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September 3, 2009

Ernie Els


JOHN BUSH: We'd like to welcome Ernie Els into the media center here at the Deutsche Bank Championship. Ernie, thanks for joining us, fresh off of a runner up finish last week at the Barclays and has moved up to 11th in the FedExCup standings. Great playing last week. If we can just get your comments on that week and your preparations for the Deutsche Bank.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I had a nice week, obviously. I really enjoyed the golf course there. It was different than we normally play on TOUR, different shot values and stuff like that. Greens were a little quick, but I kind of enjoyed that.
I felt like I was playing okay. You know, striking the ball well. My putter felt good for a change. I did miss quite a few greens, but by just a couple of inches here and there, and it helped my putting stats for a change. My putting stats have been awful all year, so just nice to make some putts. So that was nice and positive.
Since then I had to do a Callaway golf day on Monday in Canada and then went down to the Bahamas and came back this morning, so nice and well rested, and played a little golf out there yesterday and practiced, so looking forward to the week.
JOHN BUSH: Four Top 10s in your last six starts and you're coming back to a golf course where you finished tied for third last year, so comment on this week.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I didn't play the course, the original course. I played here for the first time last year. You know, I'm glad I saw Brad Faxon because I congratulated him. I thought they did a magnificent job. I think up here there's a certain type of bunkering at the golf courses, and they brought that into this golf course with the fescue grasses and stuff like that, and I think it's a beautiful look. The course plays well. The golf course was in great shape last year, so I really enjoyed that.
And I needed to have a good week last year in order to get into the Top 30, which I did. So I'd love to continue on that and hopefully have a good week.

Q. When was the last time you felt this happy, this upbeat, about the way you've been playing over both the short- and long-term? It's been a pretty good run for you here going back to the last couple of majors even.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, it's been a while. I think I hit my low point at the U.S. Open. I haven't felt very positive about my game for a long time, and I would say, you know, breaking it up and going to Europe, going to England and getting ready for the British Open helped me a little bit, gave me new motivation.
I actually had a good British Open, but I was very disappointed after that event even. I felt like I let a very good chance slip away there with my putting performance there that week. But I didn't get too low after that, and I kept going, and obviously the PGA was pretty good. But there again, you guys saw me after one of the rounds there when I bogeyed the last three holes.
It's been coming, and I still haven't won this year, which I'm looking forward to. I'd love to win a tournament before the end of the year. But at least I'm moving in the right direction, and it feels like things are coming around nicely.

Q. You're now nearing the end of your three-year plan --
ERNIE ELS: You still remember that? (Laughter.)

Q. Do you? (Laughter.)
ERNIE ELS: Well, I think in between, obviously going public with Ben was a big deal. I didn't really realize it was going to be that big a deal, and I've really thrown new energy into this new project that we're busy with. We want to build a nice center for autistic kids down there, basically a school in Florida. So I think that took a bit of time.
The house move from England to Florida was another pretty big move, so I don't want to make too many excuses, but that kind of took a bit of energy.
Hey, if I can keep playing the way I did last week, maybe the three-year plan can be revived.
I feel good now. I feel positive, and I feel my game is coming around, so I just want to try and win.

Q. Did it take longer to recover from knee surgery than you thought it would?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I think we're going back in the past now, but yeah, I think I came back a bit early. As I said to the guys, I was very headstrong to come back at a certain date. The knee was still very puffy and big when I came back at the Million Dollar in South Africa, but I wanted to come back there, which I did. After every round there it was really swelling and I had to keep icing it. But I did win a tournament, which I also wanted to do, so I was happy about that.
But when I started traveling, a worldwide schedule right off the bat again -- I went to Dubai, from Dubai I went to California, and I think that was a bit early to do all that kind of travel again with the knee.
But it's good now. It's perfect now. I've got no problem with it.

Q. Would you do it differently if you had it to do over again?
ERNIE ELS: I probably would have, should have, but that's just the way I was at that time, and I didn't cause too much damage with it. I probably just came back two months too early.

Q. The key to your turnaround maybe the last month or so, one or two things that you can point to that have helped you play well?
ERNIE ELS: I think the overall game is at a good level. I think overall my pitching is okay, bunker play is good, chipping, iron play has been good, my driving has been nice. So my overall game is pretty nice, and my mental attitude is not too bad. So overall I'm in a better world.

Q. I want to make sure I've got your itinerary right this week, so you spent Monday night in Canada --
ERNIE ELS: I went Sunday night to Canada and played a golf day there Monday, and then Monday night went to the Bahamas and came up here this morning.

Q. So you were in the Bahamas Monday night, Tuesday night, Wednesday night and flew up this morning here?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, did a bit of practice yesterday.

