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June 18, 2010

Ernie Els


BETH MURRISON: We're pleased to have Ernie Els with us here at the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links. Ernie shot a 3-under 68 today. Excellent round. Can you talk a little bit about your play today and just some thoughts on the round.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I was obviously pretty pleased with my round today. 3-under par. I needed something in red figures to get me back in the tournament. And I just felt a lot more -- I felt a little bit better on the greens today. The greens were a lot smoother this morning.
I was very uncomfortable yesterday on the greens. They were very bumpy. I didn't feel comfortable hitting the golf ball either, so that wasn't a great combination to have. And I missed a lot of putts yesterday. So I was a bit down.
But I did a bit of work last night and felt a lot better, and obviously playing in the morning I knew there was a score out there. And so I played quite nicely.
BETH MURRISON: Would you mind quickly going through the birdies and bogeys on your card for us?
ERNIE ELS: Well, I started on 10. I made a good up and down there for par.
On 11, I hit a wedge to about 15 feet up the hill, made that for birdie.
13, I hit a driver, 8-iron to about five feet and made that for birdie.
14, the par-5, I blew a wedge over the green, pitched it back up to about eight feet and missed it for par.
Then 18, I birdied. Excuse me, 17 I birdied. Hit a 4-iron through the green to the right. I didn't have any shot to make bogey there.
18, hit a 3-wood, 5-wood second shot into the bunker, sand shot about 12 feet, made that.
Then I made a lot of pars on my back nine. I birdied No. 4. I hit a wedge to about 8 feet there and made that for birdie.
And then obviously I made a very good save on No. 8. I hit my second shot short, pitched it past the hole, which you're not supposed to do. And I made about an 8-footer coming down the hill.

Q. That was a great approach to 9 out of the right rough. Could you talk about that and it had a very linksy look to it. How much is your links experience helping you this week, as well?
ERNIE ELS: I love the setup. It's firm. It's fast. I didn't like the greens too much yesterday but other than that I think it's one of the better setups I've seen at the U.S. Open. I missed my tee shot to the right there, I didn't have an unplayable line, I could advance the ball. I like that, they give you a chance to play a shot. And I landed it 40, 50 yards short of the green and it ran up there.
So, yeah, I mean spoke to Tiger even and with Lee, playing with them, it's got that feel. It's got that look in a way, of links golf. And it's almost links golf on steroids, with the rough and the grass around the bunkers. I really like the setup. The ball runs, which I like.

Q. Looking at drawing back on things, how much can you draw on U.S. Open wins in the past, your success in this event, even though it's far removed, it's a completely different golf course?
ERNIE ELS: Well, it's been such a long time since I won one of these. But we've got a long way to go. Obviously, I needed a round like today to get me back in the tournament, which is nice. We've just got to look at conditions. I feel comfortable with my game, you know. I worked really hard coming in here. So I feel my game's there, which is nice, because you need your game around a U.S. Open venue.
Are the wins going to help? Sure it will help. It's been so long, I've been in all kinds of situations. But there are a lot of guys hungry for a win, so it's not just me going for a win. So there's still a lot of golf to be played you've just got to plug along and see what happens on the back nine on Sunday.

Q. How are you supposed to hold the 17th green?
ERNIE ELS: I don't know. I don't think I got that shot. I've tried twice. You know, just over the bunker you've got five yards where you can actually land the ball in the rough. If you get it within five yards of 220 you're doing well. That's the only way I can see you can hold the green.
Tiger hit a great shot yesterday. He caught a 4-iron out there. He hits the ball so high. And Lee Westwood today hit a 4-iron into there. I think it pitched in the rough and just stayed up. So we'll try and figure that one out the next couple of days.

Q. Obviously you guys had the better draw on the greens today because of the morning. But what's the line between being disappointed and economist rating with Tiger or Lee about how bumpy they are, and kind of psych yourself out for the next rounds, because obviously you're now going to be playing in the afternoon. What's that line?
ERNIE ELS: Well, it's quite a significant one because there's a huge difference between the morning and afternoon. I was the one struggling on the greens yesterday. I missed it from a foot on 13. I hit an 8-iron in there, and I mean three out of three-putts, I was just off the green, but three-putted three times. I just never made anything until 16 when I made something. So I was really uncomfortable. And so were the other guys. Tiger normally makes a lot of putts as we've seen. When he complains a little bit that they're a little bumpy -- it's tough to hit your normal putt and see the normal roll. So, yeah, I mean you're playing well, you're going to be playing in the afternoon now.
So we'll have to adjust, again. I did adjust a little bit last night, as I said, I worked my putting last night and I felt my ball position was a little out, and my aim was a bit off. So I worked on that. That's all you can do.

