capable of this year, even though it's a year older, I would imagine expectations might be because she's got some history now, comparisons?

ERNIE ELS: Well, I'd like to see -- obviously, how she's hitting it, if she hits it like she did last year, I think she's going to have a great chance to make the cut.

I think that should be her focus, to try and make the cut. I mean, last year there was not a lot of wind. The cut was 1-under and she shot 140. If there's a little bit of breeze, I think she's got a better chance. She drives, last year she was driving it so straight. If you put it in play, you can get yourself around.

We'll see how she hits it. If she's full of confidence and hits it well, I think she can make the cut.

Q. Do you think given that she's now got a score to be measured against it might be tougher on her?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I think she's so young. She's so, you know, free, should I say, she's not going to be thinking negatively, I'm sure. She's probably already out there practicing today.

Q. Yesterday.

ERNIE ELS: She'll be ready. Hopefully she's driving it well. If she does that, she can make the cut.

TODD BUDNICK: Thank you, Ernie.

End of FastScripts.

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