June 20, 1994
LES UNGER: How does it feel?
ERNIE ELS: Great. Unbelievable. The dream come true for me.
I just wish my parents were here, man. I don't know what my
dad would have done. I am still waiting for Sam, my manager,
and Mo, one of my best friends, he said last night that they would
run naked on the 18th green. What happened, boys? It is just
unbelievable. We never-- I mean never really played well. We
got off to a terrible start and I just tried to hang in there.
I said to Colin a couple of times today, you know, we are not
playing very well and I guess it was just good enough.
LES UNGER: After the second hole, did you have a frustrated
feeling; wish you could go back and start again?
ERNIE ELS: Yes. Just like that. You know, after I hit that
chip shot from the third tee right across the green as I was walking
down there I said to Ricky, my caddie, I said, "why in the
hell did I make that putt at 18 yesterday to get into this thing?"
I just wanted to get out of there. But then I tried to compose
myself and I hit a couple of good shots on the third and I hit
a long putt in on the third hole that kind of got me back a little
LES UNGER: Us entertain questions, here.
Q. Ernie, I am willing to wager that after this victory many
people will try to put the label on you as the next great player.
How do you propose to handle that?
ERNIE ELS: Just you know, I have always wanted to win a major.
I have always wanted to win any of the four Majors and it has
kind of come pretty early for me hopefully, I will be ready for
it. I will have to take sometime off and really think about it
all, but I just -- I don't think it is going to change me as a
person. If people want to label me as the next whatever player,
good for them. I want to do it my way; people got to be a little
patient with me, I guess. I am going to play a lot of tournaments.
I want to play well in the tournaments that I play in. And people
are going to maybe expect me to win every week, but it is not
going to happen. I have played well this week. I have won this
week. It was a major, okay, but we have got a long road ahead
Q. The conventional wisdom is that U.S. Open's are won by
the straightest hitters and steadiest players, I guess. How would
you respond to that now?
LES UNGER: I have a feeling he knew the question.
ERNIE ELS: No, I don't know, you know, I played pretty well
for the 3 rounds, first 3 rounds I played wonderful golf. I hit
the ball straight. I hit it onto the greens. I gave myself so
many opportunities for birdies; then the fourth round I kind of
lost it a little bit, I guess. I didn't hit the ball very well
yesterday. It was a different golf course. As I said yesterday,
it was hard and fast. Today, I got off to that horrific start.
I never really felt comfortable, but we just got very deep today
and we brought it out. Whenever I had a putt to make I made that
putt. I chipped and putted really well. I knew it wasn't-- nobody
was going to make a lot of birdies today. I think it was a tough
day for all three of us. And I made a lot of good putts for pars.
Q. Ernie, the victory gives you the 10 year exemption on
PGA Tour I guess if you wanted. Will you consider staying in
America and being a regular here or will you travel back and forth?
ERNIE ELS: I think I will play a lot more tournaments the next
year. Hopefully I will play 15 tournaments. But I will always
play around the world, I think. For the time being, I am still
pretty young and I can travel around, but I will play Europe,
I will play America, I will play more in America; play Japan,
I will play all over the place. But I will play-- I think I will
keep my card in America, I will play a lot more, yeah.
Q. Just a follow up on that question, will you change your
schedule at all for the rest of this year to play more than you
have in this country?
ERNIE ELS: Well, I have got -- we got our commitments in Europe,
you know, obviously won the U.S. Open now, but I would like to
keep everything the same still, I'd like to play in the tournaments
where I have committed myself to play in Europe. I am going to
play those tournaments in Europe leading up to the British Open
and after, so I have got a couple of tournaments left over there,
but we will see how it goes the end of the year. I might play
a couple more, yeah, we will see.
Q. Ernie, at any point did you think this was almost a hopeless
case today; that you were just playing --
ERNIE ELS: I thought maybe after the second hole, I thought,
"man, what are you doing out there." You know, but
after that, after I made birdie on number 3, you know, I got myself
a little more back on track; especially after Loren made a double
on number 5; we weren't playing well, but I was back in the game
and you know, after nine holes we were right there, but I think
after the second hole, yes, I was-- I didn't know where I was
Q. What is your caddie's name Ernie and what part did he
play in your win?
ERNIE ELS: My caddie's real name is Richard Roberts, I call
him Ricky. He was kind of aggressive with me out there today.
He always is. But I think he really kept me on track; kept my
mind focused. We made a couple of bad decisions on 12, but you
are going to make bad decisions, but Ricky really, it was a great
help for me, you know, coming up the 18th, you know, we really--
whole time he just tell me, just hang in there, get in there and
that is exactly what we did and you know, we pulled it off, man,
and Ricky great we are going to celebrate.
