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March 3, 2004

Ernie Els


GORDON SIMPSON: Well, Ernie, I see from the papers here, you have an announcement. Maybe you could start off by giving us a few comments about the golf course you are building?

ERNIE ELS: We've got a project are that we working being with here. They are going to create some serious sport here in this region. We have facilities to educate people through sport, and my little project is building a golf course.

GORDON SIMPSON: A little project?

ERNIE ELS: It's got a housing development on it obviously. It's just going to the whole project is going to be about a 17 year project to finish the whole thing. They are going to have rubgy, cricket, field hockey, you name it, any sport, basketball, baseball, any sport they can accommodate here when it's done. That's basically it. I'm just doing the golf course. I've got nothing else involved.

But we've got a nice piece of land. First time that I've seen a piece of land like this in the desert. It's got beautiful dunes. We are not going to try to bulldoze a Carnoustie or a Ballybunion here. We are looking at getting the way players away off the tee to a nice wide area, the hitting area, the fairways.

Bunkering it, I'm maybe looking at Melbourne bunkering. I love that kind of bunkering. And then make it a second shot golf course, really trick it up around the greens a little bit and not make it too slopey on the greens, but, you know try to catch the guy out on the second shot and test his short game. That's basically it.

GORDON SIMPSON: Will you reflect on a couple of months ago, do you feel that was one that maybe got away from you?

ERNIE ELS: Oh, definitely. Like I said last time, you can't take anything away from Robert, he shot 65 and a great round. The greens were rock hard that day, with little breeze. I thought anything under 70 was a about score that day and he shot 65. So, you know, all credit to him. I didn't particularly play the last hole very well that hole tournament, and then the last day, I hit it just a foot of the green. Kind of a simple chip, but I kind of messed it up and made five.

I had a good tournament, but he beat me, simple as that.

Q. The whole world has been waiting for sort of yourself and Tiger to collided, the two of you head to head in a tournament. Is that something that sort of is in your mind as well, that you are looking forward to, going down 18 together almost?

ERNIE ELS: Well, it will obviously it will be nice. 144, 156 players, you know, in the field and you've got to watch out. Last year was a great example of that. Anybody that's really on form can come through and win the tournament.

But, you know, obviously, yeah, I played a lot of tournaments in America and obviously in America, it's not that big of a deal than over here because you don't see Tiger Woods in every European event. I think with him and myself and some of the other top boys playing here this week, I think there's a lot of nice ideas that you can fiddle around and hopeful of happening.

For my personal view, I love playing this golf course. I've had some good success here. All I want to try and do, I am going to try to do as good as I can do, try to shoot my low scores and then see what he does. I'm sure that's what he's going to try and do.

Definitely, not an Ernie Els/Tiger Woods show this week. This is the Dubai Desert Classic Golf Tournament and we are going to try to play as good as we can. Obviously he's No. 1 in the world and just came off a victory, so he's feeling good about his game. I feel good about my game, too. So let's see what happens. Something you guys can write about, but me personally, I just want to try and play this golf course as good as I can.

Q. Do you think he's a little more vulnerable now than he was before, because to us from outside the ropes we are sort of waiting for either yourself or Vijay to make that assault on the world No. 1 spot.

ERNIE ELS: I think Vijay has been playing very well for a long time now, and I think I've been playing pretty well for about two years now.

You have to sustain that level of play. It's not like, you know, you win a tournament, you maybe win a big event and now you're the next challenger to the No. 1 spot. You have to sustain a certain level of play and that's what I've been trying to do for a long period of time now. You've got to be consistent. You're not when you're not going to win a tournament, you try and get yourself back into a Top 10 position or something, and that's exactly what Tiger has done. I think that is what the players have to realize. You have to play well over a long period of time, and then maybe if Tiger has an off season and maybe an off couple of months, and then maybe you can really bridge that gap. It's definitely not just "Now I'm just going to beat him now, I'm going to win eight in a row and now I'm going to be No. 1." It's not that simple. You have to steadily climb up that ladder.

