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May 12, 2010

Ernie Els


DOUG MILNE: Okay. Ernie Els, thanks for joining us for a few minutes prior to your Pro-Am time here at the Valero Texas Open. Just a couple of comments to start off on your year. Obviously having a great year, four Top-10s, two wins in consecutive starts at the World Golf Championship CA and Arnold Palmer. You've got to feel good about the state of your game as you're heading into this week and if I could have you dovetail into your decision to play here this week.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, thanks. I had a very good March, actually January, February and March. Actually for me, the Masters was quite a success, believe it or not, even though I finished 18th. I didn't have too many good Masters the last couple years. That felt okay.
Since then, I've been a little quiet. I went over to Korea to play. I think I had a Top-10, I'm not sure. I got out of there quickly (laughter).
Then played TPC last week. I worked on a couple of changes which didn't quite work out and started playing a little better Friday afternoon, my second round, but it was a bit too late. I left things a bit too late. Missed the cut.
So I felt like I needed to play soon, especially feeling that my game came around Friday afternoon at TPC and committed to come play here.
I heard it was a different golf course, you know, through the week last week and heard it was a long course and quite difficult so I thought let's give it a go and that's why we're here.
I used to play this tournament -- I used to watch it on television a little bit on a birdie fest golf course. I like little tougher challenges. I'm glad we have a fairly tough challenge here this week.
Played 9 holes yesterday.
DOUG MILNE: What is your impression of the course?
ERNIE ELS: Well, it's a new golf course. It's a modern type golf course. I think it's a very good driving golf course, second shot golf course.
You know, you got to get yourself in the right positions and then really get yourself hitting the right second shots. You can't miss your second shots in certain places. I played the front-9 yesterday. That's kind of what I saw.
I'll have a more careful look today even and check it out, but some of the holes really played long, especially with the winds being up.
DOUG MILNE: Okay. With that, we'll open it up for questions.

Q. Ernie, this week the field obviously is a lot stronger than the Texas Open has had in the past, Vijay, yourself, Sergio is in.
Is it the course that kind dictates from one year to the next now this tournament has kind of recognize scene to at least as far as the strength of field?
ERNIE ELS: Well. Yeah. I think also the date is a lot better for us. I didn't play it because it was late in the year the previous years and we're either in Europe or you want to kind of take it easy at the end of the year and I think that's the reason why a lot of guys didn't come.
You know, everybody's first time here. I think it's an unbelievable facility. I think it's one of the best on Tour.
I was actually in the gym, believe it or not next door here. Everything is world class here. It's a great hotel, facility. The practice facilities are great.
These things will filter into the Tour, the guys will be talking about it. You know, everybody's first time on the golf course. We all have to get a new game plan which is also exciting because it's tough to go to a golf course where you've been, where the Tour as been for 25 years and as a newcomer into a golf tournament you almost haven't got a chance because the guys have played there before.
This week is really everybody starts off scratch and I believe this is going to be a very exciting event into the future because of the whole facility. It's got the whole package here, basically.

Q. Have you ever been to San Antonio before for any other reason other than the golf?
ERNIE ELS: No, I've not. I've been to Dallas many times and to Fort Worth and I've been to Austin a couple times, Houston, obviously. Never been to San Antonio.

Q. What have you heard about the city and is it something that you would go downtown and see the sites?
ERNIE ELS: I heard you got to be downtown here. The Riverwalk or something. Lot going on down there, lot of bars, restaurants. Probably stay away from it this week but -- "laughter".
It's just exciting for me personally. That's another reason why I moved to the U.S. permanently is to play tournaments I've never played before and I'm here this week and in the future I'll keep mixing my schedule up. I think it's good.

Q. Does that make a difference when other guys here that Ernie Els came to San Antonio and played in this event? When you hear that some other guys went to maybe an event that you hadn't been to, does that make a difference to you as to thinking about playing there?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, it does. That's how I came to play Charlotte, you know. I never went there. I didn't go this year but, you know, saw on television the golf course and as a Tour player you know what you like and don't like. I saw what I liked, I liked Charlotte. I saw the strength of field. I started changing my mind.
And hopefully with Vijay and Adam Scott, Sergio here, some of the top players, that changes the view of other players and you'll probably start seeing a lot stronger fields and especially with this date. The date really plays a big part. It fits in very well.

