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March 27, 2010

Ernie Els


JOHN BUSH: We would like to welcome Ernie Els into the interview room, our leader after 54 holes at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, a 3-under 69 today. If we can just get some comments on your round.
ERNIE ELS: I felt comfortable from tee-to-green. I felt I struck the ball very nicely today and my driving was a lot better, so I'm pleased with that.
I felt the golf course played tougher today, especially the back nine. The greens finally got firmer. It was tough getting to those holes, hole positions.
I was really pleased with my up-and-down on 18, too. I think all in all, I'm very pleased with the day.

Q. Do you remember anything about -- you've won here awhile back, right?

Q. I don't remember anything about it. Do you remember much about it, how that went down? And is that so long to go as to still be relevant for you?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, we played 36 holes that day. We also had an early day that day. I remember shooting 65 in the morning and making a lot of putts and really opening up a big lead, and then just hanging on, shooting 73 in the afternoon. Nobody did anything in that afternoon.
Yeah, it was obviously a special win for me. But is it going to help me? Yeah, I think so. I think always when you have played well at a particular golf course, you know, I think you get good vibes.
So, yeah, I've got a pretty nice game plan. I'm going to try to stick to that.

Q. What would winning mean to you tomorrow considering two out of the last three weeks, the field that you were going against was one of the toughest fields in golf?
ERNIE ELS: There's a lot of work left. Obviously I'm still in a very good position. I would have taken it before the tournament started, obviously. Quite a lot of work still that I've put in this week to get where I am.
I would like to keep working and just try and concentrate on playing good golf tomorrow. I think it's going to be a pretty tough day, and I think the wind is going to blow again tomorrow. So I think conditions are going to be quite tough. So I think I've got to concentrate on that, than thinking about winning. I think trying to just play as good as I can.

Q. You played so solidly all day, and then you have almost got to kind of hang on on 17 and 18 to get it to the house. Can you talk about those two holes and the importance of finishing the way you did?
ERNIE ELS: As I mentioned, the greens really got firm. I felt from 15 coming in, I think that easterly, northeasterly breeze really firmed up the greens.
17 was a short, right flag, it was a right-to-left wind and you're just trying to get it on the green. I hit a good shot just to keep it on the green. Davis, he played before me, and you know, gave me half an idea of what the wind was doing.
And then 18, we got it wrong, both of us. We should have hit driver off the tee. I thought it was down and the right and it was almost into us off the right, and then I had almost an impossible second shot. It was a 210-yard shot, right-to-left breeze, and obviously don't want to go in the water, so I hit it left. Thing I made a really nice putt on 18 after the bunker shot.
It was a bit of a grind, but that was the nature of the course.

Q. So many big names on the leaderboard right now; does it get you a little more jazzed to play against the Retiefs and the Davises and guys like that, big names and major champions?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I think it's great for the tournament. It's such a quality golf course; you've got to play well. Those players that you mentioned are obviously great players. You've got to beat a very good field to win here.
So, yeah, I'm just trying to do my thing. I'm just trying to play as good as I can and stick with my game plan. Hopefully it's good enough.

Q. Is it anymore rewarding that this renaissance that you're experiencing, that you pretty much did it on your own, you didn't have a swing coach to fall back on so much; you can solve your own problems?
ERNIE ELS: Well, I think I did the work, no question about it, but I had a lot of help along the way. Butch was a great help. We worked together for two years. We still text each other. He came out for ten minutes on the range. We talked about it. You know, we did so much work together, so I don't want to let that feel disappear, you know. So that's why I asked him to come and look.
You know, there's Bob Rotella; there's so many other people in the background. But obviously I've done the hard craft. I'm enjoying it.

Q. When you see the hard work paying off directly, what does that do with your attitude as far as just wanting to get to the golf course, just having a better attitude?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, you're totally right. I think for a long time there, as I said, last week, and two weeks ago in Miami, for a long time, I was working, but I wasn't working towards a goal. There wasn't an end game. It was just ongoing would, and I wasn't really getting the benefit out of it.
You know, I changed it up a little bit, and obviously you know, with the family life and everybody settled, I think everything else has been nice now and I can get on with work, and really enjoy it, as you say. I think that's really starting to pay off.

Q. How big was that birdie putt on 12 after missing the par-saving putt on 11?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, it was good. I had a tester on 10 for par which I made, and on 11 I left myself so far away for birdie and tried to lag it up, and left myself a very tough putt and missed it from about four feet there.
I had a very similar first putt on 12 and I bombed it by this time about eight feet.
So it was very important to make that putt, just to keep things ticking away. Yeah, it was a big putt. Probably the biggest putt today.

Q. Off-topic, do you mind just talking about how much the TOUR and the players like yourself do for charity? Do you think that gets lost sometimes on just the typical sports fan?
ERNIE ELS: Well, I think that's one of the great things about the PGA TOUR is that every week, every tournament site week, there's a lot of money that goes to charity. I think this week it goes to the Arnold Palmer Children's Hospital, and each and every week, there's a charity where money goes. I think it's great what the TOUR does.
You know, we play for so much money, prize money, and it's great to see that the tournament sites give some money away. And I think each and every player, I would say 80 percent of the players out there have some kind of other foundation or a charity that they support. I think it's just the right thing to do. You know, we get so much out of life, and to basically put something back, I think it's probably you're duty, in a way.

Q. Given how well you've played on Sunday at Doral, how much confidence does that give you going into the same situation tomorrow?
ERNIE ELS: Well, you know, as I said before, it's a different site, different week. I'm playing good. I've got to go out and trust what I do tomorrow and really let it happen, basically. I need to go and play the golf course. There's a lot more trouble lurking around this place. So you've got to be on your toes, so to speak.
So I would like to do that tomorrow.

Q. Can you talk about getting your ball-striking back in play; does that take some of the pressure off your putter and freed your stroke up?
ERNIE ELS: You know what, I changed to a new golf ball. I'm going to give Callaway a plug here, because it's a new golf ball, it's an IX ball. It's a lot softer than the ball I have been playing the last couple of years. Ever since that ball came out, you know, first week I played it was in Shanghai last year when I lost to Phil by one shot.
You know, my short game came back overnight. The putter felt better. Even the ball flight, everything. It doesn't go as long as the other ball, but I really got a lot of feel back from that. And I'm glad the V-grooves are back. I feel us old guys, we played that for quite some time, and I feel that I can relate to those grooves pretty well.
So I think all of those little factors have been positive for me.

Q. You mentioned having a game plan for tomorrow, I was wondering whether there was anything in particular beyond the usual fairways and greens, anything deeper than that?
ERNIE ELS: Well, there's so many doglegs here, there's so many trouble holes with hazards and all kind of stuff. You know, length is not always the way to go here. I might just play it a little bit more safe, get the ball in play and try and hit a lot of greens and make some putts.
Basically play major championship-type of golf tomorrow.

Q. You were asked the question about charity, but you didn't speak about at amazing work that you were doing in South Africa, please.
ERNIE ELS: I think I mentioned it in Miami.

Q. You did.
ERNIE ELS: I have a junior foundation and we have got a couple of things. South Africa has been so great to me, there are great people down there, and it's tough travels sometimes out of there to go internationally. So they need a little bit of a push, so that's all we do.
JOHN BUSH: Ernie, you took care of the back nine, just the birdies on 4 and 5.
ERNIE ELS: 4, the par 5, I hit a good drive. I hit a 5-wood just short left of the green, pin-high, and pitched it up, not a very good pitch, about eight feet and made a good putt coming down the hill.
And then 5, I hit a 3-wood and a pitching wedge, really good shot to about four feet.

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