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August 3, 2010

Ernie Els


RODDY WILLIAMS: Thanks very much for coming in and joining us this morning, and we welcome you to the Bridgestone Invitational. You've already won one of these WGC events this year. Are we going to make it two this year.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I'm glad to be here. I've been coming here a very long time. Never really had great success around here, but I feel a bit of urgency this week, obviously, because of my form, you know, the last month or so in Europe. I didn't play very well, so I'd like to get something going, get some form going before we get to the PGA.
Actually I had two weeks off after the Open, went to Portugal with the family and then down to South Africa, and I came back from South Africa on -- I landed Sunday morning in Florida, so I had two days of intensive practice. I feel like I was hitting the ball okay, it was just trying to take it to the golf course now obviously and trying to get some form.
RODDY WILLIAMS: Can you think of why that form hasn't been here, because obviously you showed great form just a few months back.
ERNIE ELS: You know, I'm not sure. I think a bit of over-golf maybe, especially the trip from the U.S. Open -- I feel like maybe the U.S. Open had a little bit of a hangover effect on me. I felt like I had a really good chance there, but I find of failed to make anything happen the last four holes. And then from there straight to Germany. I wasn't quite into it in Germany, missed the cut there, and I wasn't going to play Scotland, but then I entered late and just got a little -- I don't know, a little out of control in my schedule.
You know, if I want to make excuses, the Friday at St. Andrews wasn't the easiest of days. So I just kind of had a bit of bad luck here and there and maybe overplayed myself a little bit. I've taken a really good rest, and I can feel the urgency of me wanting to play good again.

Q. You talked about your success here. I wonder how much more you might like it being a week before the PGA. For year you used to come here and the majors were over, and it was kind of a big exit, wasn't it?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, that's right, and I think it's good that they brought this golf tournament back to maybe into the mainstream golf season I would say. And you're right, after the PGA there's a bit of a letdown, if you would, which is gnarly think in come cases. A guy that goes into a major and puts so much in and then comes here, it's kind of hard to pick yourself up. Now you can argue the point, why play such a big, tough golf course before a major, but I think it's a good place to be at, and I think if you play well here, you can take a bit of confidence that next week, although it's a totally different test next week.
For guys like myself who haven't showed a lot, this is a good week to have -- if you can get some form here, I think it might carry over into next week and into some other stuff.

Q. What's your take on this proliferation of score scoring on the TOUR? Do you see any reasons for it, and two 59s, is that as mindboggling in a month as it seems to be?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I would say so. I mean, you guys are the historians. I mean, how many 59s has there been?

Q. Five.
ERNIE ELS: Only five, and how many in the last -- two in the last three weeks, and before that three in the lifetime of the TOUR. You know, I don't know if the TOUR is trying to get some people to watch television again because they're seeing a lot of birdies, and we've all said maybe birdies help viewership.
But I'm not sure what my take is. There's even been two 60s, 61s, it's starting to look like the Nationwide Tour, you know? (Laughter.)
And then we get to a beast like this, this week, and maybe the -- I would hate to see a 59 this week because then I'll know I'm playing a different game (laughing).
You know, I guess you can look at it both ways. I think it's positives that these guys are good. That's our slogan. But then again, you don't want to make it look like a Mickey mouse Tour, either. I'd like to see it a little bit tougher.
But I must admit, to play -- to shoot a 59, I don't care if you play it on a pitch and putt course. To shoot that kind of a number is a milestone in anybody's career, and you've got to give them credit. But it's soft conditions, again, just shows you.

Q. Could you talk a little bit more about Louis, what he accomplished at the Open Championship and the way that he did it? Somebody was saying that it was a surprise to a lot of people, but the surprise to you guys was that he hasn't done it sooner because you know how much game he's got.
ERNIE ELS: Exactly. Obviously I've known Louis a long time. It's one of those clichés, but he's just a guy that -- he's still the same guy, from when he was 15 when I met him to today when he's 27 years old. He's just a little bit better golfer. He's very well-grounded. He comes from a family farm back in South Africa. We were together last week in South Africa, actually went to his golf club where they honored him. It was an absolute circus.
But he's taking it in his stride, and I think he'll continue doing that. You're right, I think the whole world hasn't known him. Although he's won a couple of times, but he won small events, but still, I knew how much talent the guy has, and for a long time there, Charl and Louis, Charl Schwartzel and Louis, are very similar ages, and Charl has done a little bit more than Louis has, especially on the international stage, and people really started forgetting about Louis.
But I kept saying, especially to Chubby, who managing both of them, it'll be interesting to see who wins the first major, Charl or Louis. Louis just picked Charl, Charl is probably next in line because he's got so much talent.
But he had a good draw, let's be honest. He had a great draw. We actually played with him on the Sunday before because we both missed the cut at Loch Lomond, and later in the week he said to me about his draw, and I said, that's perfect. 6:40, don't be embarrassed to play at 6:40 in the morning. I wish they had put me at 6:40. I think it was his first or second round. And then his late time was 11:40. So that's also a great time.
And he took advantage. I'm sure he wasn't thinking about trying to get a lead on the field, he was just trying to play as good golf as he could, found himself in the lead, and you guys saw what he did. He never backed off. He kept on hitting his drivers. You know, I used to be like that when I was younger, just carefree, just very relaxed, just hit the ball and find it, and that's what he's doing at the moment. It's a very natural way of playing, playing the game.

