home jobs contact us
Our Clients:
Browse by Sport
Find us on ASAP sports on Facebook ASAP sports on Twitter
ASAP Sports RSS Subscribe to RSS
Click to go to
ASAP Sports e-Brochure View our


March 23, 2004

Ernie Els


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Thanks for joining us. I saw you practicing on the range. Maybe talk about coming back to play. You missed last year with a wrist injury. I'm sure it's a tournament you'd love to win.

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, it's almost like a major here, isn't it? We keep saying it every year, but more and more it feels like it every year, we come back. The golf course gets more difficult it seems like every year. The setup, I mean. The rough is always tough here. I played yesterday, I played today, and the greens have really changed from yesterday to today. They're a lot firmer and faster. It's got really that feel that you've really got to bring your game.

The field is the best we get all year. I think this one and probably the PGA are probably the strongest fields of the year. So all in all, it's got one hell of a field and a hell of a golf course, really. It's a good thing it's Tuesday today. It's blowing at about 25, 30 out there, and pretty cold. It would have been a very tough course today.

Q. Did you play the 17th, and if so, how did you get on?

ERNIE ELS: No, I played nine holes. I played the front nine. I played the back nine yesterday, and there was quite a breeze yesterday, not as firm as today. I hit about 144 yards. Today it would probably have been a 6-iron. It would have been quite difficult. It's one of those holes that the way it's situated, you're either playing it as your 8th hole or as your 17th hole. It seems like it's always in your mind kind of a thing, that hole. It's quite an amazing finish, with 17 as the par-3, and 18, one of the most difficult holes, also, on Tour. So it makes you think.

Q. What's your feeling about its placement on the course in terms of deciding a winner? You could be tied, you could be four strokes ahead and be in the same boat going into that tee. If you had a quirky hole like that early in the round, you could recover if something went awry; what do you think of that?

ERNIE ELS: Purely from a spectator point of view, your point of view, I think it's pretty nice, to come down when almost everything is on the line on 17, that's the end of the golf tournament, and you have a hole like that. As us players, we would always prefer it earlier in the round to kind of get it over and done with earlier, and you could still recover from it, if you have a bad hole. But at 17, or as I said, No. 8, it's right there where it can really break your round, definitely.

Now, from our point of view, we would like it somewhere else, definitely.

Q. You said it's always on your mind. As you're walking up the 16th fairway and you get past those trees --

ERNIE ELS: You have to think. When you've played your second shot at 16, you've really got to get your wind angle. Normally the wind is down on the left in 16, and it's into you off the right on 17. But you check where the wind is and definitely you look what the guys in front of you -- what they're doing, how well the ball is reacting on the green, if you're lucky enough -- if your timing is perfect to see that shot. No, you definitely -- you have to.

Q. Did you meet Byron Nelson yesterday?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I saw him yesterday.

Q. What was your impression, or did you just say hello?

ERNIE ELS: It was just a quick chat. I said I was going to play in his tournament this year, which is nice for me. He's a great, great man, you know, a great gentleman of the game. He's got one heck of a record, a game. And he's a great guy. At his age to be so heavily involved with the Byron Nelson Classic is great. He still has his dinner there on the Tuesday, Wednesday evening and has a real nice way with the players, and we really enjoy that.

Q. Talk about your form now, heading into this week and looking at the other one in a couple of weeks.

ERNIE ELS: Well, it's obviously -- it wasn't perfect last week, to be honest with you. Definitely I didn't have that in my sights to miss the cut. It happened, it's history, it's gone now. You know, I've just got to -- it's so different. This week to last week, it's totally different. So that's a good thing. I've got to kind of get it together. I've just hit balls on the range, and it feels okay.

My putter was really the club in my bag that let me down last week, and it kind of crept into everything.

Q. It was awful last week, was it?

ERNIE ELS: I missed a lot of putts and I never got anything going. I drove it very well last week, and I guess my iron play and really my putter let me down. I've got to get over it and get going this week. It's a new week for everybody, and I've got to start fresh. It was a good run I had for a while.

Q. Whenever we're coming up on a major, there's a lot of talk about whose game is peaking at the time. Are there things you can do, whether practicing more or less, to get your game to peak at that exact week?

