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March 24, 2010

Ernie Els


MARK STEVENS: Like to welcome Ernie Els to the media center. Ernie won this event in 1998. He's currently third in the FedExCup points, had a week off since your win, if you would kind of talk about your game and your thoughts coming into this week.
ERNIE ELS: I haven't played the tournament for a couple of years, so I'm happy to be back. I'm staying at Lake Nona, which is nice. So I'll probably see a lot of faces I haven't seen for a while, good friends, as we lived here in the area for quite some time. So it's nice to be back.
I have not played the course. I hear they have changed it, the bunkering and stuff. So I'd like to go see that. And I'm glad that, you know, they have actually taken it back to a par 72, which I think will give the guys a couple more birdie chances.
I know you've still got to shoot numbers, but it's nice to feel that you might have a couple of birdie chances. So we'll check that out and, you know, for my game, I played the last two days at the Tavistock Cup. On Monday, it was really windy and really didn't swing very well, and you know, worked on it. And yesterday was a lot better.
So at least I'm swinging a little better and looking forward to a good week.

Q. This year, you're going to be eligible to be on the Hall of Fame ballot, the international ballot. I wonder if at this point in retrospect, when you maybe think of where you thought you were when you won your first U.S. Open to this point, have you accomplished as much as you wanted to accomplish in your career; do you feel like maybe a victory at Augusta has kind of escaped you. Where do you assess this point, having turned 40?
ERNIE ELS: Listen, I can't complain about the way my career has gone. I mean, where I started in South Africa as a junior, it's a very long road from there to where I am today. Obviously you are always going to have tournaments that slip away. I mean, you know, right from -- I could remember, I've always wanted to at least complete the Grand Slam. I know it was a big dream back then, but they say you've got to dream big.
I'm still after that, so I'd love to do that one day. Then it would really be complete for me. But you know, I've criticized myself so much in the past, and I really looked at the whole picture and I don't think I've had a very bad career here. To win over 60 events around the world and to be lucky enough, fortunate enough to win three majors is pretty cool. So I think it's been pretty nice, but obviously you would like to complete your goals, and I would love to do that.

Q. Are you aware that you're going to be on the Hall of Fame ballot?
ERNIE ELS: No. I don't look at things like that too much. I think Hall of Fame should be when you're done one day, not while you're playing. But it's cool. It's obviously very nice. Hopefully they choose me.

Q. We are now a month down the road a month ago when you said you thought Tiger was selfish, and then in some opinions upstaged a tournament a few days ago in his five-minute interviews on Sunday. What's your feelings now a month later; do you feel like he should have played here? Do you feel like he should have played first on a PGA TOUR event? And what's your general feelings now a month later?
ERNIE ELS: Well, yeah, you know, it's hard for us to talk about Tiger. You know, especially in this situation. The more you guys ask me about his tournament victories and how we are going to stop some kind of a streak -- and we are still trying to do that, by the way. But it's very difficult to talk about Tiger Woods as I know him as a golfer and a pretty good friend, and just all the things that's happened. It's basically affected a lot of lives on TOUR, as well, basically just TOUR players' lives have also been affected by this because of the constant questioning that we have to answer about, you know, a fellow player's private life. I try not to go there but the questions keep coming. Obviously you guys have to do a job, as well, so you're trying to get some insight.
We don't have any insight of it, and basically we just want to get onto our basic TOUR lives, basically. That's what we are trying to do. It's hard enough to make pars and birdies out there, than with this whole situation hanging on the TOUR and everything else.
Again, to comment on that is difficult again. I can say this; that, you know, I think he's missed here. He lives down the road. I know they would love to play and I know he would love to have everything just back to normal like it should be. But it's not. So it's very difficult for him. It's difficult for us to deal with this whole situation.
You know, to come back to your remark, what I said, I said it because, you know, I just felt the Friday was not the right place for that. We had to play a tournament and I was maybe selfish from my point of view that all I wanted to do was a play golf tournament instead of talking about, you know, his personal life. That's basically what I meant by that. I felt that the Monday would have been great. Friday wasn't great for us. So maybe I was selfish; call me selfish. That's maybe where I'm coming from.
And now, again, you know, questions keep coming. We cannot give you insight because we don't know. I love everybody to stop asking questions about Tiger and his personal life. That's his life; go ask him, basically.

