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June 5, 2004

Ernie Els


TODD BUDNICK: Ernie, first off, 54-hole leader, you are the winner of this week's Crestor Charity Challenge. In your name, a donation of $50,000 will be given to the health care organization of your choice. In addition, the Columbus Children's Hospital will receive $50,000 on behalf of the Memorial tournament and Crestor, so congratulations for that.

6-under, 66 today, Ernie, has you in the lead by 2 heading into tomorrow.

ERNIE ELS: It's a good day. Third round, it was a good day. There wasn't as much breeze as maybe the first couple of days. The greens got a little bit firmer.

I put myself in good position most of the day and I hit some good iron shots, better iron shots today, and made some putts and saved some good pars.

All in all, you know, it was a good day. I've got a two-shot lead, as you say, but it doesn't mean much. I mean, it means that I'm leading the tournament. It means that I'm playing well, doing something right, but definitely I'd rather be leading after tomorrow.

I've been in this position many times and I've won some, lost some. I've just got to go out there and play golf tomorrow. I'm going to play with Freddie again. I'm not sure what K.J. did on 18, but I've got to go out there and play golf. I need to try to stay aggressive.

Q. Can you talk about some of those recoveries? They seemed pretty spectacular from where we were looking.

ERNIE ELS: The one on 11 was a pretty good one. That was the best one of the week. I pulled my tee shot left of the creek and it did not go into the creek. I got a lie, hit a little shot out there to the fairway and got a 5-iron onto the green and made about a 20, 25-footer down the hill there. That was definitely a bonus.

And then on 13, I pulled my tee shot left again and I hit a good recovery shot, front edge, but it was a weird putt. It was a big, sloping putt to the back of the green. I hit it a little bit too hard. It went kind of through the green, and I made a good eight-footer coming back there for par.

So that was basically it. The rest of the time I played okay. I hit the guy's tripod on the one hole, 15, so that wasn't nice. But other than that, I made some good putts and made some good iron shots.

Q. Did you feel like you left -- there were some putts today around 7, 8, 9, 10 that looked like they were in your range and just didn't go.

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I left some shots out there. I was definitely in the range on 7, the par 5. I hit a 2-iron to that bunker on the left, and I didn't get it up-and-down there, so I feel like I left one out there. Then 8, it was 18 feet there and didn't make that. Freddie was coming on then, and I saw Tiger was coming on then, and the whole field was kind of scoring at that stage and I was kind of stalling.

So it was getting to me a little bit, and especially the putt on 10. I had a beautiful putt and I hit it too firm, so the break I got in there could have really changed my whole day around, I think, definitely.

Q. The first putt on 13 must have been 70 feet, wasn't it?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, at least. I'm not sure how many yards were back there. I was right on the front edge, and the two-putt there was really good. So I'm happy with that.

Q. Before you came along, Freddie was kind of -- he kind of had the easiest swing on Tour. He was in here talking about how he likes to watch you when he's off Tour and watching tournaments on TV.

How much do you like watching him? And when you were coming up, when you were younger, did you watch his action?

ERNIE ELS: Absolutely, yes. I mean, I can say exactly the same about Freddie. I've known him such a long time, but exactly the same. His rhythm, probably next to Tiger and Nick Price, he hits the ball probably the most solid on Tour. He doesn't mis-hit too many shots.

You know, he's been playing like that forever. I love watching him play, as well. He's got a great short game, and he's got a great way of playing the game.

We've played a lot of golf together, we've played practice rounds together. I know his game pretty well.

Q. Do you think he's easier than you? You're the Big Easy, but is he easier than you?

ERNIE ELS: There's nobody easier than him.

Q. When Phil was leading Augusta after 54 holes, he was asked about what it was like to be in the lead and not have Tiger in contention and he joked it doesn't suck. What's it like going into Sunday when Tiger is in contention? Is it more exciting for you?

ERNIE ELS: Well, it is definitely a factor. I'll be watching the leaderboard tomorrow. He'll be playing right in front of me tomorrow, I think, too, so I've got to be aware of what's going on around me. I like to know that, just to know what you have to do.

