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January 16, 2004

Ernie Els


JOHN BUSH: Nice playing today.

ERNIE ELS: Thank you.

JOHN BUSH: 9-under par, 131, just two shots out of the lead. I think it was last week you mentioned that you thought this week would be a little bit easier to defend, and obviously here at the halfway point, you are in good shape.

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I'm in good shape. Just a little angry about the putt I missed on 18.

You know, I think I had a good day. I kept my patience. I played well all day today. Even yesterday, I played good. But missed quite a few putts. Everybody is going to miss putts.

It's a course where conditions like it is, you're going to see some low scores. This golf course needs the breeze from somewhere to make it tough, and at the moment it's just dead calm.

So I think you might see some really low scores this afternoon even. But I'm in good shape. Hopefully 11-under will be what it will be, the lead, and I'm two shots off. Hoping for a little bit more breeze over the weekend to make it a little bit tougher.

JOHN BUSH: Take us through your birdies real quick.

ERNIE ELS: I birdied the sixth hole. I hit a drive and a sand iron to about ten feet.

Birdied No. 9, the par 5. I hit a driver and 6-iron and 2-putted from about 20 --22 feet, 20 feet.

Birdied 11. Hit a 5-iron there to about 20 feet.

14 I birdied. I hit a drive, left rough, sand iron from about 80 yards to 12 feet. Made that.

15 was a 2-iron and a 9-iron to about 18 feet.

And then 17, I hit a 7-iron and made a putt from about, I don't know, 18 feet. And I missed a 5-, 6-footer on the last for birdie.

Q. Any other close ones?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I had quite a few. I had close ones on these greens, I would say anything inside 18 feet, you know is really makeable. I probably missed four or five of those.

But I got it going on the back nine. Made some good strokes. Started reading the putts better. It was a nice feeling to make a couple.

Q. You said the other day during your practice round that you felt like you had figured something out on your putting.

ERNIE ELS: Well, yeah, it's kind of started coming today. For 27 holes, I never really putted well in this tournament. But the back nine I started making a couple, and, you know, it's starting to feel normal again.

Q. Obviously you won in both places last year, but what's the biggest difference in putting between the greens from last week to now?

ERNIE ELS: It's a big difference. The greens last week are a lot bigger, a lot more grain on them and they are a lot slower.

They have got a lot more slope on them last week. They got some slope this week, but they have a finer grain and they roll a lot better this week.

Q. How long was your birdie at 18; you said you were angry and missed that putt.

ERNIE ELS: Five, six feet.

Q. A couple times it looked like you dropped your left hand low on your grip.

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, it's to kind of get into the putt. I like it when both shoulders are quite level and I feel like I've been like that a little bit (indicating, raising one shoulder six inches above the other). And yesterday evening I felt if I go left hand below, get the putter in kind of a nice position, it's just kind of a feel thing. I don't think I'm going to go try and go this way yet.

Q. Did you ever get your -- whatever you did a minute ago -- that was not good, did that happen at Kapalua or did it just happen on the beach in South Africa?

ERNIE ELS: No, I think it's an effect from the beach in South Africa.

Q. It's nothing about the grains from last week to cause you to do something funny?

ERNIE ELS: No. Even my swing, I found something nice in my swing. I'm hitting the ball a lot better than I did last week. It's just as I said to you, it's just the rust coming off and kind of getting back to normal hopefully now.

Q. As much as you won last year, when you get in contention now, is there a different, is there a feeling like, I should win, more than maybe it was a couple of years ago?

ERNIE ELS: The last two years, I've had pretty good win percentage for me. I won six times and then seven times last year. So it's been good.

I don't really want to think about it too much. I coming in every week, I want to feel like I've got a chance to win. That's got to be my mindset, when you play, you've got to play to do well.

I'd like to get in contention even better tomorrow and just try and really compete this week. That's kind of -- that should be my mindset for the rest of the year. The amount of tournaments I play, you know, it's kind of tough to do sometimes. But that's my mindset. That's the way I've been playing the last couple of years.

