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November 2, 2004

Ernie Els


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Ernie Els, thank you for joining us for a couple minutes here at the Tour Championship presented by Coca-Cola. If we could start with some opening comments about coming back to Eastlake to play in the Tour Championship.

ERNIE ELS: Thanks a lot. Before we go any further I'd just kind of like to clear the air here. We had a meeting with the Tour about this ongoing little verbal battle we've been having for the last four or five months. We had a good meeting this morning, and everything is positive.

They know where I'm coming from, and I heard where they're coming from, and it's all positive, you know. They're not going to interfere with my schedule. My schedule, they're happy with that, so that's great news. That's great news I think for the Tour and it's really good news for me. I just wanted to say that and get it out of the way. I haven't got a problem with the Tour anymore and they don't have a problem with me anymore (laughter), so we're fine. We can move on now.

Q. Where does it stand? What are the particulars?

ERNIE ELS: I'll play my schedule. They've known my schedule for a long time now. You know, I've always been trying to get more tournaments onto my schedule, but I just haven't had a chance to do that. Let's put it this way: My schedule is going to stay the same, especially the tournaments I play in the U.S., and they're happy with that. They haven't got a problem with that, and I can play my worldwide schedule, as well, as long as I commit to a number of tournaments over here and they see it. So we're going to be fine.

Q. How many are you going to play in the U.S. next year?

ERNIE ELS: I'll playテつ-- I did my schedule last week, and it looks like I'm going to play 19 next year in the U.S. That's just a normal schedule. I've played 17, 18 for ten years now, and it looks like I'm playing 19 next year.

Q. How many elsewhere outside the U.S.?

ERNIE ELS: Outside it's kind of hard, isn't it? The four majors and the three World Golf Championships, they count on both tours, but outside of that, I'm playing Australia, I'm playing the PGA at Wentworth in May, I'll play Dubai, I'll play the two in China, two tournaments in China in April, and that's basically that.

Q. Is this just going to be a personal exception for you or a blanketテつ-- for example, Retief had voiced some concern about having the rules affect him, as well.

ERNIE ELS: Well, I'm not sure what the Tour standpoint is on Retief, but I can tell you from my point of view, I'm fine with it and they're fine with me. They'll have to have discussions also probably with the Tour and just clear their position.

I don't think there will be a big problem. If you play the tournaments that you have to play and you stay a member, I don't think there's a huge problem.

Q. Does pursuit of the No.テつ1 ranking have effect on how you go about making your schedule?

ERNIE ELS: You know what, I've done similar tournaments for such a long time, and obviously the power has moved a little bit to the U.S. Tour now. Years ago it was quite heavily on the European Tour. You know, there was quite a few guys in the Top 5 on the European Tour. It seems like if you play well on the U.S. Tour you get a lot of points. To come back to your question, I do a schedule that I feel comfortable with. There's not too many guys that play my kind of schedule, but I'm happy to do it. I'll take my game right around the world, you know, and I've had success doing what I'm doing.

So I think if I do what I should do really, if I can play the way I should play, I can get to No.テつ1 by next year.

Q. How important is that to you?

ERNIE ELS: Well, I don't think it'sテつ-- I mean, I want to win majors, I want to win golf tournaments. Obviously it would be great to be No.テつ1, but that's not my sole concern, to be No.テつ1 in the world. I want to win golf tournaments. This will be a great tournament this week to win. You've got the best players in the world playing here and playing well. I'd love to win tournaments with the best players around.

Q. Just to clarify, what is your ending number on tournaments next year, 25, 26, 27 in total?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, it'll be around there (laughter). I think it's 27.

Q. Total?

ERNIE ELS: Total, yeah.

Q. Two questions, Ernie. Oneテつ-- two and a half questions. Is La Costa on your list right now?

ERNIE ELS: No, I'm not going to play La Costa.

Q. My other part of that, which would be the half, is you probably saw the European Tour schedule, they've got HSBC.

ERNIE ELS: I saw that.