Q. Can you go back to that?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I -- well, at times I do that, not as consistently as before. But yeah, I feel like my physical game is there. I go back to those kind of moments.

Q. Kind of like at Doral?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, Doral. When I feel comfortable I'm like that, but I'd like to do that more frequently.

Q. Do you have a best Louis story, funny, interesting, odd, telling, whatever?
ERNIE ELS: No, not really. He's not a late-night owl like myself, so I can't tell you any good story, a very good one. But Louis is always -- when he came in, he was very soft-spoken. He's got a great sense of humor. He quietly became a leader of the foundation.
We have a golf tournament down in South Africa to raise funds for the foundation and I still kid him to this day that he makes better speeches than I do, even when he was a junior golfer. For some reason, he just had a knack of saying the right thing and keeping his cool and making everybody feel at home. Even when he was in our foundation, he spoke on behalf of the kids. He could run for state president one day. He's got really a knack there.

Q. How old was he then when he did that?
ERNIE ELS: Well, he started doing it when he was 16. He's a natural.

Q. What was his score at Mossel Bay? Was it --
ERNIE ELS: 57. I don't know how many putts was given to him, but 57. (Laughter.) Or I don't know how many holes he played. But I guess it's legit because his foundation is now called 57. He calls a lot of stuff 57.

Q. What's your all-time low anywhere?
ERNIE ELS: 60. I shot 60 a bunch of times but never could crack the 59.

ERNIE ELS: On TOUR I shot 60 once on the European Tour. At Royal Melbourne of all places. Those Aussies were shitting themselves. Nobody could shoot under 60 at Royal Melbourne and they were trying to talk on my backswing the last three holes.

Q. Was that at the Heineken?
ERNIE ELS: At the Heineken, yeah.

Q. Did you have a shot on the last or did you birdie the last?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I had chances -- I had 12-under through 15 holes, mate. Kind of choked, made a bogey and then I made birdie, and I had two chances coming in. Didn't quite do it. I think I felt embarrassed for them.

Q. Were you there last week when they got the bridge with his name on it at Louis' home course?

Q. I was wondering his reaction, if you saw it or --
ERNIE ELS: No, I was with him on Wednesday evening, and it was a blur for both of us, I think. They had free tickets for members to come into that evening's celebration, and people were standing in queue from 9:00 in the morning, so you can imagine, you got in there -- we spoke, but I don't think any of us remembered what happened. Everybody was taking pictures and there was autographs and everything. I actually slipped out of there after two hours of that. I don't know how long he stayed.
I'm sure that whole town will be named after Louis one day.

Q. I was just curious if you had a theory on why the international players were doing so well this year on the TOUR.
ERNIE ELS: On the U.S. Tour?

Q. Yeah.
ERNIE ELS: I think it's just their time. If you look at the guys who have done well, they're probably in their late 20s, early 30s, starting to hit their prime, become more comfortable with the golf courses, more comfortable with the way of life over here. That's got a lot to do with it, when you feel comfortable and start playing a little better. It's just a healthy group of guys, you know? They're just playing at the top of their games right now.

Q. You mentioned earlier the different tests of this week and next. I wonder if you could just give your recollections of Whistling Straits.
ERNIE ELS: It's totally different. I mean, two very tough golf courses but two uniquely different golf courses. I mean, what Pete Dye did there is just out of this world, to build this basically -- they had to create everything there. It was in the side of the lake. I don't know which one it is, Michigan?

Q. Michigan.
ERNIE ELS: Okay, and to create everything there that they did took a lot of imagination. It just shows you what a great designer Pete Dye is. People either love it or hate it, hate it or love it. A lot of guys don't like it, think it's very gimmicky, but the way they played it last time was very fair. If they make it rock hard, you'll be there for two weeks, I promise you.
But they made it where you can keep the ball in the fairway if you hit good shots, and if you hit the correct iron shots, the ball would hold on the greens.
And if you're wild, you're not going to finish even. You've got to be on your game. But there's a lot of blind stuff going on. Second shots, you've got to find your own way of getting around that golf course. There's different ways. You can do it very aggressively, very conservatively. So it's a very different test.
Here everything is in front of you, you can either hit a fade off the tee, a draw off the tee, it's right in front of you. So it's very different.

Q. It falls at the very end of the major season. Some guys are running out of gas. I just wondered how much more emphasis or how much it gets your juices going more in your pursuit of a Grand Slam, the ones you don't have?
ERNIE ELS: It's one of them. The PGA is definitely one of them. You know, I played good there last time, and I'd love to do the same obviously this time. The weather is an issue there, like it was last time. I think the wind comes up in the afternoons. There was a bit of rain here and there.
The draw is quite important again and yeah, as I said before, I feel the urgency that I need to show some form again. I want to play good again. And there's a big stretch coming up. I've had a good two weeks off the last two weeks, and I'd like to play well. That's what I'd like to do.
RODDY WILLIAMS: Well done, Ernie, thanks very much.

End of FastScripts

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