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WGC BRIDGESTONE INVITATIONAL


August 1, 2012


Ernie Els


AKRON, OHIO

LAURA HILL:  We'd like to welcome Ernie Els to the interview room.  Welcome to the Bridgestone Invitational as the recently minted British Open champion.  Talk about your expectations for this week, how you've found the course so far and going into this event.
ERNIE ELS:  Yeah, I played a couple holes yesterday, played 13 holes or so yesterday, and I must say, the greens are as fast as I've ever seen them.  But the course is in unbelievable shape.  I know that they've had a bit of rough weather up here, a lot of heat, but the course is in as good a shape as I've ever seen it.
I've still got to get used to the speed of the greens.  They are as fast as I've ever seen anything.  We'll do a bit of work this afternoon and get ready for the week.

Q.  I was always curious about something.  When you went home to London on Sunday night, Monday morning, what was that like walking in the door?  Who was there?
ERNIE ELS:¬† Just my family and basically my neighbor.¬† He's a South African down there, him and his wife, and Johann Rupert and his wife, the head of the South African Tour, Selwyn Nathan, and actually one of my ex‑caddies came down on the helicopter with us, Mikey Kerr.¬† Just hung out and watched a little bit of the golf here and there, which they showed, and just had a great time.

Q.¬† You were four shots behind walking up the 16th fairway, you walk in the door with that jug.¬† What was the reaction of‑‑ it all sunk in for them, I guess.
ERNIE ELS:  Yeah, I don't know.  The whole thing happened quite fast.  I mean, I didn't see what Scotty did obviously in live play.  I was on the putting green.  But I heard, Andy was kind of reporting back to us.
And then I basically switched my telephone on and had friends reporting to me what was going on.  But it happened quite fast.  I was obviously just praying to get in a playoff.  The way it finished, I still feel for Scotty, but this one came my way for once.  But I do feel for what Scotty did.

Q.  Lastly, what are you, 42?
ERNIE ELS:  Yeah, 43.

Q.  How old do you feel now in terms of majors and what you've achieved?
ERNIE ELS:¬† Well, you know, I mean, I am what I am.¬† Stats are against you at our age.¬† But I think the 40‑somethings have really proven themselves through the years.¬† You can go back to Mark O'Meara, you can even go further back to Ray Floyd, you can go back to Hale Irwin, you can go back to Ben Hogan.¬† He won quite a few.¬† Vijay Singh, myself, Darren Clarke, I mean, you're talking about quite a few guys in their 40s who have won majors.¬† I know you guys like to write us off, but it's‑‑ the game of golf is such that you get lucky every now and again, and I definitely got lucky the other day.

Q.  Adam was in here just a little while ago.  It seems like he's handling it very well.  You know him well.  You've been in that situation before.  Would you have expected anything differently from him?
ERNIE ELS:  No, Scotty is a great guy.  He's an upstanding guy.  He faces the music, as you like to see professional golfers do.  I did speak to him last night briefly at the hotel, asked him what he was up to last year.  He had his father with him.  They were in Switzerland up in Crans, and it sounded like they had a good time.
I think‑‑ he said he played Kiawah the other day.¬† The pain is there, I know that.¬† But he's handling it unbelievably well, and I truly think that he now believes he can win multiple majors.¬† He had an opportunity.¬† It didn't quite happen his way.
But if you look back, Nick Price in the early '80s did the same, basically gifted Tom Watson one at Troon, I think, in '82, and there's been quite a few situations like that.
So he's not the only one.  And he's young enough where he can bounce back and win quite a few, as I said.

Q.  Was that the first time you had spoken with him since, last night?
ERNIE ELS:  Well, we obviously spoke after at the prize giving a couple weeks ago, and then we did text each other quite a few times last week.  But that was the first time I spoke to him, actually physically spoke to him, was last night.