Q. From a teaching standpoint, these guys are probably getting sick of hearing this question, but being a teaching professional, what do you feel in your own opinion is the hardest thing for the average golfer swing-wise to understand about the golf swing?
ERNIE ELS: Gee, it depends on what kind of level you're playing at. It's funny, we did a clinic on Monday in Canada, myself and J.J. Henry, and you know, most of the guys obviously want to hit it a long ways. They go about it not in the right fashion. And I think also they don't have equipment that is really fit to their size or to their particular games, and they try and hit it like Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson. You know, when you don't do the work at least three, four times a week, it's tough to hit the ball a long way.
It's basically muscle memory, which we have to work on, and that comes from practice. People get a little bit quick and very stiff.

Q. It seems strange for us this deep into a season to hear you talk about still looking for a win. Does it seem strange for you to talk about that?
ERNIE ELS: Well, yeah, a little bit. I mean, the last couple of years I haven't really played to my potential, to where I want to play. I got a win last year early, and then I really didn't hit form at all. And this year I started slowly and now I'm starting to come around a little bit. So it's been kind of an awkward couple of years, but I just want to play good, you know, I want to play better. I don't want to be struggling like I did. There's no worse feeling in the world to play at a certain level and then drop off, knowing you can do a lot better and you're not there. It's been quite frustrating.
I just want to get back to where I feel I should be, and that's Top 5 in the world at least and playing and winning golf tournaments.

Q. As a follow-up, how big a push would winning give you, how much momentum?
ERNIE ELS: Well, who knows? I don't even want to think about it. I just want to take it day by day. But to win a tournament now would be just great. I mean, it would be -- I'm 40 in October and all of that stuff, so I'd really love to hit form and try and sustain it again like I used to.

Q. The past few years, whenever you mentioned the top two or three players in the world, Ernie Els was in that conversation. Do you feel like your game is ready to get back into that, and if so, how juiced does that make you?
ERNIE ELS: I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, but I've had a couple of good weeks now, and I'd like to keep that going. As I say, a win is really on my radar. You know, that's really where I want to be. And to do it against a field like we've got here this week and in the FedExCup race, that's just -- that would be a great confidence boost. It's like winning a World Championship event because you've really got players that are on form and have played well.
Yeah, I'd love to, as I said, get back in there, but it's going to take a lot more work. But I'm ready for it. I'm ready to work again and keep up the sacrifice.

Q. You've talked about your mental attitude. How important is that, and has that been a problem for you?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah. I think in any sport you play at a high level, you've got to have everything there as I mentioned. I think your game has got to be at a good level and your mental attitude. You've got to feel like you have a chance to win and be seeing good shots out there. That keeps you moving in the right direction. I don't think I was there for a long time. It's a lot better than it was.

Q. Thinking about the tournament this week and this golf course and how you're going to manage the golf course, 18 has historically played as probably the easiest on the golf course and one of the easiest the guys play all year. I wonder what your strategy is going to be coming into a hole like that.
ERNIE ELS: Well, you want to think of at least hitting a good drive and giving yourself an opportunity to go for the green. It's well-bunkered down there, but if you hit a driver well, for a par-5, it's a pretty short hole. It played short last year. So hopefully it's the same this year. You can go in with anything from a 3-iron to a 5-iron in my game.
When you have that opportunity, you feel like you want to at least be putting for an eagle and give yourself hopefully an easy birdie chance.
Yeah, there's quite a few key holes like that around the golf course. There's some really difficult holes where you're happy with a par, and then there's a couple of par-5s where you can at least get on in two and be putting for eagles. 18 is one, and I think No. 2 is one. The other one is not really reachable.

Q. You mentioned your birthday next month. It seems surprising to me that you're about to enter your fifth decade. Is that something that makes you sit back sometimes at night and makes you think, where have all the years gone and I can't believe I'm turning 40 and what's Liezl got up her sleeve for celebration?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I've been out here quite a while now. I've been out here since '94 full time, but I played here in '92 and '93 not having a card. I've been out here a very long time, obviously a long time in Europe, as well. The younger you get out here and the longer you stay out here, the years tick by quickly. You know, all of a sudden you're 40 and I've been out here almost 20 years on the European Tour and over here.
A lot of great memories and a lot of changes I've seen through the years, in equipment and golf courses. We can write a book one day, I'm sure.

Q. Can you talk about your putting stance? You're standing a little taller now. You've got that hunch out of your back.
ERNIE ELS: I made my putter a bit longer. I was putting with a 35" putter most of the year, and Ricci kept on saying to me, you know, he thinks that -- he believes that I should go longer with the putter. We did that for the first time last week, and I felt my hands were a lot more relaxed. I wasn't as hunched over, as you say, and very tight in the shoulders. I feel a bit looser and the blade can release a little bit better. Yeah, I think, as I said, all these things are kind of coming together. So hopefully it'll be good this week.
JOHN BUSH: Before we finish up we'd like to introduce a special guest who's with us today at the Deutsche Bank Championship. As part of the FedEx commitment to providing students with access to educational opportunities, Brent Edelman to be honored with a FedExCup First Tee Scholarship which will allow him to attend the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he is an incoming freshman. We'd like to have Brent and FedEx executives join us on stage for a quick photo opportunity with Ernie.

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