Q. You're innate demeanor seems calm and collected. Going into a U.S. Open, do you do anything different to even calm yourself, to retain that great patience that you've shown?
ERNIE ELS: Well, I think that myself, you know, you get a bit more tense when you feel that some aspects of your game aren't quite there. You might get a little flustered. Yesterday I felt uncomfortable on the greens. You don't want to feel like that in a U.S. Open. You want to feel like you're going to hole some putts. When something is not quite there, obviously, we all are human beings, and you're going to feel a little tension.
I feel my game is very good this week, for some reason. So the last two days I felt a bit more calm. I've played this event where I've been very tense and other times I've been quite calm. And all I can say is that the times that I've been tense my game wasn't quite there. And there's so much trouble that you've got to stop thinking about it. This week I'm feeling all right.

Q. You won back-to-back in March. And then you seemed pretty hard on yourself for not taking it to The Masters. Can you talk about how all that affected coming into this event?
ERNIE ELS: Well, I wasn't that bad at The Masters, to be honest. I felt actually I got something out of The Masters this year. For once I made the cut. I finished -- I think I finished in the top-20, which is not that bad. Obviously, you go for a win.
I think the tournament that got me was the Houston Tournament before The Masters. If I could have, I would have liked to have not played. But I committed to play. But after The Masters I've been a little quiet. I haven't played to my potential, and I've got myself in position a couple of times like at Wentworth after a few rounds, and I fell away.
So I think I've been a little over golfed, to be honest. And I missed the cut at Memorial. And it's given me a bit more time to get some energy and work a little on my game the last week and I feel a little bit better now. But I like this time of the year. U.S. Open time, going to the British Open time and I like this time of year.

Q. Obviously, you're out there doing your own thing, but you've played with Tiger so many times over the year. I wonder how you see him swinging right now. He's 7 shots back. I'm assuming you don't discount him at this point?
ERNIE ELS: No, you can't. A guy that's won 14 Majors he's got a lot of game. I think he's very close. I haven't played with him in about a year. I think his ball-striking was pretty good the last two days. His short game is pretty sharp, he just didn't make enough putts. He's skimming the hole, nothing looks out of the ordinary. He looks pretty sharp. I think it's only a matter of time before he starts getting in his strike.

Q. I think on the leaderboard there's only one American in the top dozen players, kind of unusual for the U.S. Open. Is there something the way the course is playing that favors an international player, or is this a sign that maybe the international players have kicked it up a notch in these type of tournaments?
ERNIE ELS: Well, there's a lot of international players that, as you say, have picked it up a little bit. So that's got something to do with it. I think the golf course maybe has something to do with it.
As we said, it's playing fast, it's playing quite firm. Normally on the U.S. Tour you have it quite soft. But, I mean, there's so many quality players on both sides, I can't really finger point why there's more Europeans or international players on the leaderboard. It's just the way it's going at the moment. As I said there's quite a few international players playing well and they're doing it yet again this week.

Q. We see Ishikawa's name up on the board. Having traveled you've probably seen more of these players than anybody here. We know there are a lot of good younger players, what do you see in him?
ERNIE ELS: He's extraordinary. He's only 18 years old. He played in The Presidents Cup last year, and I really got to know him well there. He's a great kid. It's amazing that he's only 18. He already shot 58 this year. Just think about it, shooting 58 in the Tour over there in Japan at 18, it's phenomenal. He's a really good player, great kid. There's a lot of youngsters coming through. I think what Tiger has done, a lot of these kids want to do what he's done so they come out early and they're aggressive and they're confident.

Q. You talked about coming in here tense at times. How much of that would have to do with the pressure of being a past champion? And also in the years that have passed since you won, do you appreciate what you accomplished more and maybe how difficult it is to win this event?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I think -- what was the first bit again?

Q. Feeling tense. Any pressures as a past champion?
ERNIE ELS: No, you don't think about that too much. It just depends on how your game is coming into the particular week. And as I said some weeks, some years I've felt really calm because I'm playing well. And for some reason this year I'm feeling good again.
What was your second bit again?

Q. Basically do you appreciate --
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I guess when you get older, I'm 40 years old now, when I look back now it's amazing when I think I was 24 when I won this event at Oakmont. I must have been out of my head to think I could have won at 24.
But in any case, I got to do that. And then the expectations are there, obviously. And I probably fell victim to that a little bit because I had many -- numerous chances of winning Majors, which I didn't. I've won three and I look back at it now, I'm pleased to have done that.
And now not too many people give you too many chances winning a Major after 40. But I feel good. I feel my game's there. I'd like to think I've got quite a few more left. If I have to stop playing golf now I've got to be pretty pleased with what I've done.
BETH MURRISON: Ernie, thanks very much for joining us today, and congratulations again on your fine play.
ERNIE ELS: Thank you.

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