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May 21, 2003

Ernie Els


GORDON SIMPSON: Welcome, Ernie, to the Volvo PGA Championship for 2003. It's not every day you can go home for lunch after the Pro-Am, but I'm sure you're refreshed now and ready to go. How are you feeling going into this week? I take it the wrist injury is fine now.

ERNIE ELS: It's perfect. It actually worked out pretty good. I feel 100%. I picked up a little bit of a cold but that should go away in the next day or so. But otherwise, I would imagine I'm 100%. Played nine holes here on Monday. Played almost 18 yesterday and I played 18 today. So I played a bit more golf the last couple of days. Been doing a bit of practising, but I'm still a little bit rusty. I hope I can get the tournament rust off hopefully tomorrow. I haven't played a tournament in three weeks. It's always nice to start your campaign again on a golf course that you know very well. So hopefully that will help me through tomorrow.

It's kind of up in the air, what my form is going to be like tomorrow.

Q. How many weeks are you playing before the U.S. Open?

ERNIE ELS: I'm playing this one and then Memorial, which is next week. Then I have another week off before the U.S. Open and I'll play the Buick after the U.S. Open.

I might go up to the U.S. Open a little bit earlier than I might have done because of my week off. I've never played that golf course before. I'd like to have a couple more looks at it.

Q. Who is going to win between England and South Africa soccer?

ERNIE ELS: I think we will thrash you guys. (Laughter.)

Q. Will you be watching?

ERNIE ELS: I don't know. Can you? I don't know. I don't know if we can. I'm not the biggest futbol fan. I think it's dreadful they go down there, heck of a season, the end of the season they have to go travel down to our neck of the woods, I think it's great for us, obviously. To see world class players, the Beckhams and some of the other players. It will be a great experience for them, obviously. They should thrash us.

Q. Did you think you were totally over the wrist injure or was that a shock when the pain came back?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, a little bit, in a way because I felt pretty good after the Masters. I felt so good that I kept playing. I played the MCI and I went to Houston and I felt quite well. I guess when we came back from Houston, we came back here and it's just like moving out, luggage. I could have done something with it then. I just didn't quite feel good enough last week to go and play. I didn't want to go into an awkward spot on the course or hit a shot somewhere where we are going to put it back another couple of weeks. I didn't want to do that. I think I've done the right thing and it feels 100%.

Q. Is the bag still there?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, it's still hanging.

Q. What's the objective this week, are you here to win or is a Top-10 finish what your game plan?

ERNIE ELS: No. I think if you come into a week and you really want to expect the best, I really -- I've played this year, when I play in tournament this is year, I want to feel like I can win. I think the golf course, that I know this well, if I'm not swinging as well as I want to swing, I can still get the ball around the course, play my shots and hopefully make some putts. I really want to do well this week. I've never won here at the PGA, and I've been close in the past but never really won it. So I'd like to go in there and feel like I can win and that's why I'm here.

Q. Considering the way you started the season, do you look back on that accident or injury now as having cost you another chance at the Masters, if you like? Do you think it derailed your season completely at that stage?

ERNIE ELS: I don't think it derailed my whole season but it derailed my preparation, definitely. You can't look around that issue. It happened at an awkward time and I had just come from Dubai and lost to a guy that shot lights-out the last day.

I was feeling good about my game, even though I lost. I did something stupid and I guess I'll pay the penalty for it. But derailing my whole season, it's too early to say. I feel 100% now again. I didn't play too much with the sore wrist, so it didn't take too much confidence away from my game. There's no reason I shouldn't get back on track again. That's what I'm aiming for.

Q. Can you share your thoughts on Annika?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I've played with Annika; Annika and Karrie at the same event. I went to Tom Watson's tournament that he has. He had a tournament in Kansas City that I played with Annika against Karrie and Tom. It was nice playing with the girls. It was just at the time when Karrie was really breaking through and I think she was a little better than Annika at that time. But you could see the focus of Annika. She was 100% focused on what she was doing and she was professional. I respect her for that.

On her playing on our events, when she wants to, I can see the point where guys are making, why give her a spot if other guys have to qualify to get into tournaments. I think it's a special situation. I think it's kind of like Babe Zaharias way back in the 40s or 50s. I think this is kind of the same situation. You have a girl that's so much better than the rest of the girls, and if she wants to prove it to herself, I'm all for it. But if she wants to prove something to us, I think she's making a mistake. If she's doing it for herself to see how good she can become, I'm all for it.

