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December 17, 2008

Ernie Els


MICHAEL GIBBONS: Ernie, welcome, thank you for joining us today. Let's just start off with some thoughts on this week after not having played for a few weeks.
ERNIE ELS: I had a bit of a break. I haven't played any tournaments in South Africa to this point. I had a bit of time off, moving into a new house in Florida. Happy to be here. The course is in great shape. It's good to be back in South Africa and playing the South African Open here on probably one of the best golf courses in the country and it's a great venue for the SA Open. We have a great field. The Masters Champion is here, and we have a really strong field.
It should be a lot of fun.

Q. Inaudible?
ERNIE ELS: You know, came here early, I got here Sunday, and then played nine holes. Feel okay. You know, quite a long way, so have to take some time off. Two weeks off and then I go to Hawaii, so I want to play well here and gear up for next year.

Q. How is your mindset compared to this time last year?
ERNIE ELS: We're having a great time. You know -- at times, sometimes sport is, you know, and last year, finishing like that at the Dunhill, where I really had it won - I really needed to take some time off and could have done without playing another week.
But anyways, hoping I can play better and a little bit happier.

Q. Your schedule for 2009?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I'm not quite sure about Qatar yet, pretty close, I might play there, and definitely Dubai. And then I'm going to have a three-week break, but two weeks in South Africa, and then we'll head out and I'll play the Tucson Match Play tournament and then I'll play the Honda Classic, the Doral tournament, Bay Hill probably and then a week off and then Houston and then the Masters.
So that's my schedule up until the Masters. After that, I'm not too sure. I might put one or two more tournaments in. I might play in Korea and I might play one more in the U.S. but other than that, very similar.

Q. How is the economy affecting --
ERNIE ELS: It's great. Doesn't seem too affected by it, but a golf tournament, and The Race to Dubai -- so for The European Tour and for the players, it is wonderful. It's good marketing on their behalf because they are definitely getting Dubai talked about all year, and it's good for The European Tour and for us.

Q. Do you feel something different about the South African Open?
ERNIE ELS: It's been a major improvement, from the facilities to just looking at the golf course, the golf course is in unbelievable shape. It's in remarkable shape and condition. There isn't anything that you don't see around the world. You have a superb players lounge when you get in here and they look after you.
Being a South African and playing in the South African Open, this is exactly what we needed. It makes tournaments very healthy, seeing all of the players coming back to play, like Lee, Trevor and myself, Henrik Stenson, Lee Westwood, Darren. We have got a world-class field here, and for this time of the year, in South Africa, you know, that means that it's something special. I'm very pleased to see what's going on.

Q. Inaudible?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, it's a bit of an edge there. South Africans, we love our sport and you know, we don't want any foreigners coming down here and winning our tournamrnt -- that's putting it bluntly. And I think the guys really picked up their game, seeing the world-class players like Henrik and Lee and Darren and guys like those playing.

Q. The tournament in Dubai, I think in the last eight years?
ERNIE ELS: I don't think about it now, every tournament I get to. The tournament in Dubai, we have a great relationship with the people over there and for me it's like going to another home.
I've been going to the tournament for many years. And not many Americans playing a worldwide schedule like that, but now you see -- the influence in the game of golf and all the kind of business they do, they are world players. And to play in that tournament, that's still my baby. There are so many new and wonderful tournaments coming out but that's always one that I love to play in. They moved the tournament to the Creek a couple of times, and I didn't go there for those tournaments, but for the rest, it just has a really nice feeling about it.
After I came back from my knee, I went there and -- being not quite a hundred percent found a way to play. We are good friends, me and the golf course.

Q. How do you feel going into another year, your game? Are you looking to wind it down a little?
ERNIE ELS: No, really kind of wind it down a little after the FedEx series tournament. I took about a month off watched a bit of golf, The Ryder Cup and that's about the time we settled into the house. We then went to Morocco and Singapore and Japan.
I've had a lot of time off. I've always played a lot at the end of the year, so I'm pretty fresh. This is a tournament that I really wanted to come and play, the South African Open. I'm really looking forward to a big year, and I'm really putting a lot of energy back into my game, and I feel like everything has kind of settled down now and that I can really concentrate on playing proper golf and looking forward to it.

Q. Do you think the SA Open moving to January 2010 will affect the field - would you stay here and play here instead of America?
ERNIE ELS: I would reconsider and play here. As I say, you know, regarding the tournament, I owe this tournament a lot of gratitude. Maybe I'll play and have a longer holiday and start the year. That's what I used to do way back when the first tournament was in San Diego. I didn't like the golf course too much -- you have a very good chance.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Thanks very much for joining us.

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