Q. Just wanted to ask you, this year you came out with a new system with your caddies, and I just wondered how that came about, how you made that decision, and also how you feel it's working out so far?
ERNIE ELS: Well, at least okay. I think, you know, Dan Quinn is a friend of mine. I met him a couple of years ago down in Palm Beach, down in Jupiter and we started playing golf together. Found out that he was a very good hockey player. I didn't quite know that. And he played for such a long time, but he was retired for a while.
Then found out that he's a really good guy, really serious about what he does. Took him to Asia last year. We had a very nice run there. Pretty easy going guy. Although he's serious about what he does. I just thought, you know, I spoke to Ricci. Ricci was happy about bringing Dan into the mix. We have got a perfect split, 13 tournaments each this year. Dan is going to do the Masters, which I think he'll be so up for. I haven't had a great run at the Masters, so give him that one. He started the year off with me, as well and he'll do the PGA as well. Ricci will do the British Open and the U.S. Open.
You know, I think both parties are very happy about it. Ricci has done a great job. He just came in last week and won, or two weeks ago, first week on the bag and won. So I'm sure Dan wants to do the same.
So I think I've got a very good mix of two guys there. Obviously known Ricci most of my life. He's a dear friend and he is a great caddie, so I think it's going to be good.

Q. So whatever you would have paid Ricci for that win, he has to share with Dan and vice versa? Is that how you've worked it out?
ERNIE ELS: I think they have got their deal going on. I'm sure they should, because they would be stupid if they don't, why when they can sit on the couch and make money. I'm sure they have done.

Q. We talked to you about this in San Diego. Could you just talk about the venues for the U.S. and British Opens this year, and what makes them so special in your mind? I think you said Pebble to use kind of like the American home of golf and sort of expand on that?
ERNIE ELS: I think we have got great venues. I think Whistling Straits is also a great venue. Obviously St. Andrews, they have gone with this format or this scheduling deal they have got every five years we go back. I think it gives players a great chance to play numerous Opens at the Old Course, which is wonderful.
You know, obviously Pebble goes every ten years it looks like now. I think that's also great. Pebble is one of the most beautiful golf courses ever built I think. They have got a great site obviously and some really great holes. And the history of champions there is just unbelievable. Both those sites are just absolutely tailor-made for a National Open.
I'm looking forward to them. I was fortunate to play well in the British at St. Andrews ten years ago, and you know, I had a decent week at the U.S. Open, but Tiger just played out of this world. So I'm glad to go back there.

Q. Is that the best tournament anybody has ever played that week?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, absolutely. I'm not sure about other generations, but in our generation, that was just unbelievable stuff. It was a privilege just to be there. I was obviously the sideshow of the whole thing there, but it was nice to be out there and see the absolute focus that the man has and the shots that he played was just incredible. So it was quite something.

Q. I know the schedules may not have overlapped, but have you had a chance to play any practice rounds with David Duval this year?
ERNIE ELS: No, I have not.

Q. From what you know from the conversation you had with him, I assume you would be one guy that's rooting for him to do what he's doing, which is play a little bit better these days?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I mean, he almost won the U.S. Open last year. That would have been the story of -- I don't want to say the century, but over the last, I don't know how many years. Obviously Tom Watson almost did almost the same thing.
But you know, ex-world No. 1, just a great player. I'd just love to see David Duval back. He's such a great guy. Looks very happy now. His personal life is great. He obviously is showing some game. And if he gets the right venue, I think he can win. His short game is as good as anybody's out there. He just needs to put everything together. Love to see him win out there then again.

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