Q. What do you think about that?

ERNIE ELS: I'm not sure why they moved that. It's going to be a bit of a grind because I want to play the Deutsche Bank tournament, and then it's the Canadian after that, and then it's the World Match Play and then The Presidents Cup. So I'm going to have to go back and forth a little bit.

Q. Do you think it'll hurt their feelings consideringテつ--

ERNIE ELS: I think it might have a little bit of an effect. I might have an effect on the field definitely because I can't see too many guys flying there, coming back. It's hard doing that. I'm going to do it, but I'm just crazy (laughter).

Q. You're used to it. Early when you started this and started clearing the air and said, I don't have a problem with the Tour anymore and they don't have a problem with me, did they ever have a problem with you or did you just think they had a problem with you?

ERNIE ELS: It's a good question. Yeah, when I spoke to Sid a week after I got the letter, I think I got the letter at the Match Play, and I said to Sidテつ-- he was quite surprised that I was so angry because he felt that they were just showing me kind of the guidelines, but they weren't forcing them down on me. I felt that that letter was like aテつ--

Q. An ultimatum?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, that's what I felt like, and after speaking with him now this morning face to face, they assured me again that they didn't have the problem I thought I had with them.

Q. But this came up at the NEC, as well. You had talked about this, as well, before the letter. This has been an ongoing issue with them.

ERNIE ELS: Well, not really. I thinkテつ-- I feel quite strong about it because there was a tournament before the U.S. Open, the Buick Classic, and after winning The Memorial, I was right on my game, and I wasn't quite into the Buick Classic to be honest, and I just felt that I wasted a bit of energy there playing, and I don't want to feel like that.

I just felt if I don't play the Buick, it's nothing against the Tour right now, but if I didn't play the Buick, I was going to get behind and I wasn't going to play my schedule out, so it was a bit of aテつ-- I felt I had a problem there.

Q. I don't mean to beat the schedule thing to death, but with Deutsche Bank having moved, will that affect at all your preparation before the U.S. Open, from The Masters to the U.S. Open? How about that change this year in tournaments? Will you likely stay over there?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I'm not going to play the one in Europe next year. That's another one ofテつ-- I'm playing the one in America, in Boston. I'm going to play that one. I saw that tournament on television and I thought I could play that course (laughter). It looked like it could be fun.

Q. Who exactly did you meet with? Was it today?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, we met this morning.

Q. Who did you meet with, and do you expect this mightテつ-- I think this might go into a policy change somewhere down the road?

ERNIE ELS: You know, I think you'd better ask the Tour about that. I'm going to tell you what my position is. My position is clear now. We don't have a problem anymore, and they're happy with my schedule, and they want me to be happy, so I'm happy.

Q. How do you feel about the golf courses in China?

ERNIE ELS: I've got one there. There's a lot going out there.

Q. Is that part of your thinking of playing there? That seems like it's kind of out of the blue, playing there in April.

ERNIE ELS: Actually I've got a contract with Johnny Walker to play in the event, and they obviously move it around Asia. They're moving it into Beijing. I signed up to play the BMW next year, and that's in Shanghai so I'm going to two good cities there. They're both in April, and one is the start of May. I'll go and check it out there and report back.

Q. Is there a point where you see yourself somewhere curving back The International part of your schedule?

ERNIE ELS: I think I'm already doing that next year. I'm not playing in the Omega Tournament in Switzerland, not playing the Deutsche Bank in Germany. I'm pulling back a couple. I don't think there's anyway I will not play either one. I'll always play both tours. My little girl, she goes to school now in London. That's home for us now, so I'll be traveling there back and forth, and on holidays we'll be in Orlando, so that'll beテつ-- that's the plan.

Q. If they decontrolled it completely, how many times would you play? I mean, if they said "you are truly an independent contractor, play wherever you want, appearance money, whatever you want," how much would we see you?

ERNIE ELS: It wouldn't change. I'm so happy with my schedule at the moment. I don't think it'll change. I think I make enough money out there with appearance money and stuff like that, Player of the Year in the strongest fields week in and week out, so I've got it pretty good at the moment.

End of FastScripts.

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