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July 15, 2004

Ernie Els


STEWART McDOUGALL: Ladies and gentlemen, Ernie Els, 2-under par 69. Ernie, you had a good score going until 17. Tell us about that. How did you feel after that?

ERNIE ELS: I didn't feel good after that. I can tell you that. I had a pretty nice round going there. I had quite a few chances, actually, also. And it was unfortunate what I did on 17. I just pulled a 5-iron left and I had a bit of a downhill lie in the bunker, but it wasn't the most difficult shot I've ever had in my life and I just messed it up. I thinned it into the bank in front of me and I tried to get it out which I did and made five. From really nowhere I made double bogey, so that's quite disappointing. But from such a highlight on 8 to such a low light on 17, it's amazing.

I shot 69. I have to take that. I can't change it right now. So I have to just keep playing and it's not a bad start. Anything under 70 in a major championship is a pretty good score. But it could have been a little better.

Q. (Inaudible).

ERNIE ELS: Not at all. I don't know what I was thinking there. It was lying a little bit down, as I say. But I've had a lot tougher shots than that in my life and I just messed it up this time. I didn't have a good shot.

Q. Go to a happier occasion, 8. Talk about that, what you hit into that.

ERNIE ELS: That was beautiful, I tell you. I'm not sure about the yardage, I think it was 123 or something. It was a little breeze this morning, into us there. And I was actually thinking 9-iron, and Ricky actually talked me into the wedge. And I hit it really solid, and as I hit it I was just saying to the ball, get up, get up, get up. And it bounced nice and hard and it had a lot of check on it. And I just saw on television it actually went in from the back of the hole. From the tee it looked like it stopped and just went in from the front. So it was definitely enough club.

Q. First time you got it right?


Q. Ernie, have you seen someone put 62,000 pounds on you?

ERNIE ELS: No, I wouldn't wage that much money.

Q. It was the biggest golf bet ever.

ERNIE ELS: Him or her has a lot of money to wage. But, no, I'm feeling good about this week, and I'm glad I've got fans or a betting man that's got a lot of confidence in me. I feel it's all good.

Q. Could you talk about how calm it was on that first tee. Justin Leonard said it might be as calm as he's ever seen a first tee in a British Open.

ERNIE ELS: Definitely it's a nice day. The conditions were perfect. There was a slight breeze helping us on the front nine and, yeah, it was just really nice. I haven't seen it that good for quite a few years now in the first round. So we definitely had a nice start this morning.

And as I say, I shot 69, but I feel I left some out there. I feel someone can shoot a low one out there. The golf course, it's still not blowing, someone can shoot a low one today.

Q. Have you ever kept count of your aces?

ERNIE ELS: I've never won anything on my aces, but I think I've made 7. I was trying to count. I think I've made 7 in tournaments and I've made two in majors. I made one in '97 at Winged Foot. I made one there and made one here. So two nice holes-in-one in majors.

Q. You and a 17-year-old?

ERNIE ELS: Me and Gene Sarazen. I don't know what he played, probably hit his 5-iron.

STEWART McDOUGALL: It was a 5-iron.

ERNIE ELS: It's equipment.

Q. You talk about having a slight breeze helping you going out, it also seemed like you had help coming in.

ERNIE ELS: It seemed that way, yeah. It kind of changed a little bit on us, and you're right, the back nine, it played pretty easy. 16, I hit it way over that little berm there. I had 6-iron into that green and managed to make 5. The back nine really played as easy as you're going to see it. We got some -- you can go at some flags.

Q. Did you ever hit anything close to 6 at that hole?

ERNIE ELS: No. I've always laid it up short. I just said to Ricky -- I actually had my 2-iron out and looked at it and said to him, we might not have this chance again to go over the berm and do it. And unfortunately, I still made 5, but I still hit a drive.

Q. How far was that shot?

ERNIE ELS: I think I had 190 to the hole.

Q. Could you just talk what you did with the putter on the first putt on the 15th, I think it was?

ERNIE ELS: Oh, hit it on the toe. I just went left of the green and I had no green to work it and I had to go up a steep bank and down to the hole. And I was thinking of blading a sand iron, because you can't really chip it from there, you haven't got enough room. I played that shot a couple of times last week, and just caught a little bit of grass and you have a little bit of angle on the ball. Normally it works good, but I left it a bit short there, didn't I? You've got to manufacture shots out there.

Q. Is that a place at times where you might play a 3-wood?

ERNIE ELS: A lot of players might play a 3-wood. I'm not too familiar with that shot, so...

Q. Is that one you made a good many years?

ERNIE ELS: No, I've played it quite a few times.

Q. Do you ever recall one of your aces helping you win a tournament?

ERNIE ELS: I made an ace at Wentworth, the PGA one year in '94 on the 5th hole. I had a 6-iron in there and finished second on that tournament. I can't think of an ace winning a tournament, no, I can't. It doesn't really matter, does it?

Q. If you won by one, maybe?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, that's true.

Q. Given the calmness of the conditions, do you have any theories why no one's been able to go really, really low so far? Is it a surprise?

ERNIE ELS: It's a major championship, I think guys want to get off to decent starts. Although it's very calm, they don't want to have shots getting away from you, and I think guys are really keeping their games really tight at the moment, just trying to get off to a decent start, as I say, and then when the birdies come, good. So it's not like it's a normal TOUR event where you're going out there and trying to get on a birdie barrage, you need to play different shots. You need to keep the ball out of big trouble and I think that's probably the reason.

STEWART McDOUGALL: Ernie, thank you very much.

End of FastScripts.

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