June 18, 1994
ERNIE ELS: I have had some good rounds this year, but obviously
not in a major championship like this. Especially starting off
in the way I did. It was just you know, it was just happening
for me, that is the kind of things you are looking for. I hit
good shots and THE good shots came off for me. I was up there,
LES UNGER: Questions, please.
Q. Nick Price has great regard for your golf game. Was he an
ERNIE ELS: I met Nick for the first time in 1993 just after he
won the World Series and I was still a junior player. I won a
little tournament back in South Africa called the Mini masters.
I won that tournament and then I came to America and Nick, he
did a prize game (sic) for us, that was my first time I met Nick
Price, but I never played a lot of golf together now. I have been
playing in Europe and he has been playing in America. We played
together a couple of times in South African tournaments and what
can I say, he is a great player, nice guy too.
Q. How do you feel knowing that you are going to be the leader
going into tomorrow's round?
ERNIE ELS: I feel pretty good. Obviously you got to play as best
as you can and if you are leading the tournament after three rounds
it is kind of nice. I am going to have a lot of guys shooting
at me tomorrow, so I have to play solid golf tomorrow, but I think
I know what to do, keep on playing solid golf and just try and
keep them away.
Q. What would it mean to you to win the U.S. Open?
ERNIE ELS: What would it mean to me? Everything. I mean, it is
a major championship. I think any professional golfer in this
world would love to win a major championship and if it is U.S.
Masters, U.S. Open, British Open or PGA, it is a major championship
and I'd like to start, yeah.
Q. A week ago tonight you were leading in Westchester. What
did you learn from Sunday's round that maybe you can use tomorrow?
ERNIE ELS: Well, last Sunday I was just near a guy that was making
everything and playing really good. It was happening for him and
I was one shot behind Lee last week and we were chasing each other
and he just made the huge putts coming at the stretch at 16 and
18, so I got pretty close though. But I feel this is my week.
Q. Ernie, your yardages in on 1, 9 and 18?
ERNIE ELS: On number 1, 160 yards to the hole. That is downhill,
9-iron. Number 9, I had-- I came out of the rough had about 180
yards or something. 18, I hit 145 yards.
Q. After a fast start did Johnny Miller's 63 ever bother your
mind and what were your thoughts on that front nine?
ERNIE ELS: Not at all. I was just going to play as best I can
and that didn't really come into my mind. I guess if I made par
on number 10 maybe later it would have flown into my mind - no,
I was just trying to play my game.
Q. I noticed you chew gum during your round. How much gum do
you go through in a whole round and why do you do it?
ERNIE ELS: Actually the first time in a long time I have had gum
in my mouth. My girlfriend over there gave me gum just before
I teed off, so I just didn't really notice it in my mouth actually.
I just kept on chewing. Maybe I will chew it tomorrow again.
Q. Ernie, how aware are you of the streak foreigners who have
not won the Open and how important is that to you to break it?
ERNIE ELS: How many-- I think there have been 3? The foreign players
are doing pretty well this week. We got some good players in Europe
especially. This type of course suits Montgomerie. Frank gets
it very straight too so we have all been playing pretty well coming
into this week and I think we just getting it on. Yeah, it is
kind of funny, I think Nick Faldo came very close a couple of
years ago, what can I say? The golf course does not really suit
foreign players coming into the U.S. Open. I think you need a
couple of weeks before the U.S. Open to play and get used to the
Q. You are going to be playing with Frank tomorrow. Will that
make you more uneasy or more comfortable?
ERNIE ELS: I am playing with Frank?
ERNIE ELS: Hopefully he behaves himself. Yeah, I have played with
Frank before, you know, he is a good player, but I guess we are
going to get serious tomorrow, is a little more serious, I guess,
tomorrow, and hopefully we have a nice day tomorrow.
Q. On number 10 was it a little bit of a lack of concentration
to playing that lead to that double bogey or just a bad shot?
ERNIE ELS: I think I just tried to get too cute with that little
chip shot. Obviously, the greens are very quick from above, but
I just hit it too soft. Wasn't really a good shot. The putt also--
I guess maybe the heat got to me a little bit there, but I just
-- I don't know what happened. I just -- I could have lost concentration,
Q. Have the changes politically in South Africa made a difference
for the sportsmen there and have you noticed it in playing internationally
and the response of the public?
ERNIE ELS: It is really great what has happened in South Africa.
It's a great country. We got some good sportsmen down there, good
golfers. There is a lot of talent down there and with all the
doors Open for us, you are going to see a lot of talent coming
through in the near future, I am sure, and you know, it is really
great for our country. I think the guys are very optimistic playing
abroad and getting their name written down internationally, so
I think it is pretty good. I am very pleased the way it has been
Q. Ernie, you said a little while ago the golf courses really
don't suit the foreign players coming to the U.S.; they need a
few weeks to get used to them. What is it about these courses
that are alien to you and what do you have to do to get used to--
ERNIE ELS: I think it is the rough, the way they grow the rough
here around the greens and on the fairways. The fairways are very
narrow you know, the greens are firm and very quick. So those
are the kind of things you got to get used to before you come
here, get used to it in the practice rounds you play. I must say
I played on Monday and Tuesday and I think the greens were a little
quicker even then. So there is a lot of things you got to get
used to. Also it is a big tournament and a lot of media guys,
it is a lot of people walking around; spectators, and there is
always a lot of noise going on, so, you know, it is quite a big
thing you got to get used to.
Q. The other day you were talking about your experience in
the Majors already. But you said you learned a lot watching John
Cook play the 18th hole at Mirafield. Could you tell us what you
saw that day and how you might apply it with your own game tomorrow?
ERNIE ELS: First of all, I think John played a great round of
golf that day. I felt really sorry for him. I think he could have
been a little bit too quick on that putt on 17, but I think John
played very well that day and coming into 18, I think he just
lost his concentration when he left his second shot at right there.
But it just shows you how quick things can happen in this sport;
especially in Majors, you make a little mistake and it cost him.
I think he played really well and hopefully I would have learned
from that; especially playing tomorrow, you know, obviously you
don't want to make mistakes, but everybody is going to miss a
putt and everybody is going to hit a couple of bad shots, so that
is just par for the course.
Q. You talked about learning how to adjust here. How important
was it for you to play Westchester and also what is your schedule
up through August?
ERNIE ELS: First of all, it was a good warm-up for the U.S. Open.
And you know, as you know, I have got a couple of invites onto
this tour this year and Westchester was one of my invites. It
was perfect. It was a good warm-up for this tournament and it
is a good test of golf. It is not as demanding as the U.S. Open
courses, but it is that type of golf course. It is an old fashioned
course and with no hazards and stuff. It was a good warm-up for
me last week. Next year I will be playing almost -- well, maybe
a full schedule over here. I will play at least 15 tournaments
and just have to take it from there.
Q. How about the rest of this year; any others?
ERNIE ELS: I am going back to Europe next week. I am playing Scottish;
British opens; Dutch Opens; Scandinavian Opens; so I will be playing
those couple of tournaments and I will be coming back for the
PGA the week before.
LES UNGER: Ernie, thank you. See you tomorrow.
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