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January 8, 2009

Ernie Els


DOUG MILNE: Ernie Els, 5-under 68 in round one of the 2009 Mercedes-Benz Championship, very well done. Thank you for joining us for a few minutes. Just a few comments on how you're feeling after the first round.
ERNIE ELS: I feel okay. I had a good round going today. I had a perfect start. I was 6-under through 11, and I had a birdie putt on 12 to go 7-under. So to be 5-under, I would have taken it before I teed off. I feel a little hot still under the collar yet.
I'm feeling good about the season and I feel like I want to work hard on my game and have a good season, obviously, like everybody.

Q. Geoff was talking about having played in Australia a good stretch, and still being somewhat sharp coming here. You're coming in, talking about being re-energized and refreshed. I guess it can go both ways?
ERNIE ELS: Exactly. I had a lot of time off and played a tournament two weeks ago in South Africa and did pretty well. So I guess I'm also, I wouldn't say totally sharp, but have a bit of game.
Yeah, I feel very fresh. I haven't had so much time off, ever. I had like seven or eight weeks off out of nine week, so pretty nice.

Q. Did you have a chance to birdie 18? I didn't see it, it's a birdie hole, obviously.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I hit a perfect drive and I had a 4-iron and I was a little bit scared of hitting it left and left it right, short right, and hit a good chip shot and not a good putt. So a disappointing 5. You want to birdie the par 5s on this golf course. I eagled 1 and then I bogeyed 15, which was a good bogey. I pulled it way left and didn't birdie 18. You want to be 3- or 4-under on the par 5s every day.

Q. Ogilvy got around without any bogeys.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, with wide fairways and the tradewinds blowing today, it was designed around the tradewinds. If you play it the correct way, you can have some fun on the course. It's one of those courses where the longer hitters can have some fun.

Q. I know you have good and bad memories on this course, as most do; 18, for example. I wonder, when you get to the bottom of the hill on 15, do you ever wonder, is this where you hit your tee shot in 2003?
ERNIE ELS: We were talking about that today. Kenny said to me, he remembered when I hit it down there and I said, I must have been younger then, fairways were a little firmer, I don't know.
Who knows, maybe I can get it down there again this week.

Q. Do you think that 31-under will ever be touched on this course?
ERNIE ELS: I guess you can never say never, but I don't think so (laughter).
What is that, an average, of, what, 6-, 7-under, a bit more?

Q. 66 a day.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, it takes a lot. We had good weather, though.

Q. The first couple of years here, David Duval had a great round, a great four rounds and you came back a couple of years later and busted his record. When the weather was good, you guys were playing great.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, K.J. came close that year. The back nine he was only three shots behind me, or four shots behind me. He was also playing great. And then I had a really good finish. I'm not sure what he was under, but he must have been 23-, 24-under himself.

Q. The first 11 holes, was that as good a stretch of golf as you've had in a while?
ERNIE ELS: No, I played in the South African Open and actually had a chance to be in the playoff. I had two putts from here to that door and 3-putted for 63.
My game is coming around and I've started playing some good golf ever since after the FedEx. So I'm playing okay and I'm feeling good about my game.

Q. What was going through your head a year ago when you were not here after many years?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I missed it. I haven't been here for two or three years. I know it's a long flight for us, but we love coming here. And when we are here, we obviously go to the Sony, which is a great event in itself. So it's just two great weeks to come to, although it's a long flight.
Yeah, I missed it, I must say. Me and Ricci, the hotel we are staying at is unbelievable, it's a limited field, so it's really a perfect start to the year. I never used to like it when we played at La Costa. In the '90s, I used to always miss that tournament, because I just didn't have a good track record there. But they moved it here and I love coming here.

Q. Just you or everybody?
ERNIE ELS: No, I think just me (laughter). Too cold and too wet there. I don't like that kind of weather.

Q. Are you going to be at Sony?

Q. Can you run through your birdies?
ERNIE ELS: 3, I hit driver, wedge, 15-footer.
5, was a driver, 4-iron about 15 feet again.
6, was a driver and a pitch to about five feet.
9, was driver, 3-wood, just short of the green and pitched it to about four feet.
11, was wedge and 12-foot put.
Then 15, I pulled it left, penalty drop, hack out, short of the green right, pitch on and had about a 7-footer for bogey.

DOUG MILNE: Thank you for your time.

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