Q. Will she make the cut?

ERNIE ELS: Well, I don't know what the weather is like there. If it's really blowing and it's playing firm, I think she'll have a very tough time to make the cut.

Q. The Pro-Am was rained off.

ERNIE ELS: Well, if it's soft, it makes it longer, but at least the greens get softer for her and gets a little bit slower for her. She can hit longer irons in and stop the ball. Sometimes around that place, when it gets firm and hard with greens, you can't stop a 7-iron.

I think she's got a good chance. I think she chose a golf course which has got the best chance of making the cut. If she's trying to prove something to herself, that's great. It's going to be tough for her to really prove anything in the first event. It might come out nice for her. I don't think it's going to come out very good for her in the first event. If she has a longer schedule, maybe four or five events, maybe find her feet a little bit better. I think it's going to be so awkward for her, walking in, seeing all of these strange faces, strange golf course, it's totally out of her surroundings. I think she might have a tough time this week.

If she plays four or five, she'll have a better chance. I don't know if our tour will let her do that or if the PGA TOUR will let her do that. She's in a bit of an awkward situation, but I think she's mentally strong to probably get away with it.

Q. Are you fascinated by it? Will you see some TV?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I'll watch it. I'm interested to see how she's going to do. As I said before, I think it's a very special situation. I think while it's great for the U.S. PGA TOUR, it will be quite interesting how many guys she's going to beat this week.

Q. Will you try and watch it tomorrow?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I've got an early time Friday so I'll probably watch a couple hours.

Q. Do you know any men that want to get on the ladies tour? The door is open now. One is suing.

ERNIE ELS: I don't know, I don't know how that will go down.

Q. They do have a rule against it.

ERNIE ELS: I know they have but it's an old standard, isn't it? They can come play here but we can't play there. (Laughter.)

Q. If making the cut would be very good for her, what would be very bad? What sort of scores or what position?

ERNIE ELS: I think we are all very competitive, if you're a lady or a man. First of all, your first challenge probably will be to make the cut and if you don't make it, I think you fail. I think so. I mean, why enter then? If you don't feel you're going to make the cut, just play to do what, to take a spot? I think she definitely wants to make the cut and if she doesn't, she'll feel disappointed. That's just the way we are.

Q. On your own game and your hopes for this year, did winning the Open last year raise the bar for you? Do you look at your season and say, well, I really should be winning a major every year? Are your expectations of yourself that high?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I think definitely. For a while there, I was really on a roll. I really played well. After the injury, I had a very good start to the year also. I didn't really play well then had those two weeks off before the Masters, and then obviously the first round blew me totally out of the water.

I came back nicely. Felt I played better. I had a good chance to win at Hilton Head and really blew it coming down there.

I had a couple of negative things happen to me in the last two or three months. I've tried to deal with it. I think it's in my mind, it's that I feel I need a fresh start again.

To come back to your question, yeah, I think the bar is raised in my own expectations. And why not? I think if I'm playing well, I have got a chance to win. To get your game to that level, to compete in Majors, that's where I want to be. In a couple weeks time, I should be ready for the U.S. Open and I should be ready for this week.

Q. If you were to win this week, it would be a rare British Grand Slam, the Open, the World Match Play and this third; that would be very positive thing. Secondly, have you ever thought why you do so well in The Match Play but haven't quite made it here? Are you able to attack it more in the match-play?

ERNIE ELS: Well, yeah, the British Open and The Match Play, I've done really well in. I've been close at the PGA but I think the couple of times I was close I was up against Monty. For some reason, Monty and the PGA just gel. He's played so wonderful around this course and I've finished second to him, second and third to him and I think second to Jose back in '94. I've had a couple other good finishes, but just -- I really just haven't played good enough to win the PGA. For The Match Play, it's kind of the end of the season and just a different feel. You approach it a little differently.

To win the Open -- I don't think about it that way. You take every week as they come.

Q. Padraig Harrington is not playing; he says he can't play this course at this time of the year. Can you relate to what he's talking about?

ERNIE ELS: Only way I can answer that is when we play The Match Play, it's after the summer and the greens have dried out a little bit more. The course just plays a little bit different. You only have a couple of matches per day, so you're putting on perfect greens. When you play the PGA at the start of the season, after all the weather we've had, Chris, he's done a great job this week, this is the best I've seen these greens at this time of the year, ever, probably. He's really done a great job. Normally the greens are a little bit rougher than we expect.