Q. Can you talk about the putts at 17 and 18 having to make
them on top of having to watch Roberts do it?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, even if Loren missed his putts, I still-- I
knew had to make those putts. I missed a couple yesterday, but
I made a couple of putts leading up to 16 and 17 already, so I
was at least my swing wasn't in the right rhythm but my putting
stroke was. I was feeling pretty confident with my putts. The
greens were running beautifully today. Even if Loren didn't make
those putts, I am sure I would have made them because I was very
focused at that point.
Q. Did it shake you for a moment when you got to the 18th
fairway and found the ball at the edge of that divot hole?
ERNIE ELS: My drive?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I mean, I walked up a little closer to see
if it was in the divot. It was this far away from it. I thought,
well, this must be my day.
Q. Could you just say what you hit there on the second playoff
hole and what statement, if any, does this make about foreign
ERNIE ELS: Off the tee on the 11th second playoff I hit a 2-iron
off the tee and 9-iron for my second shot.
Q. How far?
ERNIE ELS: It was 150 yards away from the hole.
Q. Ernie, second South African to win the U.S. Open. What,
if any, relationship do you have with Gary Player] And how will
this win play in your country?
ERNIE ELS: Well, Gary actually sent me a little note this morning,
it was hanging in my locker, and you know, just wished me all
the best and that is great to follow in his foot steps, at least
in this tournament. I think he has won this maybe once or twice,
I don't know how many times, but it is really nice to be the next
South African to win this great major championship. It keeps
our country on the map and we got a lot of talent back home and
you are going to see some more good players coming through, I
am sure of that.
Q. How did the two saving putts on the back 9 help you in
terms of keep you in the match?
ERNIE ELS: Which ones?
Q. The 13 and 14th.
ERNIE ELS: 13, that was a big putt, I think that was the biggest
putt today, you know, after 12 we made that bogey on 12; I was
a little down on myself and I hit terrible tee shot there and
after I made that putt, I kept us in there and then 15.
Q. How far was it?
ERNIE ELS: The one on 13 must have been 18 feet. One on 15
must have been about 10 feet. I knocked the first putt way past
but I knew coming down the stretch, we were all kind of tense
out there and I just had to make those pars and you know, when
I had the opportunity for birdie I made the birdie, so I will
just hung in there.
Q. Could you talk about the play of your two partners?
ERNIE ELS: I played with Colin a couple of times. Colin obviously
didn't have a very good day today. I am sure he is going to win
a major soon. He is a great player. He won Volvo, and a European
tournament last year. He is top 10 in the rankings. People in
America don't really know him that well. He is a good player.
Roberts, he is having his best year of his career this year.
Great person, really was very nice to play with both of them.
I think Loren played, could I say, the steadiest golf of the
three of us today. He hit a couple of greens and he kept it in
play all the time. Myself and Colin were scrambling around the
place, but I am sure Roberts is also going to win a big tournament
a major soon.
Q. On the last hole 15 feet going into 2-putt to par, can
you talk about what went through your mind when the first putt
went by 3 feet and when it went in the hole?
ERNIE ELS: First of all, the first putt I had-- I left it in
a pretty good spot to get my second shot in. Believe me, I tried
to leave that putt short. I don't know how that, you know, just
went passed the hole; must have hit it too hard. I mean, I was
pretty nervous at that stage. One coming back, I didn't take
too much time out of it. I was just going to get up there and
knock it in the hole and get it over and done with. That is exactly
what I did.
Q. Ernie, your father is low handicap player. Did he introduce
you to golf and can you give us an idea of what it was like when
you were 6, 8, ten years old and learning the game back home?
ERNIE ELS: My dad used to be a low handicap golfer; not anymore.
He is about a 9 now. He started us-- my-- I have got an older
brother. He started us playing golf when we were young. I was
back home. I was pulling his golf bag around when I was younger.
I was never really any good until I was about 13 when I won a
pretty nice tournament as a junior; came over to this country
to San Diego, won the junior world, the 13 and 14 age group and
that got me on the road, you know, I was a pretty good tennis
player, but I through that out of my -- I didn't play anymore
tennis after that not serious tennis anymore, and concentrated
Q. I know it may be painful but can you go number 2, the
ERNIE ELS: First of all, I went with a 4-iron off the tee; get
it into play. I kind of missed it a little bit, just in the semi-rough.
The ball was lying pretty nice. Hit it about 130 yards to the
hole. Also I had to hit it with a wedge -- hit a wedge pretty
solid to get. . I thought I'd get it up high and the ball just
took off. It just flew. It went straight over the green; hard
bounce into that bush or whatever that was, and I was dead. I
played a little drop; I tried just to knock it on a 2-putt. I
hit way too hard; went down the green and took three more from
there. Never hit a good shot on that hole.
LES UNGER: Was that ball close to being lost or was it found
ERNIE ELS: Well there, was a Marshall standing there, so he
saw the ball go into the bush and we found it there.
Q. Do you plan on playing in your home country that much
anymore? What commitments do you keep in your home country?
