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July 18, 2004

Ernie Els


KEITH DUCKWORTH: Ladies and gentlemen, we have Ernie Els, second in The Open Championship, after a playoff. His second playoff in the space of 24 months. After a fantastic back nine, where he made three birdies in the last six holes. Unfortunately it wasn't quite to be. Your comments.

ERNIE ELS: Comments? You might as well ask me questions.

Q. What are your immediate reactions? Are you thinking about the putts on 18 in regulation, thinking about the back nine?

ERNIE ELS: Right now I'm thinking of the putt on the 72nd hole. That's the putt I'm going to be thinking about for a while. I had such a good second shot, you know. And it was such a weird pin placement where if you were short of the hole, you had such a difficult putt. And if I knew that I probably would have hit it past. I tried to do that in the playoff, too. But that putt, I'm going to think about that putt for a while.

I didn't start the back nine the way I wanted to, obviously. But I played really well coming in and to make those putts and just trying to get back into the race was a hell of an effort and then, as I say, I had a chance on 18 but I just couldn't get it high enough.

Q. Is this the hardest of the three majors for you, considering you had it within your grasp?

ERNIE ELS: What do you mean?

Q. The losses, coming close, the three majors, is this the hardest to take?

ERNIE ELS: I think any of them is hard. I was in a similar position in April and I played well that time. And I felt I played well this time. But I didn't quite play the playoff good enough. I just couldn't get the right read on the putts, you know. So I had my chances and I've got to give a lot of credit to Todd. He hung in there, he played really awesome. He played solidly. I think it was a nice little horse race, again. But I just came up a little short. I got a little closer in The Masters, but still came up a little bit short.

Q. Can you talk about 17 in the playoff, that hole?

ERNIE ELS: Well, I made 4. I pulled my 4-iron left. I tried to hit the similar shot that I did in the regulation play. I hit it further to the left, and the wind didn't quite catch it the way it did. I took a bit of a chance. I was trying to stay aggressive and trying to make a birdie, but pulled it and then I had a pretty difficult chip shot. I played that quite well. And then I just hit a poor putt. It was a makeable putt. It was only about 12 feet.

Q. Were you able to get the thought of that putt on 18 out of your head for the playoff, or was it circulating in there as you were playing the next four holes? On the first playoff hole you took a very aggressive drive and maybe that chip wasn't exactly what you wanted.

ERNIE ELS: I tried as hard as I can on every shot. If you start thinking about what happened on the 72nd hole too much you're going to be in trouble. I felt good going into the playoff. I felt I was swinging well. I played the hole exactly the same way the last three rounds. So it wasn't that I backed off. I wanted to play as aggressively as I could.

The chip shot maybe on television didn't look that good, but if you just got it left of the hole it runs off the green. So I needed to stay just right of the hole. I had a perfect look at it from about 10 or 11 feet. As I said earlier, I just couldn't quite -- I didn't read it properly. Well, I read it properly, but it wasn't the right line. I hit it on the wrong line and it broke right.

Q. Could you comment on watching Todd play under that kind of pressure in his first major? He seemed conservative off the tee, and had to get up-and-down a lot. Would you comment on watching his style of play on a Sunday?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, he obviously had a game plan. I'm sure that's the way he played the whole tournament and he stuck with his guns. I felt that in conditions where I could get more aggressive, where I could go after the par-5s and get close to the par-4s if I could, and have shorter shots, he played conservatively and I think he stuck to his guns. I think he had his game plan and he stuck with it and it worked out this time for him. He played wonderfully. His ball flight, again, is beautiful for this type of golf course. And he putted well and his short game is really unbelievable.

That little shot he played on the last hole, I saw him play that shot quite a few times. I don't know which club he uses, but it really worked out well. Every time he used it I think he got it up-and-down this week.

Q. Even with those birdies on the backside there is no playoff if you don't make the par out of the gorst bush. Can you describe what your options were and what was going through your mind? Obviously a lot of things could have gone wrong with that.

ERNIE ELS: It's unbelievable. I don't think I've ever seen that happen. I don't know if it's ever happened in a game of golf. It hung on that gorst bush branch and it was kind of hanging there. And I was like, what's going on here? Obviously it was a break, you know, because if it goes into the bush I've got to take a penalty drop. And somehow I got it out of there. I was quite nervous, because these guys in the clinics hit the ball like that, they hit it 200 yards. I was just trying to make contact there. I made a great 4.

Q. Was an unplayable out of the question there?

ERNIE ELS: No, you could have taken an option, but I don't know if you saw me at Augusta, but I'll play it wherever it is. But I got away, I made a 4 after the bad drive.

Q. You mentioned yesterday you do remember Todd from the early '90s in Japan. Would there have been any reason to have him enter your mind over that 10 or 11-year period before he got his Tour card last year?

ERNIE ELS: Todd is such a good guy. Whenever our paths crossed, wherever we were in the world, we always had a nice chat. I always asked him how he was. I always knew he was a good player. And that's another thing that the media and the people don't really realize, that everybody looks at America or Europe, but there's a big world out there and there's a lot of quality players. And he's won quite a few events in Japan, and I've seen him quite a few times, as I said. And I knew what a good player he was and that he wasn't really going to back off. He's won some tournaments. And whenever you win a tournament in the world you've got to play some quality golf. I knew he was going to be tough.

I knew that Phil was going to be there and Retief was going to be there. He didn't quite get in the race. I thought Tiger was going to be there. I was going to try to play my game. And I didn't think of the other guys too much.

End of FastScripts.

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