Q. How long did that feeling last, last year, a feeling like you were the guy every week?

ERNIE ELS: I would say probably till the PGA.

Q. Really?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah. (Laughing.)

Q. Why are you laughing? That's good, isn't it?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, it is. It's better than it's been, ever, probably.

But as I said, the amount of tournaments I played, by August I felt it a little bit and I could feel the energy go a little bit after that.

I still won The Match Play and then in Switzerland after that. But up to the PGA, I really played possible as good as I could.

Q. What was the energy coming into these first two weeks?

ERNIE ELS: Last week I wasn't quite on top of it and I kind of knew that. I was just trying to make the best out of it. I made a lot of bad mistakes last week.

But, you know, I feel really good now. I feel like it's coming around.

Q. Did last week basically piss you off for going into an event and not really having it?

ERNIE ELS: Well, kind of, yeah. But you've got to take your time off, especially the way I had it going last year. So I really took five weeks off after the Presidents Cup and really didn't play a lot of golf, didn't practice much.

Normally, I feel myself, somewhere on your vacation, you feel like, "Okay, now it's time to start practicing." But I never got that feeling. (Laughter.) I can have another week off and another week off. It felt good. My expectations were obviously to play well but it.

Q. As much as you enjoy La Costa and 18-hole matches, have you ever considered just skipping that week, or do you feel like you almost have to play because it's a World Golf Championship and everybody is there?

ERNIE ELS: A good question.

Q. Should be an interesting answer then.

ERNIE ELS: I felt like it before, yeah, not going there. It's such a long way to go.

Q. Because don't you go to Dubai the next week?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah. Yeah, it's a long way to go.

I would like to see that tournament move, actually. If it's a World Golf Championship event, why play there every year? They should move it around, maybe move it.

Q. Fancourt?

ERNIE ELS: East somewhere.

Q. Would you ever consider not playing?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I would lie if I said I wouldn't. I think I would consider it, yeah. Maybe in future years when I play more on the West Coast. Next year I'll definitely play more on the West Coast and I'll just have to wait and see how I feel.

Q. What are your odds of playing it this year?

ERNIE ELS: It's about --

Q. Pretty high?

ERNIE ELS: 60/40 at the moment.

Q. Seriously?


Q. What was it a year ago?

ERNIE ELS: Where was I a year ago? Oh, I was going there anyway. No, I was going there. I was on my way there last year. I had a week off before. So I was on my way there.

Q. You talked about you like to see it blow a little on the weekend. How does that benefit you, do you think?

ERNIE ELS: My experience around here, I think this is my fourth time around here, and I've seen it blow here quite a bit. I've played it where we could barely get to the ninth green in two shots. I mean, this week has been an 8-iron and a 6-iron for me.

And if it can blow a little bit, the rough is up, it's still quite soft on the greens, but it will just make the guys think a little bit and hit different shots. Right now, just hit it in the fairway and have a free go. I think it's not quite fair to the golf course, either.

Q. Realistically, how low do you think Michelle can go today?

ERNIE ELS: Well, she has to go 2-under and I think she probably knows that. It's calm. Yesterday she had a good round, I thought, shooting 72. She's got a realistic chance to shoot 2-under. It's going to be a lot of pressure on her.

But if she can make it, as I said to Doug earlier, that would be a lifetime achievement on this tour, a 14-year-old cut making the cut on the big tour. That's unheard of.

But I'd like to watch it, you know. Might sit down and watch it a little bit.

Q. You're not going to go out there?

ERNIE ELS: No. (Laughter.)

Q. What events are you going to play in Europe after Dubai?

ERNIE ELS: After Dubai, I've still got to make up my mind on that. In May it's a little crazy. I normally like to play the PGA over there at Wentworth, but I've got to check it out this year because the Memorial is there, the Buick Classic is around that time and obviously the U.S. Open. But I'll definitely play the SAP in Germany. But that might be it.

Q. Until the Open?

ERNIE ELS: And then the Scottish Open, yeah.

JOHN BUSH: Thank you.

End of FastScripts.

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