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June 14, 1996

Ernie Els


LES UNGER: Ernie, please, some general observations and then take us through your key holes.

ERNIE ELS: Well, I had a good start, too. I played well in the first 9. I birdied the second hole. Got off to a nice start there, and hit some really good shots on the first 9. Finished 3-under the front 9, and I tried to keep it in there. Birdied the 10th hole to go to 4-under. Really started hitting the ball very well, started playing nicely. You know, looked like at 13 and 14, I could have -- where I had 18 footers for birdies there, I could have really had a nice round going, but I missed those putts and then I 3-putted on 15, and you know, still very pleased with my round, 67. Back in contention, a lot of players in contention though now, but I am looking forward to the weekend and kind of a little surprised. I wanted to get back to even par before the day started. I thought that would have been five shots behind, but I am one behind and I am looking forward to the weekend.

LES UNGER: Be a little more specific on your birdies, please.

ERNIE ELS: I birdied the second hole. Hit driver and 4-iron to about six feet and 2-putted. Fourth hole: Driver, wedge to about four feet. 7: I hit driver again, 7-iron to about 25 feet, made that for birdie. And 10: I hit a driver, 8-iron to about ten feet. Made that for birdie.


ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I hit the ball pretty well today. I saved on 16. Out of the bunker, left of the green, hit it out, made about a 10-footer there for par. The rest of the way, I 2-putted, except for 12, also -- excuse me, I hit my second shot just left of the green and it plugged into the side of the bunker there and, you know, I just kind of hit a shot there; got the ball out of the lie. It was in and hit a good bunker shot for my fourth shot to about 30-yard bunker shot to about ten feet and made that for par. But other than that, I hit most of the greens and I 2-putted for most of my pars.

LES UNGER: Did you consider taking a drop from that lie in the bunker?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah -- no, I thought you know, if I just made contact, the ball is going to come out of its lie and it was on quite a steep slope. I thought the ball was going to run down into the bunker and, yeah, almost went into my footprint there but got lucky, got out of my footprint. I had a lie there and made a good up-and-down for 5.

LES UNGER: Questions, please.

Q. Why did you not think of taking a drop in the bunker was there a reason for that?

ERNIE ELS: Never thought about it.

Q. Never had a worse lie in a bunker?

ERNIE ELS: I don't think so. I have had some bad lies, but that is probably in the top 3 on my list.

Q. Ernie, 21 golfers within three shots, is that typical U.S. Open and is that because as Payne mentioned earlier that the quality of the player is so much stronger as these tournaments come around?

ERNIE ELS: I don't know if it is typical U.S. Open. It is only my fourth U.S. Open playing so you would probably know more than I do. It is close -- I think Payne Stewart, he came back to the field a little bit. He had it going good there at one stage. He was 4 under -- 5-under at one stage, that is what I thought, 36 hole total would have been, the leader would have been 5-under. But he came back and he brought a lot of other guys back into the picture. Still, you know, if you are under par, you are going to be up in the tournament somewhere and you are going to be in the top 5, probably, and I think the score, as it is now, that is probably going to be the winning score on Sunday.

Q. Ernie, will you draw on your experience from Oakmont, your Championship there, and how much so coming into the weekend?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I hope so. I think I picked up a lot of experience there at Oakmont. I went through 90 holes there on a very demanding golf course. I don't think that golf course is as tough as this one, but still a lot of experience I picked up there and hopefully that is going to help me. I think you know, guys that are going to do well this week have won Majors before or have won tournaments before in their lifetime, so you know, I think you are going to see good players do well this week.

Q. Ernie, how would you rank these closing holes for some closing holes at golf courses on a degree of difficulty?

ERNIE ELS: It is probably the toughest I have ever played. As I said, I haven't been around long enough probably to know about other golf courses, but this is probably the toughest five-hole test I have ever come across in my life.

Q. Ernie, several other people the last couple of days have said the same thing, like John Daly, hardest course he has ever seen. Given that, is it possible that quite a bit more than 2 under might win, something over par, couple over might win Sunday?

ERNIE ELS: I wouldn't be able to tell you. But I want to tell you that it is very, very tough out there. Anybody that plays under 70 is playing a great round of golf. There are so many holes where you can make mistakes. Even if you hit it on the green, you got two tough putts to get down in two, so, you know, if I can -- I will take my score right now and sit in the clubhouse on Sunday.

LES UNGER: Thanks.

ERNIE ELS: Thank you.

End of FastScripts....

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