home jobs contact us
Our Clients:
Browse by Sport
Find us on ASAP sports on Facebook ASAP sports on Twitter
ASAP Sports RSS Subscribe to RSS
Click to go to
ASAP Sports e-Brochure View our


June 6, 2004

Ernie Els


JACK NICKLAUS: Ernie, tell them what you did.

ERNIE ELS: Well, it was a heck of a day. You know, I said to you guys yesterday, the lead doesn't mean too much after the third round, and I lost it by the 4th hole today. I had to change my game plan a little bit and try and compose myself a little bit because I did not quite come out of the gates the way I wanted to.

But I responded nicely. I think after the birdie on 5, it kind of settled me down a little bit, and it got back to 12-under, even with Tiger at that stage and Freddie, and I think Justin Rose. I was watching the leaderboard all day just to see what was happening. If you can call it a 66 yesterday, today was a working man's round of golf. But as Jack says, I made almost every putt that I had to make. Sometimes you do it and other times you don't.

Like I said in that speech of mine, I think that the greens here, if you hit it on line, it stays on line, and if you read it correctly, it's not going to miss. For once, I hit my putts on this week, and it worked out.

JACK NICKLAUS: What was the key putt? 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, exactly (laughter). The front nine was pretty intense. I made a downhill slider on 7 for birdie. That kind of got me back into the lead at 13-under. I think if I missed that I could have maybe lost my composure a little bit.

And then absolutely No. 12, after Freddie makes that putt, the louder corner of the golf course, everybody out there, and I had a slider down there for par from eight, nine, ten feet, made that one, left to right.

As you say, it's tough to call one key putt. I think 13. What was that, almost 35, 40 feet.

Freddie was really coming on strong and I had to try to keep ahead of Freddie. I thought he was going to run out of steam at his age, but he kept coming.

Q. I wonder if you could talk about the birdie at 7, which seemed to be a pivotal hole in terms of putting yourself at the top of the leaderboard, the chip I'm talking about.

ERNIE ELS: Exactly. I went for the green and I hit the shot. I kind of got all over Ricky because I had 260 to the front and I was into the breeze. If I really kill my 3-wood I hit it 255, maybe 260, and it was into the breeze. I was kind of thinking of maybe laying it up and making birdie the other way, but I was going to get it in that front bunker, and I pulled it. I was fortunate to get a good lie there on the left side, and it pretty much went uphill, popped it up and went past the hole six, seven feet. That was a big birdie, as I said.

Q. When you said you kind of had to change your game plan after the bogey at 4, what did you change?

ERNIE ELS: Well, I needed to really get myself together. I really had to get playing golf and playing aggressively and hitting shots, not trying to guide it into the fairway, but getting a target and really hitting the shot aggressively.

You know, I just felt quite tight. I was quite tight the first couple of holes, and especially the tee shot I hit on 4. I pulled it left, and you cannot hit it left there. After that I just started getting a little bit more aggressive and getting a little bit more sure of myself and started playing a little bit more the way I played the whole week.

Q. Any reason you were tight up to that point?

ERNIE ELS: Well, I think sometimes you're not, but today I was a little tight, I'm not going to kid you. I think if you look at the field chasing me, and you know you've got 18 tough holes, and at Muirfield there's no letup holes here anymore. Jack has changed that a little bit now.

If you miss shots, you pay the penalty. You've got 18 holes to go, you've got a field chasing you, so I felt it a little bit, but came through in the end.

Q. You say bad things about your putter every now and then, most guys do, but when you look at what you did at Congressional and Muirfield and Fancourt last year, do you consider yourself one of the clutch putters in today's game?

ERNIE ELS: Next to Jack and Tiger --

JACK NICKLAUS: What do you mean? He has made some great clutch putts when he's had to make them. There wasn't anybody in the world you wanted to see miss that putt at the third playoff hole at Fancourt. He drilled it right in the center.

ERNIE ELS: Are you serious saying that?

