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April 27, 2011

Ernie Els


MICHAEL GIBBONS: Ernie, welcome back to the Ballantine's Championship.
ERNIE ELS: Thank you.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Thanks very much for joining us. Maybe start us off with your thoughts on the championship itself and the week ahead.
ERNIE ELS: Thank you. I'm really glad to be back, and glad to be playing the Ballantine's again. Hoping for a good week.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: If you can give a quick update on your game, obviously there's a lot of stuff going on with the belly putter and things like that. How is that all going?
ERNIE ELS: I know. The guys are giving me a lot of stick about it. But you know, these are legal tools. I want to give it a go.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: What kind of stick have you had?
ERNIE ELS: No, just all the guys come up and said, oh, you're not going to use that, you're not going to need that.
So they give me a lot of stick. But it's fine. I'll give it a go, and you know, we'll see. It's a bit of a new process but I'm working on it.

Q. So we understand the greens on this course are very difficult. Do you think you'll be able to adapt to that? And what kind of players do you think will have an advantage on these greens?
ERNIE ELS: I think these greens are firm new for everybody, and I think the whole field has to adapt. You know, you're not going to hit it on the right level all the time, and if you don't, you know, you have to get a shot to get it there.
So it's just golf. It's just a little bit different than normal, but it's still just playing golf.

Q. Playing the 15th, will you be having a crack at that in two?
ERNIE ELS: I don't think so (chuckling).
Today I hit my driver a little bit right, and you've got to hit it left. There's a bit of a slope that helps your ball a little bit further down the fairway. If you get it on the right line, maybe. But it's a little cold. The ball doesn't go that far. So it's probably out of reach for me.

Q. If you understand I just wanted to ask a bit more about the belly putter. What prompted the switch to using that? And also, just wanted to ask you about the World Rankings, just wondering what your thoughts are, whether you think the system is right or whether it's fair at that time guy who has played consistently but not won a big tournament is up top.
ERNIE ELS: For a while now, the normal swing, you're on plane, or you're not on plane. My putting, basically, my path became very awkward. I became too squared back and I cut through the ball a bit. And that's not -- any pro, you don't want to do that. You don't put a good roll on it and from short distances, I was becoming really not good. I started practising with a belly a little bit, and when you stick it in your belly, you know, it stays on plane.
So the toe of the putter goes back inside, hits the ball, and moves this way. And that's basically what prompted me to use the belly. It feels very awkward to use it in a tournament to be honest, because I've always putted with a normal putter. So, I don't know if you want to go with that.
On the Lee Westwood subject, you know, you do have a point there, but you know, Lee has played really, really good golf. He hasn't probably won as many times as Tiger Woods when he was No. 1. I mean, he was just phenomenal.
But you have to give Lee credit, because he's really rededicated himself to the game, especially the last three, four years. And he's had numerous top threes, Top-5s, Top-10s in Majors. I know it's not winning, you've got a point there, but you have to give the guy credit for really playing very well. He's won tournaments around the world. He's on the U.S. Tour last year and he won last week and I think he won another tournament. He has won a couple.
There's just been -- it's been a perfect time for him now, especially with Tiger falling off form. Somebody that was going to play consistently well was going to rack up the points and was going to take the spot. I remember when I was No. 1, I got schtick for it because people said the same about me when I was No. 1; you know, I wasn't doing enough. Although, I did win a Major and I did win quite a few golf tournaments.
It's something that's going to stick with Lee and that you guys are going to keep asking him about it. So I'd rather him win one quickly and get it over and done with.
Me, personally, I think he's done enough to be No. 1.

Q. So from your own experience, would you have any advice to give him?
ERNIE ELS: Win a Major. (Laughs). Get the monkey off your back. He's such a great player. He's done so much. That's the only one, and nobody needs to tell him that. He knows that. But yeah, he'll be criticised for that for not winning.

Q. Now for the players that are on Tour level, do you think in order for them to play a better game, technical skills is more important than confidence, or which one do you think is more important?
ERNIE ELS: That goes hand in hand. If you don't have confidence, you're not going to play well. So everybody has different skills, skill level. But with confidence, you can overcome, you know, weaknesses in your skill.

Q. Have you had a chance to see the course?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I checked it out a little bit on Google or whatever you call it. I checked out the golf course a little bit, and played it today. It's quite a walk.

Q. Uphill, down, no need for the gym?
ERNIE ELS: Absolutely. You don't have to on a bike or anything. I think you need your energy this week. It's an unbelievable walk.

Q. So you were sitting back on that flight thinking, I'll make the most of this, because I'll be weary come the end of this week?
ERNIE ELS: You don't want to have to play too many practise rounds around here. You have to know where to go. It's quite a unique course. I don't think I've ever played anything like it. With the change in -- there's a lot from tees to fairways, and the greens are firm very slopey and very large. So if you're off your game, to get the ball up is going to be very difficult.

Q. Guess the changes in elevation make you play with your head a little bit, you know what the yardages are, but might be a bit different.
ERNIE ELS: Exactly. The elevation, as I said, it's unbelievable. Some of the shots are going 40 yards up the hill, and some of them are going 60 yards down. So it's a lot of guessing work, and you've got to read the wind in. So it's going to be an interesting week.

Q. You've been quite an ambassador for the Ballantine's Championship in Jeju, and now here; third time lucky?
ERNIE ELS: I hope so. I loved Jeju. You know, the weather was tough there obviously but it was a great place. Ballantine's have moved the tournament to Seoul now and we have a new challenge, so we'll deal with it.

Q. A new challenge: How is your game? How is the putting?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, thank you. I'm now officially a guy with a belly putter (chuckling).

Q. Which you don't like really.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, exactly. If they banned it tomorrow, I'll still be a happy guy, but whilst it's legal, I might as well use it. A lot of other guys are using it. So I'm giving it a go.
I must say, I feel slightly embarrassed using it, but if I can start making putts, I think I'll quickly forget about it.

Q. A matter of pride, isn't it?
ERNIE ELS: I think so, yeah, I think it is. I've held that for so long, and I've had a lot of struggles on the greens in the last four or five months. I'm just trying it and started practising it off the tournament sites, and I started feeling maybe I should use it at the tournament sites.
We'll see how it goes and I'll take whatever schtick comes my way.

Q. I presume it feels a bit odd shoving a bit of iron into your stomach?
ERNIE ELS: Well, (tapping stomach muscles) it's so hard, you know. (Laughter).

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