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June 1, 1996

Ernie Els


WES SEELEY: Ernie Els, summarize your day for us.

ERNIE ELS: I started off nice. I had a good day, I think. First time 9, missed a couple of putts again, but on the 11th hole everything turned around for me when I chipped it in at 8 from about 30 yards and I had a good back 9. I am hitting the ball nice and solid. The golf course is really playing great. I am really enjoying myself out there. I am looking forward to tomorrow.

WES SEELEY: Take us through the round.

ERNIE ELS: From the first hole?

WES SEELEY: Not necessarily. Birdies, bogeys.

ERNIE ELS: I birdied the 7th hole. I hit a drive, laid up with a 3-iron sand iron to about 12 feet and made it. Then I chipped in on the 11 for eagle. I hit drive and 2-iron just short of the green, then I birdied.

Q. What did you have on your second shot?

ERNIE ELS: I had 230 something yards to the front.

Q. You miss-hit--

ERNIE ELS: I hit it pretty good. I just pulled it about five yards. If I hit it more to the right, I think it would have pitched on the front edge and --

Q. How far were you from the hazard?

ERNIE ELS: I was quite away. I was never really in the hazard.

Q. Did you have a good lie or --

ERNIE ELS: Lie was fine; uphill.

Q. Sitting up?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, it was fine. No problem.

Q. Did you even look at it to see how much room you had between the water and the ball or no?

ERNIE ELS: No, it wasn't in a hazard. Hazard line was another three feet down. It wasn't all that bad. I birdied 13. I had a weak drive to the right, 7-iron to about 25 feet and holed that for birdie. And then I birdied 15. I hit a drive and a 3-iron just right of the green, pitched it out of the heavy stuff and knocked it in about a 2-footer there for birdie. I bogeyed 16, hit a really dumb shot there. I tried to go for the flag with a 4-iron and pulled it to the left and didn't have a very good lie in the thick stuff again, and I hacked it out there about 10 feet and missed it. I made another mistake on 17. I had a really perfect drive. Had 116 yards to the hole and took a sand iron and couldn't hit it hard enough. I had a good lie in the bunker and got it up-and-down. 18, I left it short of the mouth; thought the putt was going to be a little quicker than it was.

Q. How long was the putt at 18?

ERNIE ELS: It was about 20 something feet, something like that.

Q. Nicklaus was always a hero of yours. How did Watson measure up?

ERNIE ELS: He is right up there. I have played with Tom a couple of practice rounds this year and really admire Tom for his golf through the years. He has won eight Majors. Hasn't won a tournament since, I think, '87 or something. Got a great record. He is such a great competitor, you know. Although he hasn't won a tournament, he has been in the top 5, I am sure, a couple of times, top 10 couple of times in the Majors, and you know, he is a great player.

Q. What do you think it is going to be like playing in the final group with him on Sunday, chance to win; is that something you have ever fantasized about or what will it be like?

ERNIE ELS: We will have to wait until tomorrow. I am looking forward to it, though. I haven't played with any of the great players in the final round. It is going to be great. I feel we are both playing well and we have a good round, if nobody really plays badly tomorrow and the guy that plays the best golf wins and not like, you know, somebody plays bad and somebody else, you know, just walks away with it.

Q. Are you prepared for the fact that he will obviously be the crowd favorite since he hasn't won in so long?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah. I feel it won't be too much of a problem. I guess it is only fair, you know, for the fans to see Tom playing this well. He won this tournament back in '79, so he has been around a long time, longer than me, anyway, he has got a better record than me, so it is not going to be -- I should try and get myself ready for it, I guess.

Q. Was there anybody when you grew up that you really wanted to play around with, like be in contention with; was there anybody you dreamed of playing with?

ERNIE ELS: Not really. I guess it would have been nice to maybe have played with Gary Player in a final round. I mean, all of the greats -- I mean, any golfer would love to play with one of the greats.

Q. Ernie, you said yesterday you have been working really hard on your game. You were kind of surprised that it really hasn't clicked for you yet. What has been clicking the last two days?

ERNIE ELS: My mind, I think. I am more patient, I think, this week. I am not too hard on myself. I am swinging it well. I am feeling comfortable over the golf ball. When everything is comfortable, you know, you don't think about too many things. You can just go out and play golf and just see the shot and play it. You are still not thinking about your golf swing or anything about other things, I am a little bit more comfortable this week.

Q. Why are you not so hard on yourself this week? Did you have a talk with yourself or did somebody have a talk with you recently or why have you changed all of a sudden?

ERNIE ELS: No idea. Probably a week off last week and took it easy and hit some balls and I guess when I came here this week, it was starting to click. I wouldn't know.

Q. You have been trying -- they were commenting on television Nicklaus and Melnyk that you are making some changes in your golf swing. Is that true or is it just finetuning or are you trying to make a different move?

ERNIE ELS: No, just trying to be comfortable.

Q. So it is your same basic swing as the last three, four years?

ERNIE ELS: I would say so. What are you, a good teacher?

Q. No, I am not, not at all; not even a good student, but it just --

ERNIE ELS: Do you think I made changes? How does it look like to you?

Q. No. That is why I cited Nicklaus.

ERNIE ELS: No, I guess I am just feeling pretty comfortable.

Q. With a swing like that, I would too.

ERNIE ELS: Thank you.

End of FastScripts....

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