JACK NICKLAUS: I'm dead serious. There wasn't a soul in our game or anybody that wanted you to miss that.

ERNIE ELS: That was much appreciated. When you say that afterward, that's the most nervous I've felt ever.

After Jack and I think Tiger in today's game are still the best by quite a longshot. I think Phil, the way he putted at The Masters, he made some clutch putts, but day in and day out, and obviously Jack. What can I say? Yeah, I've made some really big putts in my career. To win golf tournaments you have to make putts.

My good friend Retief, he had 36 putts on Friday. You know, he hit 18 greens, he shot 72. I've had those days before. That's the worst days in golf, if you're not making putts. My putter definitely won me the golf tournament this week. But to come back to your question, I'm up there. Not maybe right up there, but I'm up there.

JACK NICKLAUS: You're way up there.

Q. This tournament has a history of being won by great players. Can you put that in perspective a little bit, what it means to win this?

ERNIE ELS: Well, I think first of all, the whole elite of the Tour, they want to come here. Everybody that's got some kind of a pedigree, they want to come and play it. It's got a lot to do with the golf course. It's such a wonderful place. It's in great shape every year, and Jack makes the best changes, deepened a lot of the bunkers this year. It just adds to the golf tournament each and every year. Not just putting length into the golf course but changing it, and you've got to change your strategy a little bit each and every year.

I just think the quality players really want to come and play his golf tournament and that's why you get a quality field.

Q. You've alluded to there's no letup holes out there anymore and they tucked a lot of pins this week. Freddie said that he believes you would have to be tickled to shoot 132 on the weekend. When you started the week, would you have ever imagined you could shoot 132 on the weekend?

ERNIE ELS: To be honest with you, no. I didn't think so. We had a little bit more breeze the first few days. The course was playing longer. They really had the flags tucked. Yesterday they gave us a little bit of a break with the flags. Today they were tucked again. It was hard to say.

Again, I've got to go back to my putter. I hit 15 greens today and I think I made maybe 12 or 13 today. So shooting what I'm shooting, that's not hitting a lot of greens. This is a tough golf course now. As I say, when you go at the flags, you're either going to look great or you're going to look really foolish. Sometimes you've got to play away from them with a wedge, even at 14.

Q. Tiger was right with you on 4 nose-to-nose, and Freddie was right there. Did that tighten you up a little bit?

ERNIE ELS: Like I said, I knew Tiger was going to be there. He loves this place, and he loves a challenge like that, being behind, so I knew he was going to be there. I needed to stay steady. I needed to not lose it myself.

As I said to you, I was a bit tight to start, but I got it back, got my composure back, and I knew it was going to be tight all day. There was somebody that was going to come at me, and Tiger made the first move and then Freddie, and he just kept coming. I just tried to shake them off.

Q. What, if any, adjustments did you make to your putting to turn things around, or was it just getting --

ERNIE ELS: I always make little slight adjustments. It's always a little bit of ball position, especially in my game. There's always a bit of alignment and stuff like that. This week I felt I had the ball a little bit too far up in my stance.

JACK NICKLAUS: That's insignificant (laughter). I had mine back, too. That's insignificant.

ERNIE ELS: I felt when I moved it back, I had a purer strike off the ball and the ball really kept rolling. It didn't bounce around as I hit it. The ball almost felt heavy. When the ball feels -- it's a silly saying, but when the ball feels heavy off the putter, I've got a nice roll. It was there all week, and I felt it in the Pro-Am when I did it, and I just felt it in my stroke that it feels good, and it stuck with me all week. Sometimes you get there on Saturday and it feels a little weird again, but it felt good all week this week.

Q. At the beginning of the week you talked about the goals, and one of them was obviously to win. The other one was to try to peak for the event two weeks from now. The inevitable question is, how do you feel now going in -- I know you're playing next week, but how do you feel and do you think you can maintain what you're doing now for two weeks?