The weather can also be a little bit iffy at this time of the year. That's the only excuse I can think of for Padraig at this time.

Q. Have you had a course that you never wanted to go back to?

ERNIE ELS: Oh, yeah. Quite a few, actually.

Q. We've had two shock winners the last two years and we had a completely shock winner in Dubai; does that show you something about the European Tour that wasn't the case a few years ago?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I think so. I think the depth has really changed. It's still very top-heavy on the European Tour; more so here than in the U.S. But the U.S. is also proving a little differently this year. Normally the case is, the last five years, the U.S. tour, from 100th on the money List right through to No. 1 can win in a week and get hot. Here, it's always been maybe the top 20. Now, things are starting to change a bit. You've got some really good players into kind of hanging around and have good weeks every now and again.

Q. Had you heard of him before?

ERNIE ELS: That beat me? I've seen him around but I've never really met him or played with him. So I can't say that I knew him but I've seen him around. It's just changing. I think it's good for the Tour. It's good for television, it's good for the Tour. It makes it good for everybody.

Q. Monty says he's still the player to beat. Would you go along with that?

ERNIE ELS: I'll probably go with that, if he's in a good mood. (Laughter.) If he's in a good mood, he might play well this week. No, I think Monty is always very tough around this golf course. He knows that and a lot of us know that. If he plays his normal game, he's going to be very tough to beat. That's just the nature of his game around here. I think he's won this championship three times in a row and he's always in the Top-10 every time he plays here. Yeah, I would go would with that. But it's a four-day event. Got to keep it up for four days.

Q. Do you have a view on the Seve situation?

ERNIE ELS: Actually, I was here. That was the first week I had off. I was in my house watching and actually saw the press; were you doing it?

GORDON SIMPSON: Scott was doing it.

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, he was obviously very distressed at that time and said a lot of things. Obviously, today is the day when the Tour is meeting with Seve. They will probably work something out. I still say you shouldn't kick a man if he's down. Although, he was a little bit out of line, I think he was just very emotional and I'm sure it won't happen again.

Q. The signing of the card?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, but again, I think that was an emotional thing that he did there. I think he knew that he was timed for 14 holes and felt that was unfair. He shot 75 or whatever, and he wasn't going to let anybody put a stroke onto his card, make him sign for the strokes that he played. I think when he looks back now, he probably would think that he made a mistake.

Just an emotional thing that happened. Just went over the top there a little bit.

Q. So if he says sorry, it's okay?

ERNIE ELS: I think so. He's done enough for this tour in the late 70s, 80s. He kept this tour on track for a lot longer time than most of the players, even myself, care to remember, because he played his best golf before I came out here.

If you look back on the record books, he definitely kept this tour alive in the late 70s, 80s. Nobody's perfect. He's made some mistakes. As I said, I think they shouldn't kick him too badly if he's down.

Q. Would you keep playing; if he's down --

ERNIE ELS: I think so. I think he's a competitor. In his own mind, he wants to be playing competitively out there. When he's made some cuts this year -- let's face it. He's never going to be the Seve of the late 70s, early 80s. His body has just moved on. He just can't do the thing that you've done when you're in your 20s and early 30s. I think he knows that. He just wants to be competitive and play and play four days.

I think that's what he wants to do. Sometimes you're just not good enough to do it and other times when he gets it going, he can make the cut and still be competitive. He's going to be very beneficial on the Senior Tour; and over here, can you imagine if he plays over there and over here? Right now, he's probably not going to win the tournament on the European Tour, but he's probably trying to get his game in shape for the Senior Tour. He's a lifelong honorary member of the Tour. I think it's up to him if he wants to stop playing or not. It's not for us to tell him or anybody else.

Q. Have you voiced your opinion about this?

ERNIE ELS: No. Not at all. I think I've probably said too much. It's just the way I feel. I feel that, sure, what he said to the media there, it was wrong, but I think there was an emotional -- totally emotional overflow of feelings there. It's probably not the right thing to do. You know, if you apologise for that, and I think with himself and Ken Schofield and the TOUR, I think they can work their differences out. Nobody's really come to me.

GORDON SIMPSON: Good luck this week. Thank you.

End of FastScripts....

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