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May 23, 2003

Ernie Els


GORDON SIMPSON: 6-under par, and you're in a pretty strong position. I'm sure you feel it could have been better but two off the lead is not too bad.

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I can't complain, coming off a three-week break and half-decent scores there the first two rounds. I think yesterday was a really good 69. I didn't play all that well but I felt I played better but I didn't quite score as good. But there again, another 69. But it's under 70 which is quite fair. Obviously, I need quite a good one in the next two days to really get me into it.

Conditions are actually quite nice there's quite a breeze still. The breeze is down on the back nine so that's where the guys can make good scoring. I played a good front nine and I 3-putted twice on No. 10 and No. 15. That cost me from having a really good score on the back nine.

I feel I'm hitting the ball better now. Even though I missed 3-putts inside five feet, I feel my putting touch is coming back, too.

GORDON SIMPSON: So once everything clicks, then you can be dangerous.

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I'm not too far away.

Q. Your cold doesn't sound too brilliant.

ERNIE ELS: I'm okay. Just picked up a cold last week and can't get rid of it. Just as I got rid of it, my wife got it and she gave it back to me again. The whole house is under -- don't come into my house if you want to stay healthy.

Q. And the wrist?

ERNIE ELS: The wrist is perfect. I'm physically fine.

Q. You talked possibly about the need to shake off some rust this week. Do you feel that it's a well-oiled machine yet.

ERNIE ELS: As I say, I'm getting closer. Today was very close. Physically I felt good. Mentally I was pretty good after my 3-putt on 15, I wasn't too good. I feel like I'm starting to get there, driving it much better and my iron play is getting there. So it might happen this week.

Q. Do you feel that after a break, it takes you longer than it used to, to get it back or are you doing it more quickly, to get back into it?

ERNIE ELS: I think probably a little quicker now. I used to just totally take time off and before the kids, we used to just go travel, myself and my wife. Now I kind of stay at home and every second day I'll go hit some balls and hit some chip shots, putts. It's a little better than it used to be. Still, as I said yesterday, if you don't play to be better, even though you might practice every day, it still takes you time.

Q. Could you go through your birdies, please?

ERNIE ELS: Birdied my very first hole. Made a nice 35, 40-footer down the hill.

Bogeyed No. 3. I hit a drive just in the left in the semi, hit 5-iron left of the green. I pitched it to about eight feet and missed it.

4, I made a birdie. I hit driver in the left rough, 5-iron, 2-putted from about 25 feet.

6 I bogeyed. I hit 2-iron just over the bunker and only had 120 yards, caught a flyer, just a light semi. I went over the green, chipped it back to four feet and missed it.

7 I birdied. 8-iron there to about 12 feet.

9 I birdied. I hit driver and a 6-iron about 10, 11 feet.

Then I 3-putted 10 from about 35 feet.

Birdied 12, hit a driver, 4-iron just over the green. Chipped it and tapped it in.

15, I drove it in the left bunker. Hit it just on the front edge of the green and 3-putted from 18 yards, 54 feet.

Birdied 17 and 18. I hit 3-wood, 5-iron on 17, 2-putted.

I hit driver, 6-iron on 18 and 2-putted.

Q. Is the wind the same as yesterday?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, exactly the same. It's actually quite a nice day. I see it's starting to clear up a little bit. Conditions were absolutely perfect, really.

Q. This wind that helps you coming home, is that the easier wind to play in?

ERNIE ELS: Definitely. The wind we have now, you're playing 1 and 3 into the breeze and that's very difficult.

All of the short par 4s like 6 and 7, into the wind, but they are short par 4s. If it was blowing the other way around, then you'd play 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, dead into the wind, and that's difficult. That's why the cut is probably going to be 1-under par. Guys can really make up ground coming home.

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