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February 20, 2012

Ernie Els


CHRIS REIMER:  We want to welcome Ernie Els here to the Accenture Match Play Championship.  Ernie coming in with a pretty popular match starting off against Luke Donald.  Talk about coming back here and maybe some comments about your first round opponent.
ERNIE ELS:  I'm really fortunate to be here.  Being the last guy in, you've got to play the first seeds, which is Luke Donald.  And it's a tough match, like all matches here.
It's interesting that I find myself in this position.  As I say, I'm quite fortunate to be here.  And in the past it hasn't been quite my favorite event.  I've kind of skipped it a couple of times.
So to be the last guy in and just to be lucky to be in is quite a nice feeling.
Obviously this week every match you play is going to be a tough one, whether you play the No.1 player in the world, which is No.1 seed, or myself, which is the 64th seed, you know, you've got to beat the guy.  So whoever you play you've just got to try and get through.

Q.  You gained entry by virtue of Phil Mickelson dropping out.  You commented last week that you owe him a steak dinner.  Are you planning on taking him out to a steak dinner?
ERNIE ELS:  Sure.  Absolutely.  Phil played quite a few events on the West Coast, and obviously this is maybe not one of his favorite events but whatever way you look at it, he's not here and he's given me a spot, so I'm grateful for that.  And, yeah, I'll stand by it.  I've got some good red wines I can give him.  And I definitely will buy him a dinner whenever he wants it.  So it's really nice for myself to be in.  And obviously he's not here, so it gives me opportunity.

Q.  You mentioned that this isn't your favorite event.  Why not?
ERNIE ELS:¬† Well, my record is not that great here.¬† I really enjoy the golf course we play now.¬† I think it's a really good designed course for match play.¬† The greens are a little bit quirky, there's a couple of kind of risk‑reward holes out there and shots that you have to take on.¬† And I think for match play that keeps things interesting and especially on the greens.¬† The greens are quite tricky and if you miss it in the wrong spots you can have really tough shots.
For a match play event I think this is a really good venue.  But just my record and I never really had a lot of success here.

Q.  Luke Donald is a guy who doesn't make a lot of mistakes.  If you're looking at a scouting report on him, how do you beat him?
ERNIE ELS:  Well, yeah, obviously he's in great form.  He had an unbelievable year last year.  And becoming world No.1.  So he's got a lot going for him.
It's 18 holes, you know.  It's not like I'm the worst match player in the world either.  So I think I know what I need to do.  You've got to keep the ball in play.  You've got to keep it in play on every single hole, because he's going to be in every hole.
So it's basically who can make the most putts and make the most birdies, I think.  So we'll take it from there.

Q.  What is the state of your game right now?  What do you feel about your game right now?
ERNIE ELS:  I've got a lot of positives going in my game.  With Callaway, they got the new driver, the RAZR Fit driver and last week I tried the softer golf ball.  And this week I think I'm going to play the harder, the HX golf ball, which launches higher for me.  And in this altitude the higher you can hit it the further it goes.  So I'll do that.
And then I'm really starting to feel my putter is coming around.  And I know my result last week wasn't that great.  I had a bit of a tough weekend.  But all in all I feel my whole game is really coming around nicely.  So I'm looking forward to a good year.

Q.  This is the first year that they've sort of reseeded on Mondays.  Did you know yesterday or Saturday that you'd be 64 or did you think that you'd be a little bit higher up?
ERNIE ELS:  No, I knew about the situation.  They made the field the week before, wherever your ranking went after last week, you go accordingly.  So I kind of knew the situation.  It's kind of funny now that I'm on the outside, almost looking in, you know.  You start reading the fine print (laughter,) which I never used to do.

Q.¬† There's some uncertainty about the long‑term future of this tournament here at this venue and in this area.¬† Where do you stand on it being held here not only at the Ritz‑Carlton but in the Tucson area?
ERNIE ELS:  I think it's a perfect venue.  You've got the world class resort right here.  The airport is pretty close.  We get good crowds out here.  We've got I think an exciting venue in the design.  And I know some of the players don't like the greens too much, but I think all in all it's a world class venue.  It's been here quite a few years now.  We played across the road at the Gallery.  And now it's here.  I'm not sure what the situation is but I'll look forward to it being played here for the next four or five years.  I think this whole area is going to start growing soon with the economy changing hopefully in the future and I think this could be something we can look forward to.

Q.  You predicted great things for Rory McIlroy a few years, what do you think about his progress that you saw coming, really?  And secondly, the younger players that are coming out with all guns blazing these days, they don't seem to have any kind of apprenticeship, they just seem to be able to come out and compete straight away.  Ryo Ishikawa, a guy you have played with, and George from South Africa, is a pretty young guy, talk about those guys?
ERNIE ELS:  Yeah, I think, I mean you can see talent coming.  When you see it you know it's there.  And I think Rory is the most talented guy I've seen since Tiger.  He's got an all around just perfect game.  He'll have quite a bit of pressure on him with years to come.  And if he can deal with that I think he can do some really special things.  There will be a lot of expectation on his shoulders.  But he's got a great game.
You are right, I think there are great young players coming through.  I played with Rickie Fowler yesterday.  We both had a bit of an off day, but I thought he handled himself very well.  He didn't throw the toys out of the cot, so to speak.  He behaved well.  And I think we've got some really good players.
George Coetzee, as you say, a South African kid coming through, a really strong player.  There are so many young guys coming through.  And you're right again, they seem to be ready to play.  They've done their homework, it seems like.  And they come out and they are ready to play.  They're not in awe of players who have been around for a while.  So I think that's a positive thing for them.  And it's great for the game.  And it will keep pulling young talent into the professional game, which is obviously a good thing.

Q.  You have such a great record at Wentworth in the match play there.  There were years when you were almost unbeatable there.  It might surprise a few people that you don't find the same for this match play event.  Was it because your home was at Wentworth, you were staying at home when you were wining all those titles?  What's the difference, that you don't have the same feeling both ways?
ERNIE ELS:¬† I think the format is different.¬† I feel that over a 18‑hole match, we've said it so many times, it feels quite fast.¬† I'm kind of sometimes a slow starter and getting into the match.¬† And I felt on a 36‑hole match like we had at Wentworth, you know, I could feel I could get wired in.¬† And I felt my game could stand up for a long period of time.¬† And maybe grind the guy down a little bit. ¬†And I think that's why I had such a good record there.
And coming here, that's the only thing I can think of is just not sometimes getting off to good starts and getting yourself behind and then trying to get into the game.  I've lost so many games out here in this format on either the 18th hole or when it went into extra holes.  If you look at the record it's got to be close to ten matches that's gone that way.  So that's the only difference.

Q.  Tiger has had such a great run of success in match play and specifically at this tournament over the years.  Is he still somebody you look at as one of the guys to beat this week?
ERNIE ELS:  Yeah, I think so.  I think Tiger is coming back nicely.  It seems like he's getting in control of his swing and his ball flight.  He's always a danger.  And even if he's not as hot as he was a couple of years ago, he could turn it on at any time.  So I think he's definitely one of the players to watch.  And it's quite exciting to see his progress, what he's doing and how he's coming back.
CHRIS REIMER:  Thank you for coming in.  I want to remind everybody last week Ernie came to the media center at the Northern Trust Open to speak about his charitable endeavors with Els for Autism, announced that they'll go into their second year with that charity.  So I'd encourage you guys to take a look at the transcript from that and maybe speak to Ernie off to the side here if you have any questions about all the things, all the amazing things he's doing for that charity.  But thanks for coming in, and good luck this week.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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