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October 8, 2011

Ernie Els


THE MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Ernie Els. Shot a round of 67 today. Take us through your round, the highlights, and then we'll take a few questions.
ERNIE ELS: Love to be one or two better. I'm happy where I am. Obviously had a very good front nine. And I 3-putted 10, and I think I kind of slowed things down a bit. I played quite well on the back. The scoring holes, I didn't play well. On 15, I missed my tee shot in the bunker. And then 17, I'm sure you guys saw it, we were a bit longer there. Those two holes I was a little bit disappointed with. I see a lot of guys shot 30, 31, 32 on the back nine. My 36 is not that good. For the rest, I'm really happy. I'm playing well, swinging nicely. I've got a chance for tomorrow.

Q. You haven't been in the mix for a while. What does it feel like?
ERNIE ELS: A different feeling. I haven't been in this position all year. I don't think your memory disappears after 20 years of being out here. So this is what I've been working towards, especially after the PGA. I changed a lot of things and I feel that the work I've put in is starting to come through. I'm starting to feel comfortable on the things I've been working on. I think the FedEx race was a good test for my game. I didn't have any top 10s or anything like that. I kind of scraped through and I had a lot of pressure on me and on my game. You're just trying to survive. So I feel that's helped me, and then obviously the work. I don't think you forget how to win, you know. I've won quite a few times. I can take my game and let it flow.

Q. (Inaudible.)
ERNIE ELS: I think it is. Obviously, I mean, I can't take anything away from, you know, Mike who caddied for me. My game was just out of sorts. To come back to your question, definitely, myself, I think we've had many big, big wins. He understands me, I understand him. Tomorrow we're in a good position. We're in a good place.

Q. You mentioned you changed a lot of things after the PGA. Can you sort of detail what's different about your game this week? And sort of unrelated question, what got you here? I know you had some connections with Mr. Plotner?
ERNIE ELS: I changed caddies after the PGA. I basically had to make up my mind with this belly putter. I still felt a little -- didn't know if I was going to use it in the long-term. I decided now that I'm going to use it for the long-term. I might as well get really comfortable with it. Then just really committing to playing myself through the slump, you know. That's what I've done. I feel as I said getting under the gun, doing things that I had to do, getting up-and-down in Boston to get into another week and in Barclays I had to do certain things to get through. So that's very different and helped me. With Ricci on the back and Dan Quinn back on the bag, that -- gives it a new dimension, if you can call it that way.
And then as I said, I wanted to play and I've played a lot of golf. It hurt my World Ranking but I've got a long-term view on what I want to do. I want to get my game in the shape where I can contend week in and week out. That's one of the reasons why I'm here. Dr. Plotner, he owns this little piece of land, yeah, and you know he made the call, and sometimes you've got to listen to the boss, you know what I mean? I've done some days here before, but I was kind of in a blur. Once I came from China and had a couple of beers on the flight. It's kind of foggy that next morning. You can see on 17, I still don't know how to play that hole. Dr. Plotner, we've got a good relationship, you know, he's the founder or co-founder of ASAP and is a good friend and it's a good golf course. I'm glad I'm here.

Q. You mentioned the belly putter. I'm just curious sort of what went into that decision. Secondly, it wasn't that long ago that you were pretty outspoken about it a couple of years ago. What changed your mind?
ERNIE ELS: Well, you know, I started really having putting problems. I mean, the guys on Tour week in and week out know about it. My path wasn't good, you know, sort of cutting onto the ball and you can't putt well like that. Then I started practicing with the belly a little bit. My path came back from coming inside to the outside and the releasing. Just kept going. I'm still getting some poor putts but at least I've got a better chance of repeating that same stroke with a putter stuck in my belly.
You're right, I've been outspoken about it. I've been against it. Right now I'm glad they haven't banned it. If they ban it, that's also fine with me. It's probably very controversial rule that we have on the Tour and guys that don't use the belly like myself, you know, have been against it. As long as it's legal, you know, I'm -- I'll keep cheating like the rest of them.

Q. Was it your idea to use it?
ERNIE ELS: No. He was against it too. He hates it. I just felt -- really after the TPC tournament, I missed some really short putts coming in. I missed some cuts there. I went to Asia and I started using the belly and it felt better. I still had no confidence, and there is no worse thing to play competitive golf and not have confidence on the greens. There is no worse feeling in the world. Like a lot of guys, I went to the belly. It feels better. And now as I said to you guys, I've got a long-term view on this thing and I'm going to stick with it. Guys can have a laugh at me, that's fine. I've done it too them. It is what it is. And until they ban it, you know, we can use it.

Q. Has anyone mad fun of you?
ERNIE ELS: Just because I made fun of them. First person that comes to me is (indiscernible). Trevor won in Germany ten years ago, and I gave him a bit of grief and he still hasn't for given me.

Q. And 9, talk about your shot there?
ERNIE ELS: 9, I was in the semi, I had 240 forefront and there was a bit of breeze coming at us. I hit it as good as I could. I really thought I had a lot of club. Coming out of the semi, the ball kind of got up in the air a little bit and was spinning. It just came out perfect. I mean, a foot short I was in the water making five or six. It was a good shot and good result. 5-wood.

Q. I take it playing with the 21 year old must be shocking enough. Then when you find out the kid's dad is younger than you too --
ERNIE ELS: I don't know, I mean, it's amazing. I was walking up to 1 and I thought he was (indiscernible). That was my fault. Great guy, great kid. Met his father on the range. I wouldn't mess with him ever. I hear he was in the military, in the Navy. Nice man. And he's got a great son, a great future. A great player. He will be a great player.

Q. Makes you feel old?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, it does.

Q. Your thoughts on coming back to Northern California? You obviously have the connection here as you said with Dr. Plotner. I think you've talked about not some great memories at Pebble, these just two U.S. Opens. Talk about being back here.
ERNIE ELS: I mean, it's -- I haven't really been inland that often. I've obviously been to Pebble many times. I've been to Montreal. I played Tour school at Bayonet, the military base there a couple of times. I know that area quite well. When the weather is like this, it's unbelievable. It reminds me a lot of South Africa in many ways. Just a wonderful play place, you know. I'd love it even more if I could shoot 64 tomorrow, I promise you that. It's nice to play up here.
I think with Paul playing this week and Tiger and a lot of the top players, you know, it brings a lot of credibility to this region and to this golf tournament. Hopefully, this is the start of big things for the tournament.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Good luck tomorrow.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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