ERNIE ELS: You know, I don't know that I'm thinking about two weeks from now. I'm going to enjoy this one. I'm really going to enjoy this event. I know what I've got to work on. I've still got that left shot. That's kind of always been my nemesis. I did it again on 15. I had to just put the ball on the green on the right and I pulled it. And I did it again on 16, so I know what I've got to work on. I've got another week to do that. This week I hit 100 putts. I've never done that before. If I keep putting the way I'm putting and my short game stays there, if I can get the rest ready where I need to be, I think I'll have a good chance anywhere. I just need to stay fresh now. I will try not to have too many beers tonight (laughter) and just stick at it.

Next week I'll take it for what it is and work on what I need to work on, and I should be ready for Shinnecock.

Q. Will you do six in a row?

ERNIE ELS: This is four, yes.

Q. Do you think that that's part of the reason that you can do it, is that you don't think of the whole thing as one continuous --


Q. You're going home tonight?

ERNIE ELS: I definitely wouldn't have done this if I didn't have these events to play. I mean, first of all, the Dallas tournament, Byron Nelson, I love going there. I've won there before, I love that play, and I had three weeks off before that.

Then SAP is my main sponsor, I didn't play there last year so I went to Germany; then Wentworth, I live there; PGA, it's a major over there in Europe; and I wasn't ever going to miss this tournament, so I came back over here. And Buick is another tournament I've done really well at, and if I don't play Buick I'm going to get in trouble with my numbers, U.S. Tour numbers, so that's another thing.

You know, you put all of that stuff together, all of a sudden you have to play six in a row, and I'm going to do that.

Q. Are you going home tonight?

ERNIE ELS: Home where? London?

Q. Whichever of your homes you want to go to.

ERNIE ELS: No. Actually, I'm going to Congressional. I have a little SAP outing tomorrow. Hopefully it won't be too early.

Q. Are you going back next year, the Booz Allen tournament? It used to be the Kemper.

ERNIE ELS: I don't know.

Q. No, they are.

ERNIE ELS: Depends on which course they play. If they play the course where we played the U.S. Open -- I think it's three courses there.

Q. They'll play that one.

ERNIE ELS: Then I don't know. I'm not going to promise anything.

Q. You don't want to give us your schedule a year from now?

ERNIE ELS: No (laughter).

Q. Good putters like fast, true greens. I wondered what they've done with the greens here in the past year that contributed to you being able to putt the way you did this week?

ERNIE ELS: Well, I'll tell you one thing. There is not one blade of poa annua in these greens, not one. I don't know what you guys did, but it was unbelievable. Jack said it's going to be better next year. I'd like to see that.

JACK NICKLAUS: They will be.

ERNIE ELS: They are so pure. And as I say, if you put yourself in the right spot, you can make putts here. I saw the line the first time out, and it was just one of those weeks where you just felt good on the greens.

JACK NICKLAUS: They certainly can't putt any better, can they?

ERNIE ELS: No, they didn't bounce around. It got dry the last few days, and normally greens get a little bit bouncy, I but they were true all week.

Q. Looks like this will put you up to No. 2 in the World Ranking. I'm wondering if you think you're in a better position to challenge Tiger now than you were in, say, late 97.

ERNIE ELS: You guys always come with that. I'm a different player than I was in 97, although I won the U.S. Open and I won the Buick, I think I went to No. 1 for like a week or two. I know I was No. 1 in 98 for about three weeks. But I feel like a different player now. I'm playing a little bit more consistent than I did back then. There's always stuff you can work on in your game, but it's not as bad as it used to be.

Yeah, I feel good about it. This week was a good yardstick for me because of the field and the way guys played. I think Tiger played really solid, you know, for him. Freddie played good. So yeah, why not. I'm just going to try and play good when I play. The rest will take care of itself.

Q. I'm guessing this is about your 10th victory in the past few years. Does that sound about right?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I won seven last year and three this year.

Q. Can you pinpoint kind of a turning point for you? It had to be before the Open, obviously, because Southern Hills was probably the low point for you.

