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October 19, 2003

Ernie Els


SCOTT CROCKETT: I'm sure it's been said a few times now, congratulations winning the HSBC World Match-Play Championship, equalling Seve Ballesteros and Gary Player's record of five wins in this championship. Start with how you feel about putting your name again in the record books.

ERNIE ELS: It's great. It's been a wonderful championship and so much history in this tournament, so many great people were involved with this championship. Starting off with Mark McCormack, this is now the Mark McCormack Trophy. I started this event 40 years ago with Arnold Palmer and so many great champions, Gary Player, Aoki, Hale Irwin, the who's who of golf, really has won this tournament. It's great that HSBC has continued it. I think they got their sponsorship for the next ten years, so it's cemented for ten years and the history will continue.

What can I say? I had a great week. I really played well tee-to-green today, I felt. Kind of lost my putting stroke a little bit today. Didn't make too many putts but felt in control of my golf game. It was tough playing Thomas. It was not easy playing him. We are such good friends now, you want to be -- you want to go out there and get in a certain mood with your opponent, but it's tough doing that when you're playing a good friend.

But I played really well this morning, the most part of the morning, for about 12, 13 holes, and then kind of lost it 14, 15. And then I played well again to finish. But, you know, to be honest, I think Thomas has played better in his life before. (Laughs). I'm sure he's told you that.

I'm just glad that I've won. No matter how, you just want to win.

Q. What do those words mean from Seve?

ERNIE ELS: Seeing myself, I've got such -- he's been such a great champion. I still will never forget that time we played in '94. That was still one of my best matches ever. Just he's been quite tough on me. The last quite a few years now he's been giving me quiet advice on the side; in his opinion, we are all very hard-headed as golfers. But I listen to what he says a lot of times. I take a lot of the stuff -- a lot of the stuff I take in. Yeah, he said that to me before he said I've got to get tougher mentally. I think I'm on my way there.

Q. What part of your game can you improve, is it putting, tee-to-green --

ERNIE ELS: I can raise -- on the technical side, I can still become a better driver of the golf ball, but I know my swing so well now, I even went to a different swing thought again today. I felt comfortable with it. I felt comfortable making changes out there on the golf course technically.

Mentally I'm getting there. I feel I've come a long way since 2001. You know, you guys are probably going to get tired of this, but I've got to thank Jos again. We still work together and we've got a little bit to go. I've got to thank my family, my wife, the kids, they travel with me around the world. It's sometimes even tougher on them to travel with me on my schedule. So anyway, where am I going -- yeah. (Laughter.) I'm going off here.

Yeah, I can improve.

Q. Is it your ambition still to be World Number One?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I think there's quite a few players that can stamp their authority down if you're going to put it that way. I think Vijay is definitely one player. I think myself, definitely. You know, I would say of the European guys, Padraig has a chance. He's just got to get comfortable with his new life (new family). There's quite a few players out there that can really come through. But I can't really worry about them and you've got to take care of business yourself. I'm on my way there. Last year I won six times; this year seven times. I'm getting there. I'm looking forward to the future.

Q. Do you think it should be 16 players?

ERNIE ELS: I think that will definitely help the tournament, getting ranking points, if everybody plays from the first day. Me personally, I'm going to be defending champion next year, so maybe the year after that they can think of that. You know, I think this is the way they have set it up and I think the last, I don't know how many years they have played it in this format. I don't think you should -- there's a million pounds to play for. If that won't entice people into coming, I don't know what will.

Davis, he designed this week's golf course in Greensboro, so he's obviously got a conflict of interest. So he wanted to play there.

Jim Furyk, he's probably going for the Player of the Year Award over there; he wants to keep playing, and so do other players. We play for a lot of money in America, and I don't think you should, for the sake of getting more players here, change the format. I think the way it is has stood the test of time and the criteria they have now getting into the event is as tough as you get.

Q. What were your emotions on the hole-in-one?

ERNIE ELS: It's an unbelievable shot. It just shows you the character of these guys. Tim Clark showed it the other day. Vijay showed it yesterday, when the chips were down he came straight back at me. Thomas did the same today. You know you can't keep a good man down. I just said to Thomas now, "I wasn't looking at the ball taking off." I just looked at his swing, the divot his club made and it looked perfect. I looked up then, the ball was coming down at the green and the next moment, I saw the people jump out of their seats. I think it's a great moment. I think we definitely probably will remember this tournament with that shot. I think it was an amazing shot and what a time to do it.

Q. Did he say, 'Follow that?'

ERNIE ELS: Yes. (Laughter.) What a shot, he hit 4-iron -- that was my best shot that whole week on that hole. It didn't mean much.

Q. Do you know have the ambition to go one better and notch six wins?

ERNIE ELS: That will be everything, won't it? It will obviously put a new record and stuff like that. But I've never been a man for record books. But I've got the opportunity now to maybe do something, so hopefully I'll be happy and ready to play next year. I love this tournament. I love this championship and hopefully I'll be ready next year.

Q. Are you comfortable with 1 million pound prize - it is an obscene amount?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I've never seen that amount of money but I'm very comfortable with that. It kind of makes you think a little bit out there, if you know what I mean. (Laughter.)

Q. What were you thinking on the 17th tee this morning after your poor tee shots before that?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, this morning I wasn't very comfortable with that club. It just seems like that stretch of holes, this whole tournament I've played badly, 13, 14, 15, the whole tournament I just gave holes away in every match. I think 15, must be one of the driving holes in golf. It seems like those bunkers are in the fairway. This afternoon I thought I hit a pretty good one and found those bunkers again.

I just grinded it out again this morning. I hit a good tee shot when it mattered or counted on 17. To win that hole, and made a good putt on 16 this morning for par to win that hole.

Yeah, I was uncomfortable on those three holes.

Q. Talking of your mental progress, would it be fair to say in 2001 you had a complex about Tiger, now you are relishing the challenge?

ERNIE ELS: The way I played in 2000, I thought I really played well; and that year, Tiger was just unbelievable. I don't know how many tournaments he won that year, but I know I finished second to him six times that year. You know, I was trying not to think too much about it. But I think subconsciously, the start of 2001, it was definitely on my mind. I wouldn't say I had a conflict with it, but I probably had a bit of a problem with that. I had to find a cure for it and I think a lot has been written about that subject. And I feel a lot more comfortable with my game now and feel I can take it to a new level.

Q. The course was different this year? More like links golf perhaps?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, exactly. I think a lot of the holes, you can go with the lay of the land, and as you rightly say, the golf course played totally different than in previous years in October. This is more like it might play in May. It's running fast.

And Chris Kennedy, you've got to give him credit; he got the greens in magnificent shape. It was kind of fun to play that way. Normally it's very calm, but wet, so you just fire at the flag. This week, we had to play some different shots.

Q. When you say you had to find a mental cure, is it just a different way of thinking?

ERNIE ELS: Just new ideas and now thoughts and new stuff to try and think about and kind of get new exercises to do out there on the golf course and change the routine up a little bit and make things a little bit more fresh again and stuff like that. So a lot off-the-golf-course stuff.

Q. What will you do with the million pounds?

ERNIE ELS: Put it in the bank, man.

Q. Inaudible?

ERNIE ELS: No. I've spent enough money now. Put it away. I've got kids to feed. (Laughter.)

SCOTT CROCKETT: Ernie, thanks for today. Thanks for all week. Many congratulations.

End of FastScripts.

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