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May 27, 2004

Ernie Els


ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I had a nice start, I birdied the second and third holes. To do that early in the morning was nice. Kind of wakes you up.

SCOTT CROCKETT: What did you hit on your tee shot on 2.

ERNIE ELS: I hit an 8 iron to what was it 12 feet.

3 was a 9 iron to about six feet.

I 3 putted on 4. That wasn't nice.

8, I hit it right, second shot just short of the green and I pitched it and went in the hole. About 35 feet.

9 was a 9 iron second shot and made a good 32 feet there.

11 was a pitching wedge onto the green and made it.

12 was a driver, second shot in the bunker to the right. Got it out to about six feet and holed it.

14 was a 5 iron, 16 feet.

The last, 4 iron left of the green, pitched it up 20, 22 feet.

SCOTT CROCKETT: Equals your best ever round in this tournament. Obviously you are delighted to have started in this fashion.

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, absolutely. I think it was a good start, obviously, to the tournament. I kept it in play most of the day, I got myself a lot of opportunities and I made some putts. I putted well today.

You know, the fourth hole was the only real mistake that still lingers in my mind, when I 3 putted there. That was almost a give away birdie, and to make par there, I felt like dropping a shot. But other than that, you know, I

Q. What were the distances there?

ERNIE ELS: I hit a 3 iron for my second shot on to the green. I was about 30 feet and I left my first putt short, about five feet short and missed it.

Other than that, you know, I played well. I got the ball up and down when I needed to, and good start.

Q. Is the putting a knock on from the last round in Heidelberg?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I made a little bit of an adjustment before that final round, and it seemed to work that Sunday, the fourth round. Then I kept on working on it the last three days before the tournament started and it's feeling okay. Made some.

Q. What was it, anything major?

ERNIE ELS: It's just a little different way of putting, there's so many different ways of putting, you know. (Laughter.) I just wanted to feel a little bit different over the ball. I get my chest moving a little bit more, maybe getting a bit more of a pendulum action. Just a little different.

Q. Doesn't sound like you feel it's a very special round even though it's a low number; do you almost expect to play well on this course?

ERNIE ELS: No, I think if you start thinking like that you're going to be in trouble. I like the course and before I went out this morning, I felt I was striking the ball well, so I felt good about my chances today. I know the course so well, and I know the greens very well, so if I'm going to strike the ball well, I feel I've got a good chance of shooting a good score. But I definitely don't expect to play well every time I go out there, you know.

Q. Was saving par at the first important?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, exactly. I blocked my tee shot and my second shot didn't quite fly the way I thought it was going to. And then from about 40, 50 yards, I pitched it up there about four feet and made the putt so, yeah, that was important.

Q. Does it help when all three of you in the group are playing well? The whole group seemed to be buzzing for most of the round.

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, it was good. I played with Ignacio last year, the last round and come here and play with him, he played well. I think he shot 5 under par, and Paul was playing great until 18, and he made bogey there.

So, yeah, it's good for us. It keeps the momentum going and you keep seeing putts going in the hole, it gets the whole group going into a positive frame of mind. So it was nice.

Q. Vijay told us last night he put a belly putter in your locker as a joke. What did you do with it?

ERNIE ELS: I haven't opened my locker yet. (Laughter.) I'll check it out this afternoon, but thanks for that. Maybe I won't open the locker. (Laughter.)

Q. Maybe you can use it as a poker.

ERNIE ELS: I've got a fireplace at home, I've got a barbecue at home. (Laughter.)

Q. Vijay yesterday was saying how important it is for him to be world No. 1. How about yourself?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I mean, I don't think it's my ultimate goal. I think my ultimate goal is to win those major championships and win as many tournaments as I can.

I'm starting to definitely feel, I'm moving towards another step in my career, so, you know, it will be great. Obviously, in '97, '98, I had it for a while, but I feel I'm a different player now, the way I'm swinging, and the way I approached game now.

It will be great, but, you know, it is difficult to say. I think if your performances are up to scratch, obviously you're going to get points, and I think deep down inside, I think Vijay already feels like he's playing like No. 1.

I definitely feel like I'm getting there myself. I think the next couple of years, it's going to be interesting golf. There's quite a group of players that have separated themselves a little bit, and it's going to be a good couple of years.

Q. Despite your comments that you thought he is playing like No. 1, did you know that if you win this week, you'll take No. 2 back from him, and does that show just perhaps how close things are?

ERNIE ELS: That's how close it is, exactly it's close. The next, as I say, the next couple of years, if we keep on playing the way we've been playing, it's going to be close and it will be a real challenge now for five, six, seven players.

I don't think that big gap that Tiger has had, I don't think that's going to happen for a while again.

Q. Is Paul Casey good enough to get up to the world No. 1 one day?

ERNIE ELS: Definitely. He's strong enough. He hits it beautiful. He's got a really good long game. He's very aggressive out there. He's a typical modern player. He's young enough and looks like he's hungry enough. He's definitely got the game.

Q. Who else would you throw into that mix in the next couple of years that you think is going to be right up there?

ERNIE ELS: I think it's obviously Tiger, Vijay, myself, Phil, Davis Love. You look at the younger guys, I think Adam Scott is coming through, Trevor Immelman coming through, Paul Casey, obviously Mike Weir is up there.

Q. Charles Howell?

ERNIE ELS: Charles eventually; he's working on his game. There's a lot of good players. But I think players that are really right there to step it up, are those five or six guys.

Q. Sergio?

ERNIE ELS: Sergio has come through also now, yeah.

Q. How much is everyone moving up to Tiger or is Tiger coming back to the pack?

ERNIE ELS: Those four years that Tiger played so well, it's unbelievable stuff. I mean, I said to you guys in 2000, you guys thought I was nuts, when I said to you that this guy, the way he's playing right now, I haven't seen it. And that's the way I felt.

Now he's playing a little differently, we are playing a little bit differently, not huge differences, but it's a bit of a difference there the way we play and his play and that's why the gap has closed down.

The way he played in 2000, it was just impossible. He's not playing like that anymore. I mean, he's working on it. He's coming back a little bit more, and even when he's off now, he's still finishing in the top 5, and that shows you the character of him, of Tiger.

But other guys are definitely playing better.

Q. Where do you rate Seve in the all time?

ERNIE ELS: Seve, right up there, I would say. He won quite a few Masters and then a couple of British Opens and then obviously winning the Order of Merit here so many times.

Seve is the Arnold Palmer of the European Tour. All of the charisma, the excitement that you wanted to see, you know, that was Seve. He totally he changed the Tour in his way. If there was one guy I always wanted to watch play golf, it would have been Seve. That time we played here in '94 in the World Match Play, I was in awe watching him and then in the same time playing against him. It was great for me.

He's right up there. It's a pity he's not playing this week. It would be nice to see him here.

Q. Would Jack still be No. 1?

ERNIE ELS: Best player? Yeah.

Q. Ahead of Tiger?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, just. He's won eight majors, and Jack's got 18, and Tiger's 28. So he's got quite a few years.

But, yeah, Jack at the moment still.

End of FastScripts.

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