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May 25, 2004

Ernie Els


SCOTT CROCKETT: You won the 40th World Match Play last year at Wentworth, I guess you'd like to win the 50th Volvo PGA here this week too?

ERNIE ELS: Well, I'd just love to win the tournament. I've never won it, and I've had some really good PGAs here in the past. Come close a couple of times. I think the best chance I had was ten years ago, '94. I had the lead going into the final day, and shot 69 and got beat. You know, Jose shot 65 that day, and he was chipping in all over the place and making everything. He was playing in front of me.

But, you know, yeah, since then I've had some good ones. But as I say, I never won it. I had a chance last year again. I played with Ignacio. He shot a beautiful 65 and managed to win in the playoff. So we'll see how it goes.

You know, I love playing here, home course over here. Obviously know it very well. So I'm hoping for good stuff this week.

SCOTT CROCKETT: Fifth last week in Germany, suggests that you're almost there.

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I've been playing quite well. Last week, I had a very good start and then on the Friday, it was getting a little breezy that afternoon and I kind of kept it together nicely, but I made a 7 on the 17th. That really cost me. It took a lot of the wind out of the sails, so to speak, and I never really recovered from that. I played very well on Saturday. I shot 72 that day. But then I got it together on Sunday. I hit some good shots and I made some putts. I had 26 putts on Sunday. So that was a nice, positive way to end. So, you know, I feel I can take it into this week and play well.

Q. What is the difference between playing here in October and now?

ERNIE ELS: Well, I think that the rough is not as bad in October. Obviously, when you play The Match Play, you have just a couple of matches out there. The greens are absolutely perfect. It's like putting on this table here. So your putting stats are a little bit better in October.

Yeah, other than that, you know, the golf course is always in good shape. I see it's in great shape this year. We've had some good weather the last week or so, and they have had some nice growth. I haven't played yet, but I hear from the guys the greens are very firm so that will be a good change. In previous times, the greens were a little soft and it's a little bit ropy here and there because of the lack of growth.

So the course in many ways in October is in better shape, only because of the time of year that it is.

But I think we're going to have a good week this week, and obviously, you play different golf, you play different golf in match play than you play in stroke play, strike to keep a score. Match play, you try and make as many birdies as you can. Maybe I should try and play more in that kind of a manner in stroke play and maybe I'll have more success. I think I've been a bit more what's the word, defensive, cautious.

Q. So you will have a different philosophy this week then?

ERNIE ELS: Well, let's think about it. Tuesday, it's another day to think about it.

I'd like to play a bit more aggressive and try to make some more birdies and see what happens.

Q. Can you understand Padraig Harrington's decision to not come and play here?

ERNIE ELS: It's a little surprising, Padraig, such a quality player. With his type of game, he can play any type of golf course. You know, I don't want to be too critical about it, but he's a top European player, in the world, and he's a world class player now. This is a premiere event for the European Tour. He's got his own views and he said that he doesn't like it at this time of the year and you've got to respect that.

I'm sure the Tour is quite disappointed with it.

Q. Have you had any reaction from the belly putter stuff?

ERNIE ELS: I spoke with Trevor about it. No, before then. Actually just after I spoke with you guys, Thursday.

You know, it's just my view, isn't it. You guys asked me what I think about it and I told you what I think about it. I mean, that's that. As I said to you back there, I spoke with Mr. Dawson at the Masters about it, and, you know, he gave me his views and he said it would take some time, if they do anything about it, because these things do take time.

That's just my view. I'm sure a lot of guys are going to be angry with me, what I think, but other guys like it, some guys don't like it, and that's just the way it is. I still feel the same way. That's just that. It's not a big deal. Players like to use that myth of the putting, and so be it. It's one of the rules of the game.

But there's a lot of players like me that think, you know, it's not a natural way and it's not the way it should be played and that's that.

Q. Sitting in front of the Ryder Cup logos, how do you feel knowing you can never play in the event?

ERNIE ELS: Not playing the Ryder Cup? No, no, no. Maybe one day if I have what would happen if I had a British passport, no? No if. No. (Laughter.) Don't even go there.

It's hard to say. I mean, even if you are eligible for it, it's such a passion here in Europe for the Europeans to play in and rightly so. It's the biggest event, I think, outside the majors. I think it's a team event and it's up there with probably ^ finals, stuff like that. It's really quite an occasion.

For me on the outside, I love watching it, because I have friends on both sides and I like to see how they handle the pressure, what really great shots they play under that pressure. It's really a wonderful occasion to watch.