Q.  What did you text to him?
ERNIE ELS:¬† We just‑‑ just buddy stuff.¬† You want to know everything now.

Q.  Adam was in here and said that there was a period of time early on that he probably wasn't focused enough or couldn't get it done in majors and he really has taken the last couple years and focused and obviously two years ago had somewhat of a chance at Augusta and then this year had a chance at the British.  What did you take from your defeats and use to finally get over the hump?
ERNIE ELS:¬† Well, you're right there.¬† I've had some defeats, and then I've blown a couple.¬† But like I said to Scotty after the Sunday final round, I said, please, don't take it as hard as I did.¬† I mean, you guys that have been around a while have seen I'm quite hard on myself, especially after the Open Championship in '04 where I felt I should probably‑‑ in a selfish way felt I should have won it.¬† But Todd Hamilton won that tournament fair and square and capitalized on the mistakes that I made and won the golf tournament.
And then there's one that Phil Mickelson won, beat me.  You know, they're all hard to take.  Or they were for me because I was trying to chase a little bit of history for myself and trying to win the four majors, the Grand Slam and so forth, and obviously the Masters is up there and so forth.
I can go all the way back to 1996‑‑ 1995, excuse me, at the PGA at Riviera.¬† I had a three‑shot lead going to the final round there, and I still think about that horseshoe putt on the 16th hole, that par‑3 that came out of the hole.¬† I bogeyed 17, which was a par‑5, and lost the tournament.¬† I didn't get into a playoff.
You know, you play the game long enough, you're going to have some disappointments, probably more disappointments than victories.  I took some of them pretty hard and harshly and probably cost me in tournaments right after that where I didn't quite get the best out of my game.

Q.  After winning a couple weeks ago, the idea of a career Grand Slam last year may not have been something worth thinking about.  But after last week and now going to Kiawah next week, is it now on your mind again?
ERNIE ELS:  I just want to get ready again.  I felt like I wasn't quite ready for competitive golf last week, and it was a bit of a whirlwind last week at the RBC Canadian Open.  This week I'm trying to get some work done and get in shape for next week.
To be honest with you, I don't think‑‑ I know I'm not thinking about a Grand Slam or anything like that.¬† I'm just really taking in this fourth major that came my way.¬† It's going to be really great to get with the family next week eventually, having a week with them at a house at Kiawah, which is great.¬† It's the last week of summer holidays, so we'll enjoy that, and I want to be ready to play proper golf next week.¬† So we'll take it from there.

Q.  I hate to ask you one more thing about Adam, but his resilience seems somewhat rare, or at least he says this could be the last piece of the puzzle that I need.  Does that surprise you about his personality?
ERNIE ELS:  Well, I think he's made some changes.  You know, he changed his schedule a little bit, I think since last year.  Seems like he hasn't played as much, and obviously he wants to be really focused at the tournaments that he does play in.  He made a caddie change.  He went to Steve Williams, and he's quite a character himself.  He's a strong character, Steve is.  A little unlike Adam because I've known Adam since a long time.
Obviously he did it for a purpose, to have somebody really drive him, and Steve is that kind of a guy.  So yeah, he's obviously thought about what he wanted to do to get to the next level, and I think whether you agree with him or not, I think he's probably on the right road because he's won World Championship events now, he's won normal Tour events now, he's won internationally, and he's almost won a major.  So I think he's on the right track.

Q.  Open Champions don't usually have a good record coming off of an Open Championship.  With that being said, how do you approach this week?  What are you looking forward to?
ERNIE ELS:¬† Well, that's a good one, because although I love this event and this golf course, I don't have a great record here.¬† And as you know or rightly mentioned, after a major‑‑ hopefully last week I got all the cobwebs off and all the craziness and hopefully can have a decent week this week.¬† I'm going to try and prepare properly for this event.¬† At least I gave myself a little bit more time than you did last week.
I'll really play this week with next week in mind but really try and do better here this week.  I haven't had a top 10 or sniffed a top 5 here for many, many years, so I'd actually love to have a decent week here this week.

