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March 14, 2010

Ernie Els


CHRIS REIMER: We want to welcome and congratulate our 2010 champion of the World Golf Championships-CA Championship, your 16th career PGA TOUR win, and second win of this event. Maybe start off with some comments about what makes this victory special for you.
ERNIE ELS: 17 -- I'm pulling your leg. No, this means so much. I didn't think it was ever going to happen again, you know, but to come out here, and I mean, I've always loved playing here in Miami at Doral. The last time I won here, the wind also blew quite a lot. I remember I had an eight-shot lead back then, and just barely got to the 72 hole with Tiger breathing down my neck.
But I felt all week that the work that I did, that I finally had to trust it at some stage, and there's no better day to really test yourself than today, you know, fourth round of the golf tournament, everything on the line. And you know, my wife can say, try and be as positive as she can, Chubby can, Ricci can, Bob Rotella, whoever, but I really trusted myself today.
So I really just wanted to prove it to myself, and just play good golf. You know, I got fortunate here and there. I made a long par putt on 14, which was really a big change.
But other than that, I played pretty solid.

Q. Talking about that putt on 14, the putter actually helped you today; that's been the club that's been holding you back for so long, and today that putt in particular, that might have been the one that really put you over the hump and kept you right where you needed to be; kind of gratifying to have that thing finally help you.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, you know, today I didn't hit my driver as good as the first three days. And obviously that was a big hole today. It was right into the wind. You had to hit a good drive, and then a good second just to get to the green. And I pulled my drive way left, and then I didn't hit a great second and the third was as tough and I basically just wanted to make five and get out of there. But yeah, you're right, I haven't been making those kind of putts and you have to make putts like that to win golf tournaments at some point in the tournament.
Luckily for me, I did it on the 14th hole today, and absolutely, I felt a lot better after that. I felt like maybe this one is for me this week, you know, kind of a thing.

Q. You mentioned that you played with Charl's father and you watched him grow up; was there a moment today where you were thinking, I watched this kid grow up and he's trying to beat me today?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, right before I hit my first tee shot, really. (Laughing.)
It's still a little surreal for me. I don't know how Charl felt about it, but I felt kind of awkward, because, you know, this is this young kid, he's still like a 15-year-old in my eyes. He seems so young still. And he's already got so much experience.
But, it just felt awkward. Him trying to win the golf tournament, I'm trying to win the golf tournament; I'm the old man, he's the youngster.
It was a little different, but I think both of us, we were very professional today. We were just getting on with the job. And obviously I'm glad I won, and I'm glad for him that he's finished second; not only because I won, but he's got his TOUR card over here now and now you guys can really see him in all his glory.

Q. Last time you won in Florida, it ended I think a four-year gap without winning, and this time it's two years --
ERNIE ELS: Two years.

Q. Presumably you're back to a level -- do you feel differently this time?
ERNIE ELS: I said a bit too much last time I won. I was a bit too cocky. (Laughing.)
I want to just enjoy this one. This took so much work to win. A lot of people have said that the older you get, the tougher it becomes to win, and that's very true. I'm 40 years old, and you know, it feels like in my 20s I had so many chances and I didn't quite take them.
Now that you're older, you don't get as many chances, so you've got to try to take them when they come. So this is nice. I'll have a bit more confidence now, I'm sure. But I just want to keep working hard. You know, I know what works for me now, and that's hard work. So I'll keep working hard and enjoy it every here and there.
You know, just to be back kind of in that group of players who are really performing well; you know, I feel honored to be back in there.

Q. I was just going to ask you, having hit 40, and moving down in the World Rankings, did you sense a little bit that you were being dismissed? Was there motivation in that feeling?
ERNIE ELS: Well, you know, I think -- let me answer this one correctly. I don't think the motivation was lacking. I just think that I went about it the wrong way, you know, I was almost chasing my own tail a little bit. You know, I was not looking after the smaller things. Meaning that just my normal mechanics in the game, the basics; I wasn't looking after that. I was looking at the whole big picture on Thursday morning, oh, I'm going to win the golf tournament. And it takes four days of good play. It takes strategy. It takes mental strength. It takes patience.
And I kind of let that all out of the window and I was just going for the big prize. I was just not quite managing myself correctly. You know, I was doing the work, but I was not getting the benefit out of it, and I think -- and I was just doing it on my own for once and just pushing through the pain barrier myself. I think I learnt a little bit more about how to win, just doing it myself for once.

Q. I wonder if you felt as though you had as much to prove to yourself today as you did when you were, say, 22, 23 years old?
ERNIE ELS: I think so. I think like I said to you guys yesterday; today was going to be a big day. I knew it. I had my own pressure. Nobody had to put any more pressure on myself, because I knew how big it was today. But I didn't want to get ahead of myself, either. I really wanted to play every hole for what it was, every shot for what it gave me. And basically that's what I did when I won a lot of golf tournaments.
And it's really satisfying doing the work, doing the little things, and walking away with a trophy.