ERNIE ELS: I will play South African Open. I'd like to play
in South Africa, but not much anymore. I have only played four
times -- five times I lost there and I think it is-- I might play
one or two this year, so I'd like to play there, but the timing
is always kind of wrong. We start the season overseas pretty
early in these days, so the timing is not really right.
Q. Was this broadcast live back to South Africa; were people
able to watch it?
ERNIE ELS: I don't know. I guess maybe it is a delayed transmission,
maybe. What time-- we played at ten o'clock, that is 4, what,
that is 6 hours yeah, maybe, I don't know. We will phone back
home just now.
Q. Ernie, yesterday you pulled a lot of tee shots especially
with your woods. Now, this morning, do you work that out on the
tee and what was your feeling when you got on the first tee and,
boom, hit it right there on the left again?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I worked on it this morning. I got the shoulder
back. I hit my drive left and right. I kind of got driving practice
too -- I guess every time I got quick at the ball, trying to hit
it, it goes left, and I never gave myself time on my swing on
the first tee and I hit it way left again, and you know, kind
of got me angry at the first tee but it was a long way to go.
I never hit my driver well the last two days, so I will have
to work on that, I guess.
Q. When was the first time you actually started thinking
about winning a major championship? Did you -- where were you
when you started thinking about that kind of stuff?
ERNIE ELS: I think two years ago when I played with John Cook
and I lost when John missed that short putt on 17, and we were
in the second last group together. I hit a 74. I kind of got
the feeling, you know, of playing the last day, you know, all
the people were there and all the pressure and that kind of stuff,
so I actually kind of enjoyed it that day. I learned a lot from
that day, and you know, I kind of got the feeling then.
Q. Just a follow up. Did you play in South Africa this year,
ERNIE ELS: Yeah. I played three tournaments in South Africa
Q. Ernie, how big was Roberts' misput at 16, do you think?
ERNIE ELS: His putt on 16, how long was it?
Q. No, what was your thought, how big was it when he missed
ERNIE ELS: You know, as I said, I was going to make either two
or three. I wanted to put my score on the board first. I think
I was-- was I one shot behind then? I think I was one shot behind.
That was a big swing there, I think I knew I could birdie the
17th, that would kind of get tight then, pretty tight at 16.
Q. Roberts is one of the better putters going in. What were
your thoughts when you saw that putt on number 11 almost going
in. If that had gone in it might have changed things, what were
ERNIE ELS: Might have changed things. Maybe I would have tried
to make it. I mean he hit an unbelievable putt. I mean, I thought
it was going -- I was standing to the left of him and I was watching--
the ball got up there and I thought, whoa, this might go in, and
it hit the hole, and kind of changed into my favor, I mean, I
wouldn't think he would 3-putt from there; tried to 2-putt. If
it went in, maybe I would have made mine, you never know.
Q. After what happened yesterday at 17, did you ever consider
not hitting the driver there today,?
ERNIE ELS: Well, from last Monday from my first practice round
I always went with the driver. I think one practice round that
I hit an iron off the tee to see where it goes. But, no, I was
always going for the green; thought that I could reach that green
in one shot. The pin was back again, back left which made it
easy for me, missed the green left, I could always chip it up
close to the hole, maybe and make the putt. Yeah, I was aiming
or the green there.
Q. Now, you reached a major goal today with your victory.
Do you have any other general goals for your year whenever you
think about it?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I'd like to you know, obviously people are
going to look up and say, you must win a lot of tournaments now,
but this is the biggest tournament of my whole life. I'd like
to enjoy it. I'd like to enjoy playing the game. I have got
a long road ahead of me. I just want to go out there enjoy my
game, whatever happens, happens, and if I get the opportunity
to win a major again that will be great. I am sure those opportunities
will be there in the future.
Q. When did you look at the leader board coming down the
ERNIE ELS: I didn't have to look at the leader board. Come on.
LES UNGER: We got last one or not.
Q. On the 18th tee did you ever consider not hitting a driver?
ERNIE ELS: After pretty good driver on 17, no, I was going with
the driver down 18. I could take the bunker out of play left
and I was just going to smash it as hard as I could down 18.
That is when I hit it the best, I think.
Q. Ernie, do you think your victory might open some eyes
of some other foreign players; show them you don't have to be
necessarily be straight down the fairway and can play in the U.S.
ERNIE ELS: Definitely. I think that this has opened the door
for a lot of guys, to show them that the foreign guys can do it
over here. In a way, I must have been very fortunate to have
won this tournament the way I have hit it the last two days.
But definitely it is, I think you have to watch Mr. Montgomerie
in the future. I think he is going to get pretty close.
LES UNGER: Anything you want to say in closing?
ERNIE ELS: I want to thank you guys for being pretty patient
with us this week. Don't write too much nasty stuff tomorrow
about our game today. I know we didn't play that well. Thank
you guys; hopefully we will see you pretty soon again.
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