Q.  A couple times you've referenced the work you've done with Sherylle Calder and how much she's helped you.  Can you go back to when that started and did you buy in right away or did it take some convincing for you to go down that path that she's been helping you?
ERNIE ELS:¬† Well, I've known her over 10 years.¬† I'm a big rugby lover, and Sherylle, she's worked in a lot of sports, but obviously worked with our Springbok rugby team.¬† The Springboks go to‑‑ in November, they go to Great Britain and Ireland, and normally when we lived in England, I'd always be on the bandwagon there watching rugby and going around with the players and basically after games partying with them.
And obviously I gave Sherylle and some of the staff a lift back to London on our plane, I think it was about in '03 or something, and we did briefly talk about it.  Not actually briefly, she really wanted to start working with me because she really felt she could help me, but back then I think I was No.2 or 3 in the world and pretty bulletproof.  I didn't really think I needed anybody's help.
It's funny how times change.¬† I mean, 10 years later almost, and Johann Rupert actually really wanted me to start working with her again.¬† I actually saw Sherylle in January in Fancourt, and I was‑‑ as everybody saw last year and the start of this year, I was pretty desperate on the greens and thought I'll give it a go and see what it's really all about, and we started working.¬† I lost in a playoff at my first event, still being quite awkward on the greens.
And I felt just things that she was‑‑ just little patch‑up stuff for that week was things that she took me right back into my heyday on the greens in the late '90s with exactly the things that I would do without even thinking about.¬† It just shows you how far I went off the beaten track.
She really brought me back, and then we started working on things that she's really experienced at.

Q.  Do you speak to her daily during tournaments or just prior to an event?
ERNIE ELS:  Well, I've got kind of a program that I'm on, that I work on physically actually with my eyes and then on the golf course and on the putting greens and where I practice.  I've got a much better routine.  I didn't have much of a routine.  Like in your long game, there's a certain routine that you go through, and we're just going back to basics basically and getting a proper routine and so forth.
She's with me on TOUR now through next week, and when she's not on TOUR we speak on a daily basis.

Q.  What did you do in the '90s?  Can you be more specific what you went back to and what you had gotten away from?
ERNIE ELS:  Well, I was just a lot more quiet, my eyes, my head was quiet, my hands were softer, just a lot of confidence.  And I think going through the TOUR and through the mill a little bit, through a lot of battles, you get a little battle scarred and you don't quite trust yourself that much anymore.  You get a little tight on putts.  So just going back to basics.

Q.  Did you ever come close at all to losing faith in her program or her process from a couple early wiggles in the year, Tampa, New Orleans?
ERNIE ELS:  I don't think I ever doubted her, and thank goodness she didn't doubt me.  We were right on track from the first time we actually spent time together.  And with all the wobbles that I had in March and through the year not winning, it obviously hurt, but I really felt this time it was something I could really stick to.  I felt if I stuck with it, things would only get better, and that's the way it turned out, and we've still got a lot of work to do.  I feel like I want to get back into the short putter through the FedEx and so forth.  So there's still plenty of work to do.

Q.  You want to get back to the short putter when?
ERNIE ELS:  Well, I'm thinking we'll see, but by the end of the year or so.  But don't cast that in stone.  I think I've still got four years maybe with the long putter (laughter), so I've still got a bit of time.  But eventually I want to get to the short putter because I feel back in the day that was my best method of putting.

Q.  When you think of Greg Norman as a golfer, what's the first thing you think of?
ERNIE ELS:¬† Well, the Shark.¬† He used to attack a golf course.¬† I played a lot of golf with Greg.¬† I used to love playing with him because he had a great attitude towards the game, very aggressive player.¬† He taught me a lot of things in the short game.¬† I loved the way he drove the ball.¬† But just a guy that‑‑ he also brought people into the gates.¬† Really a‑‑ what's the word?¬† A charismatic player.
LAURA HILL:  Ernie, thanks so much.  Good luck this week.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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