And I think Vijay has been a great example of that. After the British Open, at Royal St. George's he finished Top 10 every week until other week with three, four or five wins. That is how you can climb up that ladder. That's what I'm that's what I'm trying to do. I think that's been Vijay's goal. That's how I think you've got to do it.

Q. You talk about this one being that perhaps got away last year, and this might sound a bit of a weird question in that you won so many tournaments last year, but did you feel that last year was almost a year that got away in terms of your performances in the majors, given that it was a year that Tiger didn't really do anything in the majors?

ERNIE ELS: You know, I think it's a fair question. I had a brilliant year, winning seven times. But, yeah, I mean, I had my mistakes that I did. I messed up my hand a little bit and that could have had an effect on my Masters performance and especially my running into the Masters, my preparation.

You know, I had Top 10s there and all that, but, yeah, I think you're right. I never really had a chance to win. Maybe the PGA in August, I had an outside chance to win. The other ones, I was playing catch up most of the time.

Yeah, surely, if you look at it that way, not winning a major, yeah, I can feel that I might have let one go, especially if you look at the first time winners and all of that. So be it.

I'll be ready this year. You've got to learn from your mistakes and I think I have learned. I haven't hit a punching bag since. (Laughter.) So, I've got to you kind of grow up and be ready and that's what I'm trying to do.

I think my schedule this year has been a little bit more quiet and I feel my running is more prepared than it's ever been.

Q. Are you relying a lot more now on a new fitness regime? You just spent two weeks in South Africa training up?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I had three weeks off and I didn't play a lot of golf. I enjoyed myself with the kids on the beach. There was nobody there. December is our summer holiday and February, the weather is the best and there's no people, so we had a great time. I did work out a lot and we've got a golf course that we're doing there in South Africa. That was a great time. We were quite busy, all of the business, if you want to call it that, and had a great time with the family. So, you know, couldn't have been a better time at this time of the year.

Q. How hard of a decision was it not to play last week? Everybody is trying to build up to the World Golf Championships as the next biggest thing after the majors; how long did you deliberate over that?

ERNIE ELS: A long time. I kind of hinted earlier in the year that I might not play because I knew what my schedule was like and that I had to go and then come back to here. But still, I wanted to play. I just felt that family time was a bit more important at this stage of family life and that was that.

I definitely left it quite late. I was still thinking about playing. We were having a good time with the kids.

Q. Would you like to see The Match Play move from La Costa


Q. And the World Golf Championships in general going around?

ERNIE ELS: I think they are doing a good job with the American Express. They have moved that one around. I think it's going back to Ireland again this year. I think they have done a good job there.

With the World Match what do you call it, the Accenture tournament, I think they can do maybe a better job moving that one around. They have moved it once, and the field went all the way out to 105th on the World Rankings. And that probably said something to the sponsors or organizers and they moved it straight back to La Costa, and now they have got a tighter field.

But if you want to call it "World Golf Championships" events, I think you've got to move it around. It will be a great tournament to move around the world.

Q. Can you give us an idea of your tournament schedule and the way it will affect your preparation for the Masters?

ERNIE ELS: Well, next week I've got next week off, going back to London. Then guy Bay Hill, TPC and then I have got another week off. We've got a little challenge match between Lake Nona and Isleworth on Monday and Tuesday. So play a bit of match play there. So I've got the rest of the week off. And I think I'll play the Heritage after that. I think I'll go back to Europe again, a week or two off, and then probably go to Dallas and then come back here and play the Deutsche Bank and probably the PGA and then go back for Memorial. The month of May is quite a busy month for me.

Q. You've got three big tournaments now leading up to Augusta after three weeks off, is there a sense that your Masters preparation begins this week, or is it still too early?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, you can probably say that. We've got a month before the Masters.

We're going to get this question a lot of times in the next month, I know, the players, but I'm just going to give you the same answer every time I think: I'm going to try and play every event for what it is. If you prepare for that event as good as you can, working on your short game, your putting, your long game, your driving, the mental game, the whole thing; I'm going to do that every week I play now. And, you know, if you do that, be ready every time you play, I think that is your preparation for the big one and feel that every event is huge in its own right. So that's what I'm going to try and do.

GORDON SIMPSON: Thank you very much.

End of FastScripts.

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