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October 1, 2004

Ernie Els


RODDY WILLIAMS: Ernie, thank you very much for coming in and joining us. You made it look pretty easy out there in variable conditions. Can you sum up that round for us today.

ERNIE ELS: I got off to a perfect start. I birdied the 1st hole. I knew it was going to be rough today. I actually took my time getting out to the range this morning. I normally take an hour to get out there, but today I waited and waited. I went out there half an hour before my tee time. Yeah, so it was difficult conditions, but as I said, I got off to a good start.

Birdied is the 1st, made a good putt on the 2nd from about 15 feet.

Almost holed it on the 3rd, and tapped it in for birdie. So all of a sudden I had three birdies.

The 4th hole I made a long putt, about a 35-footer there for birdie.

I was off and running then.

I just kept it up. To sum it up, yeah, I putted well. I made a lot of good putts today. I think the ones that I missed yesterday I made today, and it made a huge difference.

Q. Given the conditions, a 64 is a good score any time, but in those conditions how satisfying is that?

ERNIE ELS: Well, very. I didn't know what to expect, to be honest with you. I've got still a little bit of rust on my game, so I was -- you know, I was very, what's the word -- I didn't want to go in there too aggressively today. I wanted to just try and get myself in position and take every shot as they came. You know, I managed that well.

As I say, I putted well. I mean, 64 in these conditions, it's one of the better rounds I've played this year, definitely. I haven't shot a low score for quite a while, so this was nice.

Q. Obviously the greens were soft, but in terms of putting on them, the condition of them, how did they compare with the way they were, say, two years ago?

ERNIE ELS: Well, they're obviously a little bit slower, but the surface -- I'm not sure who the greens keeper is here, but he's doing a great job. I mean, the surface is just wonderful. The ball is never bouncing around. The ball stays on the ground and rolls nicely. They're a little bit slower, a little bit softer as you say, but the surface was as good as last night.

Q. When you saw where the scores were going first thing and the conditions, what would you have thought would have been a decent score to go out and shoot?

ERNIE ELS: When we were on the range, I saw the electronic scoreboard and I saw Fred Couples was 4- or 5-under for his round, and it was really rough then. It was raining and blowing. I felt that at least somebody got a good number out there and gave us hope.

But still, as I say, I didn't know what exactly to expect. I just wanted to try to get myself into play and get myself around the golf course, and all of a sudden it all happened.

Q. Why are you saying your game is rusty? Have you taken some time off?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, Dai, I had two weeks off.

Q. Without touching a club?

ERNIE ELS: I wanted to get away from it a little bit. I went to South Africa for a couple of days. I had to do some design work down there. I've got a couple of golf courses going. I did something away from the game.

Q. Is there something that made you a little bit disillusioned? You say that as if you wanted to get away.

ERNIE ELS: I just needed time off. I played a lot of golf, and I just wanted to get away a little bit. Everybody needs a rest, and I needed my rest, and I feel like I want to dedicate myself again to the game. I have been working on my fitness the last two weeks, and I just needed to get away from playing golf as such. I feel like playing again.

Q. Did you watch golf? Did you watch the Ryder Cup?

ERNIE ELS: I did, yeah.

Q. In South Africa, or were you back home?

ERNIE ELS: Actually I was in London, so I watched a lot of the golf.

Q. There was a time earlier this year when it was either you or Vijay who was going to overtake Tiger. It's turned out to be Vijay. Has that contributed to your weariness, mental or otherwise?

ERNIE ELS: No, not at all. You know, I had my chances to get to No. 1 in July, but I think what Vijay has done the last month or so is really incredible. He's really played unbelievable golf, and he's almost in that zone where Tiger was four or five years ago. All hats off to Vijay.

I can get there, you know. You know, I'll just start practicing again and get into my game. Who knows what I can do. That's what I'm looking forward to. Vijay has definitely earned the No. 1 spot, no doubt. Winning eight times is quite phenomenal.

Q. Do you relish the prospect of maybe going head to head with Todd over the weekend given the British Open scenario?

ERNIE ELS: You know, whoever you play with -- no, this is a different tournament. We all try to play as well as we can and try to win the tournament. It'll be great to play with him again. I haven't seen him since probably the British Open. Whatever happens must happen. I'm just here to try and play as well as I can.

Q. Do you quite fancy these conditions? Going back to Muirfield on that Saturday, you had one of the best rounds of the day.

ERNIE ELS: No, I can't say I fancy these conditions, not where I come from (laughter).

Q. You seem to do well in them.

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I have played well in these conditions. I think I've got a lot of experience in this stuff. You know, I've been playing the European Tour for a good, what, 13 years now, so I think I've seen most conditions. I just start learning after a while. I definitely feel that when it's like this, it's a good opportunity, put it that way, to do something, to maybe catch up.

Q. Did it take a lot of hard work mentally to get over what's happened to you in the majors this year?

ERNIE ELS: Well, I think you guys caught me on a good day at Switzerland. Right after that last major, it took me a couple of weeks to really get my thought process settled down or worked out, you know, put it that way. I was still very disappointed there at Switzerland, and you guys gave me a nice little couple of write-ups, and rightly so. But I feel different now.

For a while there, myself and you guys were putting a negative spin on the whole thing. If I look at it from a positive way, I came so close to winning four majors this year, and I've never been in that position before. I definitely did do something right. In three of the four I was there right till the death. I've got to feel encouraged about what happened, more so than really being very negative.

But obviously being human and being an athlete, you play to succeed and play to win, and when it didn't happen, I was quite disappointed, but I'm fine now. As I say, I've had two weeks off and had some time to reflect. I've just got to dedicate myself and get back into the swing of things, and I'm busy doing that.

Q. Would you mind finishing off your card, the back nine?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah. I birdied 10. I hit a drive in the pouring rain, hit it about 250 yards. Then my second shot, I had 268 to the front, and for some reason the wind changed on me and I hit it about 20 yards short of the green and I hit a really good pitch out of the bunker about seven feet and holed that for birdie.

11, I hit a 7-iron, too much club, went through the green. Hit a good chip shot from behind the green to about four feet and missed it. Hit an awful putt there.

I parred the next two.

14th, par 3, I hit 5-iron to about ten feet behind the hole and made that.

15, I hit a drive and a pitching wedge to about four feet, made that for birdie.

17, I hit a driver, 3-wood just short of the green, pitched it up there and tapped it in from a couple of inches.

18, I hit it short right, the second shot, and made a good putt for par. I made a good nine, ten feet there.

Q. Does it feel like a while since you've won?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I haven't won since The Memorial, end of May, so it's been a while. We'll see how it goes. I've put myself in position. Depending on the conditions, we'll see. Let's talk Sunday. I mean, I'm leading at the moment, but leading right now doesn't mean much. We've got a lot of golf to be played and I've got a lot of birdies to be made.

RODDY WILLIAMS: Thank you, Ernie.

End of FastScripts.

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