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May 19, 2004

Ernie Els


GORDON SIMPSON: Ernie, welcome back to Europe. We haven't seen you for a while here, but we know we will he this week and next week at the Volvo. Give us a rundown on what's happened after Masters; I think you were third and seventh in the next two tournaments.

ERNIE ELS: I played the MCI after the Masters and I took three weeks off and played last week in Dallas. I went to Mr. Nelson's golf tournament. I've been going there for quite some time and just felt that I needed to go there.

I know it's a long way back, back to Europe, but you know, I'm at the start of a six week golf tournament schedule, play, whatever you want to call it. It's just part of a long stretch, and I haven't done that for a while, but I feel like I want to play again and get ready for the U.S. Open.

GORDON SIMPSON: Maybe get your nose in front, as well, you didn't quite make it at Augusta.

ERNIE ELS: No, you know, I had a wonderful last day at Augusta on Sunday, but a couple of putts here and there. I really almost did as much as I could. If you take, I birdied No. 7, I eagled No. 8 and eagled 13 and birdied 15; it's almost as much as you can do on the last day.

But Phil obviously played a little better than me and that was that. All credit to him, he went out and won the Masters. Nobody gave it to him and he didn't falter. I think it probably will go down as one of the better Masters in the recent times. So, it was nice to be part of it.

Q. Did you find it a difficult one to swallow?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, absolutely. I think, yeah, at the time, obviously. I was sitting on the putting green there hoping to get into a playoff, at least, and have another shot at it, but, you know, he made his putt and hit two beautiful shots in there. You know, just kind of hard to take it at that moment, obviously. But looking back, as I said, you know, I played almost as good as I could, and I just got beat by a better player on the day.

Q. Have you done any practice rounds on the course, what do you think about the course and what do you expect from the course?

ERNIE ELS: I got in yesterday afternoon and hit some golf balls and some putts to loosen up. Today will probably be my first look at the golf course. I have played here in the past.

I think some of the holes are similar. But I know we're playing a new golf course. So I'll go check it out today, and I'll give you my assessment later if you ask me. But right now, I don't know much. The weather looks beautiful, so touch wood, that's all, it will stay.

You know, I'll go check it out today and see what happens. I think the rough will be up. I heard some of the guys say that the rough is quite difficult this year, but we'll check it out.

Q. What's your relationship to Heidelberg, this city, to Germany, is there any special relationship?

ERNIE ELS: Well, I just really enjoy Heidelberg. I came here I think five years ago for the first time, and I brought my wife and my little girl back then and we had a good time back then. We were staying on the river there at the Marriott and it's got some really good restaurants and nice scenery.

That's one thing I love about Europe, you know. In America, a lot of the weeks are very similar week in and week out. You can go from Ohio to Texas and it's very similar. But in Europe, especially here in Heidelberg, we've got a different feel, you've got different food and obviously different culture. I think the scenery is beautiful. And my wife's forefathers come from Germany, so there's a connection there. (Laughs).

Q. You've always been a good friend to young Sergio, just tell us what you thought of his effort last week?

ERNIE ELS: I think he got quite fortunate winning. I think he shot 1 over in the final round. It was quite amazing that in today's day and age, you shoot over par and still win. But I think Saturday really set him up for victory. I think he hit every green in regulation and missed one fairway; so that's playing really well, and I think he just hung in there on Sunday. Obviously it was good enough.

He got through in a playoff, and it was quite a bizarre playoff, too. I think Sergio has been working hard on his game. I know that for a fact, we've been practicing together every now and again, and his putting is still holding him back a little bit, if there's any kind of a negative. But he's striking the ball as good as I've ever seen him. He just needs a little bit of extra confidence, and I think after this win, he's going to have it. He might have a big year now. His swing is certainly going to hold up in major championships now. I think you'll see the real Sergio come through in the next couple of years.

Q. That's an interesting comment, you said he doesn't have a lot of confidence. Most people would have suggested that he had too much, but he's not as confident as he looks, is he?

ERNIE ELS: Well, I just think, when you're not making enough putts, I don't care how good you hit it, it's certainly going to get to you mentally.

I've been kind of going through the same scenario the last couple of weeks where I felt I've been hitting really well and I can't make enough putts. It gets really frustrating. I think that's the case of Sergio, he got very frustrated himself and then maybe with the media, as well. Because I think in his mind, he was playing better than his results would show, and that's very frustrating as a professional player.

I think from that point of view, that's what I mean. He was there, but he's not making the putts; you feel you're not going to have that final burst for the finishing line.

Q. You talked about frustration and irritation, actually, we were listening to the commentary in Dallas and the commentators talked about having never seen you so frustrated on a golf course, was that to do with the putting and has that been the problem?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I think so. You know, you hit the ball, as I said, and then it's a four day event, isn't it? It can build sometimes, the frustration. Just sometimes it's almost, I want to say better, but it's almost more fun, hitting the ball all over the place and getting up and down. If you can make some putts, it makes it so much easier, and at times when you are hitting it so good, you hit it to 10, 12, 15 feet every time, you keep missing them, it gets to you a little bit. But I thought I was okay at Dallas. I didn't want to get too frustrated my first week.

Q. As a follow up to that, do you think Tiger is having fun just now?

ERNIE ELS: Well, I wouldn't say that. (Laughter.) He's definitely getting the ball around the golf course at the moment. He's scoring. That just shows you the character of Tiger. If he struggles with his swing and with his ball control and still, he finished one off the lead on Sunday and I think he was two or three out of lead the previous week. So playing like that and still being in contention, that's playing very well.

GORDON SIMPSON: Thank you very much and have a good week, Ernie.

End of FastScripts.

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