ERNIE ELS: 2000 was a good year for me, but then Tiger played at that level and I couldn't quite play with him there. I think I finished that year 2nd five or six times that year. 2001 was a bit of a long one. I met up with Josh in the middle of 2001 before the British Open, and he just gave me different ideas to approach the game. I think since then, working with him, he's had a big influence on me. I've got to give him credit. And I just kept going with those new ideas, and I think since then I've been playing different golf, definitely.

Q. Can you give us an idea of what one of the key thoughts was that he gave you?

ERNIE ELS: Well, you guys wrote so many stories about it already. I think Josh, he thought I had Tiger in my head. I disagreed with him, but he says that. I needed to redefine my goals, redefine my golfing career, and we did that through the end of 2001, and I won my very last tournament I played. I played in South Africa, and I won the tournament there, and won the World Cup with Retief. But I started looking at it differently and I really think dedicated myself on and off the golf course.

Q. How did you define it before and how do you define it now?

ERNIE ELS: I think in your late 20s you enjoy it and maybe don't take it all that serious, and it came pretty easy to me. 94 was one year, 97, quite a few other tournaments, maybe it came pretty easy. Then the Tour kind of changed when Tiger came out. Players played differently, the level came up, and I wasn't quite with it. I think my swing wasn't nearly what it is now, and with the help of Lead and my family, and I think everybody, I'm a little bit more of a changed player.

Q. How important is being No. 1 in the world to you?

ERNIE ELS: I don't know. You were No. 1 for years --

JACK NICKLAUS: We never had it.

ERNIE ELS: You never had it officially, but we have a point system. Right now I feel like the best player if you beat a quality field like this. But next week is a new week. You've got to take it week to week. I've been playing consistently well, as I said, for three years now, but definitely Tiger, his record speaks for itself, eight majors. But yeah, I'm getting there.

To come back to your point, yeah, I guess it is important. But playing golf, you can't think about No. 1, you've got to take care of what you need to do and that will take care of itself.

Q. How important were the steppingstones of winning the British to you in this period of time and also the equipment changes?

ERNIE ELS: Well, I think the British -- it seems like every major -- well, the three I won I tried to mess them up, but I got through there. Those were some of the toughest times in my career, especially before and during the playoff, but that was a turning point, definitely, especially the work that I did before that event. --

Q. The equipment changes you made?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, the equipment changes. I was just lucky. When I moved from Taylor Made to Titleist, the first driver I got was the shaft. I'm using this Fujikura shaft, and I've never used graphite before because it was a little bit too light, and the combination with my launch angle that I've got off that club, I've changed it back, I'm back to 8 and a half, but I had 9 and a half, and that shaft and the ball, I've gained 50 yards.

So yeah, it definitely helped me with the equipment I'm using now. Luckily for me I went to a great company.

Q. Because of how big you are and how far you carry the ball, do you think, at least in the perception of golf fans and maybe even us, do you think you're an underappreciated short-game player, putter?

ERNIE ELS: I don't know. It's hard to answer that question. I don't know what the people think of my game.

Q. Do you ever hear people or read about your short game?

ERNIE ELS: I'm very critical of myself on the greens. But as I said, this week I don't think I've had a putting week like this maybe since Oakmont when I won there. I made everything from inside ten feet. I felt like the same this week.

To win golf tournaments you've got to make putts. Look at Tiger, I think he's still the best at doing that. He's finished in the top 3 the last three weeks. I watched him play at Wachovia and he couldn't keep it on the golf course and still finished --

JACK NICKLAUS: He couldn't keep it on the golf course today.

Q. Yeah, watch the shot on 14.

JACK NICKLAUS: He parred every hole. Hit it left of the creek on 11. 13, he hit it left of the bunker. 14, he hit it in the water, over the green, over the bunkers.

15, he's right of the bunkers on his second shot.

16, missed the green left, pitched up close.

Q. 11 straight pars, though, and he wasn't on the golf course?

JACK NICKLAUS: That's the way it's gone the last couple weeks.