Q. What was that like coming down 18?
ERNIE ELS: It was still nerve-wracking. Back in China last year, I had a chance to win, and I was 10-, 11-under par or something for the round, and dumped it in the water; where I looked at the tape afterwards, and I should have laid up, because I thought Mickelson was going to birdie coming in. So in it goes.
It was a nerve wracking 18th hole, I blocked it out right, got lucky with a good lie and punched it on the to green. But I've seen the best player in the world also block it to the right and make sure he gives himself a shot and that's basically what I kind of did.

Q. Can you take me through the thought process on 14; how much did you feel like perhaps the tournament was lying in the balance a little bit there?
ERNIE ELS: I think watching, I guess, you know, you can't get really nervous. But playing today, I was just different today. I can't explain it. I just felt different today. I felt that I wasn't going to mess up badly. I wasn't -- I just felt -- I felt fine today for some reason. I wish I felt like this all the time.
Although it was a tough shot, I saw the shot clearly, the third shot. I saw, put it on the green, walk away with five, and you'll be fine. And you know, other times, I basically choke on it or try too hard on the shot. Today I was fine, and played the shot that I needed to, and I made the putt.

Q. Do you think your son, Ben, will understand the very cool thing that you did this week in his own way?
ERNIE ELS: Not quite yet, but we'll show him. Liezl will show him the video. He loves watching me practice. When I'm at the Bear's Club, he always comes out and gets on the range and watches me play. He tries to hit a couple of shots himself. He just loves being on the golf course with me.
But yeah, we'll show him the tape. I think he'll get excited about it. I think it will be another couple of years before he understands what we've done, but that's no problem. I think he'll be excited this evening, and so will Samantha.

Q. I know last week you were busy with Doral, but Charl stayed with you at your home in Jupiter. Did he ask you about this course; and if he would have won, staying with you this week, what would that have been like?
ERNIE ELS: I think we did talk about it. We had quite a few nice conversations over dinner. He's such a good kid. You know, I would like my kids to be like that one day. He's a really, really straight guy. Doesn't do too many crazy things. He's a hard worker. He asks a lot of questions, you know, which I like. When I was young, I used to ask a lot of questions, too.
He's always had a bit of a problem playing in the wind but he's really learned quickly. I remember at the British Open a couple of years ago, he missed the cut being because he said he couldn't play in the wind.
Where we grew up in Johannesburg, it's a lot like Los Angeles; the weather is perfect most of the time, even in the winter. For us, a lot of our the guys from Johannesburg, we hit the ball in the air, and we learn to hit it low either playing in Scotland or The European Tour. He's always had a problem with that. Today, he can play anywhere now. I think you're going to see him really win some tournaments.
And, yeah, I think if he won today, he was definitely staying in the garden. (Laughter) There's no question about it.

Q. Was this the emotional boost you might have needed with Augusta three weeks away?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, but, you know, two years ago when I won, I got all carried away and thought, you know, I was going to win Augusta. This time I just want to take this in. It's great. But next week I'm going to work hard again. I've got to really get these things that I'm working on, get it really even drilled out a bit more and really be comfortable with it and get my ball flight perfect for Augusta.
I've got a couple more tournaments to play before that, so I would like to play well and then when Augusta comes around, it comes around. It's just another tournament.

Q. So you finish up at Honda on Sunday, you went to the Bear's Club and hit balls, for how long?
ERNIE ELS: Until dark.

Q. And then Monday, and then Tuesday and then Wednesday?
ERNIE ELS: Monday morning, we played Seminole with Johann Rupert, he's a member there. So we played the member/pro. Played with Lee Westwood in the morning and I just saw his ball flight, which was amazing. I thought, "I've got a ways to go before I get that strike on the ball." It was great playing with him. I didn't ask him anything, but I was watching. And obviously he's on great form.
So I took that. I had lunch, went back to the Bear's Club and hit balls until dark and I found something just before dark and I couldn't wait to get out here and try it, what I found, and kept working on it. Basically by Thursday, I started getting a bit of an idea.

Q. Is your Pro-Am tomorrow, and could you talk just a bit about that event, what this will -- how much better this will make that, too?
ERNIE ELS: Well, we are kind of missing the cocktail party right now up there at PGA National, I'm sure, having a couple of wines and getting ready for tomorrow. It's a shotgun start tomorrow. We have basically the same group of people that we had last year.
You know, we've got I think 22 pros, so we have got 22 fourballs and people pay quite a bit of money to play. And obviously that money goes straight into the foundation. Els For Autism Foundation. And basically our plan is to with this money and the help of investors to build a really worthwhile center, 30,000 square foot center in Palm Beach for 300 children, and have this center self-contained; it works for itself. We don't have to keep putting money in it.
So that's the plan. And in this environment, obviously things are a little difficult to raise money, but that's Plan A, and Plan B, and Plan C. So we are still aiming at Plan A.

Q. Have you located a piece of land yet for the center?
ERNIE ELS: We are looking at it. We have got a couple of pieces of land in the neighborhood. And we are talking to some big families, should I say, or how do I say it, some families who have got some clout. That's the big thing, is to get the land. Land is very expensive up there, as you know, and if we can get the land put in, we are basically three quarters of the way there.
CHRIS REIMER: Thank you, Ernie.
ERNIE ELS: Thank you, gentlemen, ladies.

End of FastScripts

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