ERNIE ELS: I've been playing in the majors now for the best part of 11 years now, and you kind of find a way that works for you. I've won three in the last 11 years, so at least I got something. But I've had some good finishes, and a lot of top-10s, and things like that.

I think the way that my preparation is going into majors is -- I think I'm happy with that. Every major is different, The Masters, the tournaments leading up to it is different than going to the U.S. Open. I don't particularly like the golf course next week, Sugarloaf, that's why I don't go there. But then again before the U.S. Open I play the Buick Classic. And I do the same before the British Open. And it just depends on how you feel.

I've been doing the same kind of thing for many years now and it seems to be working for me. Other players like to play their way into a major. I like to kind of sit back and think about it a bit more, have a nice mental picture by the time I

get -- especially to Augusta. I think you've got to kind of overcome it mentally before you actually physically play it because we play it so many times. I think different strokes for kind of different guys, you know.

Q. I know you don't want to look too far ahead, given that Augusta is coming up, that take-one-tournament-at-a-time attitude, but THE PLAYERS time on the schedule, just two weeks before The Masters, does it make it more difficult to get ready for another major? This course is arguably tougher. How do you look at that?

ERNIE ELS: It's a good question, and I think this tournament on its own stands very well. It's a very strong tournament. As you say, the golf course, the way it is now, it is definitely tougher than Augusta. There's so much energy that you put into this week alone that by the end of this week, by Sunday, you should have a pretty good indication where you're going, where you really should be working.

This course you've really got to be very accurate off the tee, and your second shots are so important, same with Augusta. In Augusta, we have a little bit of break off the tee. It's not a penal as it is over here. So if you have a good week, yeah, this week, if you finish Top 10, you can look at those players, they're going to have a good week at Augusta.

The speed of the greens are the same, the slope is the same. Your second shot, as I say, you've got to be accurate, and your short game has got to be on. This is very much like a major. And if you're peaking, you're going to be well prepared for Augusta.

Q. Do you like having this tournament this close?

ERNIE ELS: I think it's good. As I said, this one will wake you up, if you're not quite awake yet. This is a very good test for any major.

Q. Ernie, how do you treat, in your own mind, a missed cut? Is it a wake-up call? Do you shake it off and say that's how it goes? How do you deal with it?

ERNIE ELS: It's one of the things in our game that people don't really recognize. We have to play the weekend to make any money and finish the tournament. When you play two days, it's a totally unfinished business kind of a thing. It's a wake-up call, yeah, definitely. As I said, I've had a pretty good run for a while, and it's kind of a fresh start now. I've got to vindicate myself in a lot of aspects. I know where the weak points are at the moment and I've been working on it now. You've got to head on out, you've got to get out of it, shake it off and have a fresh go.

Q. As well as you were playing heading into Bay Hill last year before the wrist injury, looking back now, how much of a missed opportunity do you sense that was?

ERNIE ELS: I think I answered that question at that point last year so I'll try to answer it the same way. I think when I look back at my year at the end of last year, I would say, yeah, it probably had something to do with my preparation going to The Masters, definitely. I probably should not have played Bay Hill, because I knew I was in a bit of trouble there with the wrist, but I wanted to play. It was a mistake -- I had two weeks off before The Masters and couldn't really practice a whole lot, maybe four or five days before the time I really started hitting a lot of balls again. So I was very rusty around the greens and on the greens there.

So, yeah, it definitely had an effect on my performance at The Masters. But after that I was fine. My wrist was fine all year and just maybe just a couple of weeks the rest of the year.

Q. (Inaudible.)

ERNIE ELS: You know what it is, it's gone.

Q. Which wrist again, the right wrist?


Q. Is it fair to say with all the changes at Augusta, as much as they've beefed up the rest of the course, that the par-5s on the back nine you've really got to make your money? And is it fair to say that you've lost the tournament on those holes the last two years?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I think that's fair to say. The 13th hole you've really got to look at it now, is it a two-shot hole or maybe a three-shotter. You've got to get your drive around the corner. And if you don't, if you have 220, 225 in. For us it's maybe a 3-iron or something, but you're coming off that side hill lie, and it's definitely going to make me think am I going to go for the green in two. And if the flag's on the right, back right, like it is Sundays, I can lay it up and pitch it in there, into the slope and kind of work it down and still have a 10-, 12-footer for birdie, where if I'm hitting the perfect shot, I'm still going to have to two-putt that green if I hit the green in two.

