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June 16, 1994

Ernie Els


LES UNGER: Overall feelings about your game and would you compare the practice round course that you played to the course you played today.

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, well, my first practice round was a Monday. It was a totally different golf course. I think the greens this morning were a little slower than on Tuesday. That was my last practice round. I didn't play yesterday. The greens are-- I mean, if you hit a good shot, the ball is going to stop and I think the greens are pretty fair at the moment, if they keep the pins on nice spots for us.

Q. Last week you attacked the par fives. You played them, I think, 10 or 11 under last week. Today you struggled with it. Was there a different strategy?

ERNIE ELS: No, it wasn't different strategy. I just couldn't keep my driver on the golf course. The first par 5 I pulled my drive way left and I had no chance going for the green. I hit it perfect 7 iron; bad second shot and the pin was in a pretty difficult position and I 3-putted. The other one was, where was it, 12, good drive down there. I was kind of unlucky. Had a good second shot - if it was 3 yards to the right, it would have been down on the green, it just caught the bunker, but I think the par fives are a little bit more difficult over here. Especially with the greens, I mean, you can hit it on the green for two and still 3-putt, so they are pretty demanding. I'd like to play them better tomorrow.

Q. So far it seems like you play well in 3 of the 4 majors including this one last year. What do you focus on to keep you relaxed and composed and in a field such as this and a course this difficult?

ERNIE ELS: I don't really know. You know, I like to look at the leader board; see what is going on. I was never really close to anybody today until I got a guy in the back nine. I don't know. I am just trying to play every shot as it comes. You can only give your best on every shot and keep your concentration going; don't get too tense out there, and that is hard to do. It is only the first round. I think by Sunday it is going to get a little bit more tense. But the golf course is so hard, you know that if you make level par, you are going to be down about there somewhere and I like that.

Q. Ernie, you told me Tuesday that you did not consider yourself a contender for this championship. Did your play today exceed your expectations or did you expect people to play better than you today?

ERNIE ELS: Well, I guess when I said that to you yesterday, I didn't want to get myself all tensed up. And I just wanted to go out there and not think about being a favorite for this week. And the way I started off I was -- that is the way I played. It didn't look like I was a favorite. But you know, I just tried to keep it calm and play every shot as it comes and obviously, now I think things might change in the next three days. I might have to think that I am up there now.

Q. Ernie, would you talk about your thoughts about Jack, you growing up and as you were younger what you read about Jack Nicholas?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I think Jack Nicholas is a little bit before my time, but I have played with him twice. I played with him last year at the PGA and I guess I got a little nervous on the first tee and I missed the cut, but it is really - it is great to see the best golfer ever at this time to really play this well. It is really great to see him on the leading board leading the golf tournament and, you know, just have to see how it goes, the last three days, but you know, obviously I have read most of his books and watched most of his videos, so you know, he is a legend.

Q. Is the weather comparable to what you have in South Africa, and does it bother you if it isn't the same?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, the weather is not -- we get pretty warm back home, but nothing close to this, I don't think. Not where I am from, Johannesburg, it is pretty dry, but warm. This is just ridiculously hot, I think. I think the fittest man will survive by Sunday, I think. It is really hot.

Q. Could you say what your yard damage was in on 9 and 10 and what was your strategy for using the driver this week?

ERNIE ELS: On 9 and 10? On 9 I ironed 72 yards to the front of the green and the flag was 40 yards, something, so I tried to just fly it to the front of the green. Number 10, I had 154 yards or something, but I was coming out of the rough so it was going to fly and the ball just went straight through. You know, some of the holes when I am going obviously on the par fives, I am going to use my driver, you know. If I get it down the fairway, I have got a shot at the green. And some of the par fours, I can use my driver where I can take the bunkers out of play, like 17, if I hit it solid, I can get it near the green up there, and then 18, also with the bunkers on the left, I think it's 265 out and if I hit a good one, I can fly the bunker and take that out of play, so some of the holes, the driver is going to benefit my game; take the trouble out of play.

LES UNGER: I think that is it.

ERNIE ELS: Thank you.

End of FastScripts....

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