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April 22, 2009

Ernie Els


MICHAEL GIBBONS: Ernie, welcome.
ERNIE ELS: Thank you.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Thanks very much for joining us today.
ERNIE ELS: Thank you.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Your first visit to Jeju, I believe.
ERNIE ELS: Yes, very first time.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: We know that it's a tough place to get to, but apart from that, what are your impressions so far?
ERNIE ELS: What do I think of Jeju? Well, it's my first time, and yeah, as you said, it's a long, long way here. I'd love to see it in the summer. It must be unbelievable in the summer. But it's beautiful. We are staying in a beautiful hotel, and I had a very nice day in the Pro-Am this morning. So far, the little I've seen, very impressed.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: You did play this morning. What did you think of the golf course, and how did you play?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, we played this morning. I played with three guests from Ballantine's, and you know, I checked out the golf course. Obviously I didn't play a practice round yesterday. So checked it out and tried to find a game plan for the rest of the week.
Found the golf course, you've got some really good birdie opportunity holes, downwind holes, and then the holes uphill into the wind are the holes that you want to par. So you've got a good mix of birdies and difficult holes.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Ernie, it's well documented, you're one of the best travelled players of the modern game. Would you talk about the sort of importance that means to you?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, thanks, I've done it my whole career, you know, travelling. I come from South Africa, which is a long way away in any case, so anywhere I go, I would be travelling.
But you know, my roots are in Europe and on The European Tour. The European Tour has expanded now, as we all know and see. So you know, I like playing on The European Tour, and I'll keep on doing so like I have been. You know, a bit of jet-lag here and there. You deal with that.
But I think to spread golf around the world, and especially in emerging markets like in Asia, and Asia is a very big place; that means China, Korea, Thailand, Singapore, all over the place. It's a very big place, Asia, and this is the emerging market. So you need to be there when the game is starting to grow, so that's what we are doing.

Q. Could you just reflect on your performance and what happened at the Masters?
ERNIE ELS: I'm very disappointed again. It's the third straight year I've missed the cut there although it's by one shot, it doesn't matter. If you don't play the weekend, it's very disappointing.
I felt I played okay from tee-to-green. I was just nowhere on the greens, especially on the first day. I made a bit of an adjustment for the second day, which was marginally better on the greens where I shot 1-under, but very disappointing about that. And then even last week, I think it was just a carry over last week, where I found myself in pretty good shape after two rounds, and then felt a bit flat again on the weekend.
So I'm really working hard on my putting, and it's not showing at the moment, but it will start showing. Thank God it's April; it's not October. I've still got three Majors left and I would really like to get a Major this year. But disappointing, you know, very disappointing not to play well in the Masters.

Q. You mentioned a Major, but do you have any other specific goals for the rest of the season?
ERNIE ELS: I've never really set specific goals ever. It's just basically, you go into a certain direction, let's call it that way.
But I would say always a goal would be to at least have a chance to win a Major, or win a Major per year. I've only won three, but I've been in contention in a lot of Majors in my career. So that's one of them.
But really, to get my game up and going again. I've been really working hard at my whole game to be honest. I just need to get the results now, basically.

Q. So last year the rough was not as long as this year and the winning score was 24-under and there have been changes to the course and the rough is much longer, so I don't think you'll be able to see the winner have the result of 24-under. Playing in the Pro-Am, did you feel that? I think tee shots will be very important; did you also feel that, as well?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I think -- obviously I didn't play last year, but yes, in spots, if you miss the fairway, the rough is very, very heavy, as heavy as I've seen anywhere I've played this year.
And the wind is really blowing. So I don't know how the weather conditions were last year, but I cannot see 24-under this year. (Chuckling).

Q. First of all, I'm sure that you have a chance to see Korean golfers during other international tournaments. What is your impression of Korean golf players? And right now there are a lot of would-be golf stars here in Korea and they look up to you as an idol, as someone to look up to. As someone who has had a lot of success, what would you say to these new golf players?
ERNIE ELS: I've played obviously with K.J. Choi. He lives in the United States now. I've played with Kevin Na. Kevin Na I played with a couple of years ago, here in Korea we played a couple of rounds together. Obviously he's a very good player.
Anthony Kim is American but he's got Korean parents, and he's obviously the real up-and-coming player. And obviously on the ladies tour, there's so many. It's almost all Koreans it seems like. You've obviously got something going in this country. I don't know if it's your junior program or what it is, but it's working. Obviously a lot of talent in this country with golf.
So love to see the next generation come through. I think it's very exciting times for Korea, for Korean golf.

Q. They call you the big easy, or the Prince of golf in Korea, and you are known to play both on the PGA TOUR and The European Tour. Some people in Korea are saying that if you had focused on one tour, you might have had better results. What are your thoughts and have you ever regretted playing on the PGA TOUR and The European Tour together simultaneously?
ERNIE ELS: I've had this question also a long time now. In America, they ask me, why don't you play all your golf there. In Europe, they ask me, especially when I was living there, I was living in London.
But you know, if I was either -- let's say I was English or if I was Scottish, or British, let me call it that; I probably would have played the bulk of my golf in Europe. And if I was born in America and if I was an American, maybe I would have played the bulk of my golf there. But I'm not. I'm South African.
I guess I get bored after a little while playing in the same place too much in the same conditions, and always felt that I wanted to challenge myself and play in different conditions all the time. And I've always enjoyed travelling. Maybe not so much now anymore; I'm getting older, but that's always been my case.
And you know, it's worked for me. I've won 60 tournaments around the world, and okay, only 16 in the U.S., but who knows. Maybe, I don't know, but that's just the way I've been and that's the way it will be. I enjoy it that way.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Ernie, thank you very much.

End of FastScripts

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