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April 10, 2004

Ernie Els


LARRY PUGH: Ladies and gentlemen, Ernie Els. Questions?

Q. Can you talk about your luck in drops in major championships?

ERNIE ELS: What do you mean?

Q. Well, the drop at 11. We heard two officials say no and then the third official saying yes, you were right. I mean, that seemed to be pretty fortuitous considering what we saw on television, and we weren't there.

ERNIE ELS: I actually asked for the chairman of the rules committee, which is Will Nichols. I was pretty sure that I could get a drop because obviously I took something off trees there. There was huge limbs that were lying there and I was not out of bounds and I was not in a hazard, so I was still on the golf course.

You know, I just felt that they could have moved this stuff off site, you know, off of the golf course. I just felt that in South Africa, we kind of call it greenskeepers' rubble, and I felt pretty strong about that.

Actually, there was an official that said no, John, that was on site there, he was actually he kind of said no, but let's ask for Will, the chairman of the rules committee, and that's what took so long.

I would say, you know, it was a good drop. But that's why there are rules. To come back to your question, my drops in major championships, I don't know about other ones, but, you know this, one was kind of out of the rules, I would say.

Q. If you had not gotten a drop there, would you have been able to take a club length or two and drop it or would you have gone back to the tee?

ERNIE ELS: I probably would have gone back to the tee. I probably would have tried to move that one big limb. I already moved one away and I was on my way I probably would have tried to move that without moving my golf ball. But if I saw the ball was going to do anything, I would have had to go back to the tee and I would have made 6 at best. So I made a pretty good 5 there.

Q. How tough is it to sleep on the lead at a major? And do you remember the first time you were in the lead in a major, how difficult that was, to be in that position?

ERNIE ELS: It's never easy. But, you know, I think my first time was '94 and I think I had a two shot lead. Obviously, I was very nervous. You're always pretty nervous. You're pretty tense. But it's not a bad position to be. You have guys that have to catch you. You can go out there, play your game. You've got a lead, you've got a couple of shots on the rest of the field.

If you're aggressive enough, you can build on that. But then again, you know, when you're in the lead, you don't want to lose the lead, and especially around this golf course, I think it could be very tough.

There are two good leaders out there. I think Phil and Chris DiMarco, they are playing well. It's all going to come down to the back nine, still. You want to get yourself in position. A lot of stuff can happen out there. But you just have to kind of keep the faith out there.

Q. This used to be a real momentum golf course; guys would go on runs, especially on the back nine. Is that the biggest casualty of all the changes and just tough to build any sort of momentum over the course of several holes?

ERNIE ELS: I think so. I think the back nine is playing a lot different. You know, they had a couple of bail out areas and those bail out areas are not there anymore. Especially on 11, on the right, you can't go there anymore. That's probably the toughest hole on the golf course right now, that one and 18. You have 17, you can't go right anymore there. At 15, you've got to really thread your tee shot there now to go for the green.

So the back nine is a lot, lot different than what it was five, six years ago. You probably won't see the scores that maybe Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player and those type of guys scored in those days.

It's still there. It's still makeable, but it's a lot tougher.

Q. You had a mix of a lot of good shots and a few others. How do you feel about your position based on how you played today?

ERNIE ELS: I thought I played pretty solid. I really hit two bad shots today. It was, obviously, 11 and 17. Those are the only two really off the planet golf shots I hit. The other ones, I just missed the fairways here and there. I had one 3 putt, and that's basically it. The rest of it was pretty solid. I hit the ball in play on the greens and missed a couple of putts here and there.

You know, I'm playing well.

Q. Is there something a little extra special about being in contention on Sunday here at Augusta, or is it pretty much on par with the other majors as far as the emotions?

ERNIE ELS: Well, if you've been in my position the last couple of years, it's kind of almost normal. I'm always kind of chasing here. It has not quite come for me yet, but, as I said, I'll keep the faith and keep battling.

It's a nice situation to be; I've got a chance.

Q. People have talked about new pins this week. Where do you rank the pin on 14 today in terms of severity?

ERNIE ELS: 14 was tough. The pin was down off the left. The greens were getting a little firm at that stage in the round. I tried to hit a little 8 iron up there. I probably should have hit a 9 iron. But I don't think anybody was going to get close to that flag today.

You know, that flag on 16 was another beauty. Davis hit it in there to two feet. That was an amazing shot. That's Augusta. You know, there's no surprises out here when you've been out here for a while.

Q. You say you've been chasing here; it's usually been Tiger. Does it feel different to have another name in front of you?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, a little different. I really felt good about it was 2000 when I was chasing Vijay. I never really got it really going. I did get it going the one time and then I made that big number on 13.

But, you know, it's all a numbers game out here, isn't it. You've got to go out there and try to shoot your number out there, obviously. I just want a chance tomorrow. That's all I'm asking for.

Q. You said on Tuesday that you were trying to find your swing and you had found a swing key on the back nine in the practice round; is that what you have been able to use during these three rounds?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I have been. I've been working on that and trying to get it a little bit more refined. As I say, I've been hitting the ball for the most part pretty well. My irons have been a lot better than they have been the last couple of weeks, and I think that's been the difference.

My putting is coming around a little bit. Although I didn't make too many today, I didn't miss too many, either. So, yeah, to come back to your question, yeah, my swing thought is still the same as on Tuesday. For this week, anyway, I'll keep that swing thought.

LARRY PUGH: Ernie, good luck tomorrow. Thank you.

End of FastScripts.

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