Q. Ernie, it sounds like from hearing you right, this was very much an 11th hour decision. If you had made the cut at Players last week, would you be here?
ERNIE ELS: I think I probably still would have come because probably would have worked myself right out of the little swing funk i was in. That would have -- I would have probably still come. Because my schedule -- I wasn't really happy with my schedule after the Masters.
You know, I had a week off, Korea, week off, Players, then another week off, England. I'm going to England next week. Another week off, Memorial. It's kind of start-stop stuff.
I like to play three, four events. That's when you really see where your game in. I probably would have put it in anyway, especially because I didn't know they had -- I didn't know they had the change in venue. I still thought you were playing the other one where too many birdies were made (laughter).
I was happy to hear the course was a lot more difficult challenge.

Q. You've already one twice. You've been in pretty good form. What are you working on your swing?
ERNIE ELS: I did work on it. Those things that I was working on for a couple of days, I kind of let that go, felt like it wasn't where I wanted to go. I'm back to working on the same things and been working on for the last 18 months. Just a little slip by.

Q. Ernie, you're a bit of a historian about the game. I know you have a lot of respect for golf. This event in particular has been around since 1922 on the PGA Tour.
Is there a reputation for the San Antonio event on the Tour? Was it because of the Fall Series that it was just in a bad spot on the schedule? Is there a general feel about San Antonio as far as the PGA Tour stop?
ERNIE ELS: Oh, yeah. This is one of the oldest tournaments we have on the schedule and it's got a great history to it. I mean Texas golf, there's a history there. You got some of the best players in the world that's come out of Texas.
The guys take the Texas tours quite seriously. I have. I was lucky enough to win the Byron Nelson quite a few years ago. I've played Houston many times. I've played a lot of Texas golf but I've never been here.
I can go back again and say it's because of the schedule and you know -- but it's nice to have these tournaments all in row now. The Texas Open, Byron Nelson, you got Forth Worth. I think it's wonderful for the whole state and some really strong venues and strong players. The whole Tour will probably come through here except for maybe a handful of players, top players will come through the whole state.
I think it really works well. I think that's why the Florida swing has done very well. California, West Coast swing has done well and now in Texas. You've got to have them kind of bunched in there.

Q. I'm just curious, Ernie, if you ever spent anytime talking strictly design side with Greg Norman and has Pete influenced you in anyway when you decided to get into it?
ERNIE ELS: My influence actually came from Jack Nicklaus. I got into the design business probably about 10, 11 years ago and I have a partnership with Jack, I learned a lot from him and from his designers and then kind of bought myself out of the contract about six, seven years ago now so I've been on my own for six, seven years and basically took one of his designers with me "laughter", with Jack's consent, obviously.
I learned a lot from him and his company, how the routing works, what you have to look at, you know, your philosophy about design. We all have to have your own kind of philosophy, what you want to have, people play.
The good thing about it, everybody is different. Greg Norman is different. A lot different than Nicklaus design or one of my designs or any other player. Everybody has got their own little things that they look at.
Obviously Greg, being a very good driver of the golf ball, he has a pretty tight golf course and well bunkered golf course off the tees and he has greens going either direction. He's got small little greens and obviously bigger open greens for longer shots.
I think he's got the golf course very well balanced here this week.

Q. Having said that, what do you look for, what would be your signature to designing a golf course?
ERNIE ELS: Well, you've got to look at the land you get. Our philosophy is get the player off the tee and I like wider playing areas off the tees. Also love bunkering the player.
I don't like high rough. I feel like if you hit a pretty good tee shot you don't have to be the most accurate tee ball out there but on the second shots I start playing with the player's mind a little bit, having greens offset at angles and bunkering. I love bunkering.
I've played links golf, I love the links-type of golf, the way of playing and I go with that, that type of bunkering and that type of play. I get the player off the tee and speeds up play a little bit and then second shots start really testing the player.

Q. Ernie, did you bring your family this week?
ERNIE ELS: No. At school. Samantha is at school and Ben is at school and Liezl is running around a little bit. I had the weekend off to spend my time with the kids at the pool and the weather is getting really nice now, as you know, so maybe next year, maybe -- I'm not staying at the hotel. I'm just renting a house nearby but it's got all the facilities you need here. We'll see.
DOUG MILNE: Okay. Ernie, as always, we appreciate your time.
ERNIE ELS: Thank you. I appreciate it.

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