We've got our own deal. We've got the Presidents Cup, as you know, and that's becoming quite a big deal, too, now. I think maybe in a couple of years, it might rival the Ryder Cup.

So, you know, we've got our own deal so I have no real desire to play in the Ryder Cup, to be honest with you.

Q. I think Trevor was saying -- Why does nobody say anything about Vijay winning with a belly putter?

ERNIE ELS: No, that's not the point. The point is not you know, it's the way it's being used. It's not who is using it. Trevor is using it, yeah. Vijay is using it, yeah. I'm not saying, hey, take it away from them. I don't feel it's right. I don't think anybody is really taking it out on Trevor Immelman. That's not the point here. And he shouldn't feel that way. I'm not after Trevor and I'm not after Vijay, at all. It's the method that's the problem.

Q. Do top players like you have a duty to bring up issues like this?

ERNIE ELS: Again, I didn't bring it up. You brought it up. You asked me the question and I gave you an answer. No, I don't think it's my duty to do that. It's just, you know, I guess when you get to a certain stage in your career, I guess you can answer stuff that maybe back in my 20s he wouldn't have answered. I would have ducked that issue a little bit.

But now when you're going to ask me, you know, I don't have anything to lose right now. This is the way I feel and that's that. It's not like I want to make statements. It's just that's the way it was and there's the way it is.

Q. Will Oakland Hills favour one team more than the other?

ERNIE ELS: Tough to say. It will be played in September. We played the U.S. Open in '96 there. It's a golf course, it's just like a U.S. Open type golf course and Europeans have done well on those type of courses in the past. It's a driver's golf course. Greens are very, very undulating. They have got some crazy slopes on those greens, almost worse than Augusta.

I'm not sure if it's going to suit anybody, really. They have got some long par 3s so, maybe a guy like Tiger and Phil and Davis, they hit their long irons high and bring it down soft, they might be at a bit of an advantage.

But, no, I can't see it. I think the Europeans play well on those type of courses, too.

Q. The amount of travelling you do, are you surprised that European players in the United States will not travel over here to play 11 tournaments to be considered for the Ryder Cup?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, here you go. (Laughter.) Why don't you ask that to Colin Montgomerie? I'm not even playing in the Ryder Cup, come on. (Laughing).

It's kind of a small world out there now. You know, for a tournament like this, I mean, like I said before, this is the number one tournament on TOUR outside of the Open. I mean, Vijay is here this week.

It's tough to call that one, again, but I'm here, I like playing here. It's tough to say. I'm not sure if Sergio is here this week. Is he playing? No, he's not playing? You've got to ask him that question. To me, I would like to see them come here, because, as I said, this is one of the bigger tournaments and it's got some really good history in it.

Obviously, you know, we'd like to see all of the top players play; Sergio would come back, Jesper would come back. It would just mean so much for the event and really boost it in so many more ways. Yeah, it would be great to see them here.

Q. What would you compare this event to on the US PGA Tour?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, this is money wise, it's right up there with the U.S. Tour events now. It's a prestigious event, as I say. It's right here in London. We get big crowds. You get those nice big crowds. It's a great time of year, Bank Holiday time. It can't be a better event for this tour, so really it's right up there.

Q. Where do you see your own game at this time of year as compared to the same time last year?

ERNIE ELS: I feel I'm playing well. I haven't won as much this year as I did last year or the year before. I've got two wins already. Yeah, if you compare it to Vijay, Vijay winning he's won three times in America now and seems like he finishes Top 10 every week. So he's definitely on form and has been on form now for quite a few years now.

But I'm really not far away from winning some tournaments again. I feel very enthusiastic about my game and my chances, and just got to keep working and wait for it to happen again. So, I'm playing good enough to win.

Q. What was just missing out on the Masters like?

ERNIE ELS: You know, I was disappointed, obviously. I thought maybe I would have at least got into a playoff. So sitting on the putting green there with my dad and Jos was a little bit difficult, and then obviously when he made the putt, it was disappointing for me.

But I definitely wasn't devastated. I felt I played almost as good as I could on those final ten holes or whatever. He just played a little better than me. It's obviously a tournament that really would have meant so much for my career, but, you know, I really I can't put a dagger to my own heart because I did as good as I could and I just got outplayed. You've just got to move on and just keep going. I can't be too disappointed about things like that. It's only the second real chance I've had to win the Masters. My other chance was in 2000 and Vijay beat me, and this time.

SCOTT CROCKETT: Good luck this week.

End of FastScripts.

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