I can't get too stuck on Tiger. I've got to look at some other guys, too. Freddie is playing pretty well. I think K.J. Choi is a quality player, and some other guys. Someone could come back and shoot a 65 and shake you a little bit, so you've just got to play golf tomorrow, really. The lead, yes, great, but there's a lot of golf to be played tomorrow. I could lose the lead by the second hole tomorrow and have to battle back, so it all depends on how I start and what the situation is, and I have to adapt to the situation.

Q. Do you look at Tiger any differently in this situation now after his stretch of not playing as well than you did two years ago when he was playing well, or is he still just Tiger to you?

ERNIE ELS: Tiger is Tiger. He may be not hitting the ball as solid as four or five years ago, but his mind, the way he approaches the game, he gives it 110 percent, he's going to be right there tomorrow. You know, that's kind of a given. You've just got to go out there and play your game. We've had our battles in the past, and I'm sure that tomorrow is going to be another one. He'll will himself to where he needs to be, and I know that. I've been around him a long time, and I know that. I've just got to go out there and play. I'm playing pretty good, and other guys, too, but he'll be there.

Q. Is it beneficial having Freddie as a playing competitor tomorrow versus maybe someone else that isn't the same, you don't have the same relationship with, that has a similar swing in regards to the easiness of the swing? Is that a benefit for you tomorrow?

ERNIE ELS: Again, I've got to say, I've been around a long time and I've played with all kinds of players, and it's always nice to play with a guy you've known a long time, especially a guy like Fred. Today we kind of helped each other along a little bit with our play, and who knows, sometimes it's good to play with a guy that's kind of your nemesis. It just depends on the situation. It would have been a lot of fun and a little bit more intense playing with Tiger tomorrow, but you've just got to go with what you have and adapt to that.

No. 2 was a drive and a wedge about eight feet.

No. 5 was a driver, 3-iron, just through the green. I chipped it down about five feet, made that.

6 was a driver, wedge, about eight feet.

11, left of the creek, chipped it out, 5-iron to about 25 feet.

Good save at 13, as we said.

15 was a drive, just coming back to the fairway, and it hit the guy's tripod and bounced back in the rough. Then I hit 6-iron short of the green and chipped it up to about six feet.

16 was a 7-iron about seven feet, a save on 17.

Q. Freddie said that you were aggressive all day. How many drivers did you hit?

ERNIE ELS: I hit the driver where I could. I hit a drive on 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 10, 11. Are you counting?

Q. Yeah.

ERNIE ELS: 15, 17.

Q. A lot of drivers.

ERNIE ELS: More than half, yes.

Q. Whose tripod did you hit, ShotLink or CBS?


Q. Why did you hit so many drivers?

ERNIE ELS: That's the way I'm playing. I like hitting drivers on this course. If you get your drive in the fairway, you can go at some flags. If you lay up and fire away from flags, you've got to play safe. Maybe tomorrow I'll have a different game. So far I'm feeling good about that.

Q. Did he say anything to you?

ERNIE ELS: I had somebody say it to him, and he just said sorry, so I had to take that as an answer.

Q. Was the ball left or right and what happened to the ball when it hit the tripod?

ERNIE ELS: It was so far back, but I saw the ball bounce left towards the fairway, and when I saw it I kind of had a bit of a fright so I knew either it hit him in the leg or the tripod and he said he was sorry, it hit the tripod.

Q. You've played so well here. I mean, is it time to shed "the best player to never win The Memorial" label (laughter)?

ERNIE ELS: That's a good one (laughter). You've been thinking about that for a long time, haven't you (laughter)? Obviously with Jack and this type of golf course and this field, it'll be great, but a win is a win.

Q. With the guys that you've got around you, do you have a number in mind that it'll take to come back?

ERNIE ELS: I don't like doing that because you can get off to a bit of a slow start and you've got to battle yourself back, and you can get off to a quick start, it just depends on what it gives you. If you have a bit of a tough time you have to get yourself back. You might lose the lead by the third hole. Again, it just depends on the situation. So whatever it gives me, I've got to work with it. I don't like putting numbers in my head.

End of FastScripts.

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