ERNIE ELS: Yeah. Again, you've got to take your hat off to the guy. He's not quite on his game and he's finishing top 3.

JACK NICKLAUS: He's there every weekend and he's not there on his game.

ERNIE ELS: It's amazing. He gets the ball around. That's what you've got to do. You don't enjoy any pictures on this game, you put the numbers on the score card.

Q. What were your thoughts when you were in the 13th fairway and heard that huge roar?

ERNIE ELS: You know, a roar like that, a guy has holed it out. There's no question about that. I definitely thought it was one of those Tiger holes. I thought he made 2 there. The flag is there. If you hit the right shot you can spin it down. So yeah, I thought he made 2. I saw the scoreboard and I didn't see anything change. I didn't know what it was all about, to be honest.

Q. You've played obviously a lot with Tiger. Who gets bigger cheers, him or Freddie?

ERNIE ELS: I'll tell you, Freddie got some big ones, especially today. Not so much yesterday, but today they were right behind Freddie. They gave him some serious support out there. I mean, he's such a great player to watch. He's got this slow action, he makes things happen. He's such an exciting player. I mean, look at him today. He holes shots, makes long putts. He's a solid player.

The fans just love him. He's been on Tour for 25 years and they just love seeing him play well.

Q. But he was the one who said your short game is underrated. People don't realize how good it is. I think maybe they did today.

ERNIE ELS: Well, he's got a fantastic short game, always has had a great touch around the green.

JACK NICKLAUS: He's a big man that you don't expect to have a touch and he's got touch around the green. Daly is another guy, but Ernie has got an unbelievable touch around the greens. Some of the chips you made today were just unbelievable.

ERNIE ELS: They've got this funny stuff around the greens that's a little firm, you'd better get the ball -- you've got to manufacture a little shot. Sometimes you can have a little wedge or something, but you've got to catch it clean.

JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Can we go through your birdies and bogeys?

ERNIE ELS: Bogeyed 4, I pulled it left with a 6-iron, hit a really good chip shot up there, missed about a six-footer for par.

5, I hit a 3-wood downwind, I hit a 6-iron front right and two-putted from 35 feet.

Birdied 7, driver, 3-wood short left, pitched it up about seven feet.

No. 8 was a 6-iron, I cut it in there about 10, 11 feet for birdie.

10 was a 3-wood, I hit a pitching wedge six, seven, eight feet.

Then a good save on 12, hit an 8-iron.

13 was a 3-wood and a 9-iron. I left it short right. That was a good 35, 40 feet.

Good save on 14 from behind the green.

15 was a good save, hit my second shot left and my fourth shot I left it about five feet past the hole.

16 was another good save.

17, I hit 3-wood, 9-iron to about three feet.

18 was a 2-iron and a 7-iron.

Q. You walked off the 15th green kind of banging yourself in the head as if to tell yourself thankfully.

ERNIE ELS: I was bang in the middle of the fairway, 209 front, 4-iron, you cannot hit it left. You just cannot, and I hit it left. I tried and hit it at the bunker and cut it out to the right side of the green, and I pulled it. Exactly the same on 16.

Q. More so on the second shot than running the putt five or six feet by?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, exactly, that's the putt.

Q. Did the little man talk to you at all today?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, he's around, he's always around. He's quiet but around.

Q. Did something happen to you on the 15th tee?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I was just kind of getting down there and just about to hit the ball when I saw a flash, somebody in the stand had a camera.

Q. It wasn't a cicada?

ERNIE ELS: No, definitely not. It was getting so dark you could see the lights so clearly. Are you guys done?

JACK NICKLAUS: That's up to you. Your press conference is over when you say so.

End of FastScripts.

About ASAP SportsFastScripts ArchiveRecent InterviewsCaptioningUpcoming EventsContact Us
FastScripts | Events Covered | Our Clients | Other Services | ASAP in the News | Site Map | Job Opportunities | Links
ASAP Sports, Inc. | T: 1.212 385 0297