So you have to ask yourself the question, it's not a 5-iron anymore, 6-iron anymore. And 15, 15 I haven't played well in the last couple of years. I've driven it well down there, but the breeze down there, that hole you can hit 5-, 6-iron in. That's probably the only par-5 that you can go in with a middle long iron, and the rest of them are probably three shot holes now.

So the back nine, yeah, I still believe you've got opportunity there for some birdies, but it's not nearly what it used to be like. It's a lot longer and a lot more difficult.

Q. What did you do on the weekend?

ERNIE ELS: Took it easy. I didn't hit any balls or anything. I came up here Monday morning and hit some balls and just got away from it a little bit.

Q. Are you throwing Janzen and Allenby under the bus and making them play Annika on Tuesday?

ERNIE ELS: I think it was more their choice. Not too many players on this side that wanted to be on that group. I think Robert and Lee stepped up and said they wanted to play her. That's just the way it worked out kind of a thing.

Q. This being Arnie's supposedly last appearance at The Masters, I wonder if you could talk about what it would be like without him playing there. And if you could recall the first time you met him, which I think was at a U.S. Open?

ERNIE ELS: It was a US PGA, it was in '92 at Belle Rive, we played the first two days together. And he invited me to his Bay Hill tournament the next year in '93, and I played with him there again. And myself and Arnold, we've had a really good relationship. He's a great guy, and obviously what he's meant to the game, you guys know all about that. And he put the game on the map. He put the British Open back on the map, by winning at Birkdale and Troon the year after. And just the most charismatic player of his generation. The next guy is probably Tiger after that.

So he truly brought television into it himself, and

Mark McCormack changed the whole way that professional golf was looked at. It brought the big bucks in for us, eventually for us. Obviously Jack Nicklaus had a lot to do with that, too. A lot of other players, but I think Arnold and Mark McCormack really started the whole thing going for us.

Q. What's the most meaningful thing Arnie ever said to you?

ERNIE ELS: He said always -- actually he still says that to me, he says I've got to get a lot more mean.

Q. Too nice a guy?

ERNIE ELS: I don't know, that's what he thinks.

Q. With regard to this year's U.S. Open, I just wondered if you could give some recollections of Shinnecock in '95. You came off the win the year before, and obviously it was difficult?

ERNIE ELS: I wasn't in form playing at Shinnecock. I played with Price, and played with Tiger the first two rounds. And there was quite a nice breeze blowing, they had it set up quite tough, the rough. But I really enjoyed the layout. It was really -- almost felt like links golf on some holes. It wasn't overly long, but I remember the wind blew and it was really tricky, 10 and 11. 11 was one of the best little par-3s, it was only a 9- or 8-iron, par-3, but it was very difficult to hit the green, well bunkered. I remember the finish was good. You had to really play well down the stretch.

16, the par-5 was a classic three-shot par-5 into the wind. You had to get your drive in play, second shot you had to put in a certain area, and the third shot was a punch 8-iron.

But a very good course, and quite windy.

Q. Do you need to get more mean?

ERNIE ELS: I don't think so, I think I'm mean enough.

Q. Back to this event, how important is it for Ernie Els to have this on his resume, given the other major success he's had? What does this mean to Ernie Els?

ERNIE ELS: I mean, as I said, it's a very strong field, and I played well here for a couple of years. I think three or four years I played pretty well here. And then the last couple of years I kind of lost it around here. So I'd just like to have a solid tournament, to be honest with you, and see what comes Sunday. But what it would mean to me winning, it's a great list of champions. And most of the champions that have won here have won major championships. It means a lot. This is our tournament. This is THE PLAYERS Championship, and this is the way we want to see golf courses look like. And I think to win this tournament, you win our tournament, you win THE PLAYERS Championship. I'm not sure what the purse is, but that also helps a little bit.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Ernie Els, thank you very much.

End of FastScripts.

About ASAP SportsFastScripts ArchiveRecent InterviewsCaptioningUpcoming EventsContact Us
FastScripts | Events Covered | Our Clients | Other Services | ASAP in the News | Site Map | Job Opportunities | Links
ASAP Sports, Inc. | T: 1.212 385 0297