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August 20, 1997

Ernie Els


Q. Can you talk about how tough it is to get focused again and get up again after last week and playing? Now this week another tough course. How tough is it to get going?

ERNIE ELS: To me, I want to get focused again this week because last week I wasn't all that focused there. Especially after my second round. I kind of played myself out of the tournament on the second round, 76, and really lost a lot of focus there that day. I didn't play very well. And I didn't have a very good tournament last week, unfortunately. I thought the golf course was really going to suit my game. But as it turned out, I didn't play very well. So coming in this week, I haven't done well here in the past. This is my fifth appearance here at the World Series. I haven't played very well. It seems like this time of the year, I don't know, mentally, maybe I get a little bit tired or my golf game starts suffering a little bit. I don't know what it is. But I really want to play well here this week. I think it suits my game and if I can play my normal game I think I will be just fine at Firestone. I think it is an excellent golf course. To come back to your question, to me it will be easier to get focused in this week because I don't have -- didn't have a good week last week, so I want to improve from last week.

Q. Does the course remind you of Westchester at all?

ERNIE ELS: In a way. It is a longer golf course than Westchester. A lot longer, especially the par 3s, yeah, where you need anything from a 3-iron and shortest par 3, is probably 6- or 7-iron so the par 3s or -- only got two par fives this week, but we have got three at Westchester, but in a way you can compare it because it is a tree-lined golf course. It is an old traditional type golf course. The greens here are a little slower than Westchester at the moment, so that might help us a bit. But it is, all in all, it is a tougher course than Westchester.

Q. I want to talk a little bit more about the golf course. You played here, you said, five times now?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, my fifth time.

Q. Is this course set up this year harder than in previous years? How does it compare?

ERNIE ELS: Today was my first round here. I went to Orlando for two days, Monday and Tuesday, so I got here last night. I played the Pro Am this morning. I played it for the first time and the fairways are just immaculate. I haven't seen better fairways anywhere. The rough is cut the same around the golf course. You haven't got thick patches and thin patches. It is pretty much the same. The semi rough around the green is cut very well. It is just in very good shape. The greens will probably speed up as the week goes on because we had a bit of moisture this morning. The golf course is in excellent shape, probably the best I have seen it since I have started playing here.

Q. Is it more difficult with the rough about four inches or whatever? Do you think it is going to be harder this week?

ERNIE ELS: The rough is a little thicker probably than previous years. Don't ask me why. Probably they have really watered the golf course this year, the grass has really grown very well, so they cut it, as you say, to four inches and it is four inches around the golf course. You don't have a thick bunch and then a thin bunch. But, the rough is pretty thick. The golf course is playing quite long. It played long this morning. You know, normally iron on 17, the par 4, and today I hit 1-iron and good 6-iron to the green; whereas, normally 2-iron and 8-iron. 16, when it is firm, you can go at it. There are times when the ball gets down the hill down there. Today it was a driver and layup with a 1-iron, so the golf course is playing a lot longer than what I can remember, but it is fair. It is very fair golf course. If you are going to miss the fairways, you are going to suffer. That is what I have been doing the last couple of times I have been here. I have been missing a lot of fairways and my game suffered in that way. But, it is a fair golf course. It is really a great golf course.

Q. You are the fourth of the four major winners we have now had in this room in succession and some stories are written last week about the four, 20-somethings, the threesome on Thursday and Friday where the three of you play together. As a player and as one of those winners, what do you think that you and Justin and Davis and Tiger represent? What do you think you guys represent to the game right now, the fact that all four of you are winning and top of your game and young?

ERNIE ELS: It is a good question. Last week I started hearing the rumors that a lot of guys wanted to say that we may be the start of the change of the guard or whatever, you know. I don't really agree with that. I would say that the three of us, the three 20-somethings, you know, as you say, the three of us really did well to win Majors this year. Tiger obviously winning the first one at The Masters and in unbelievable style. I don't think you will see another Major being won like that again to win it by 12 or whatever he won it by, was quite phenomenal. Then, you know, the way I won the U.S. Open was a lot different, but it was a real grinding going down the last 9. And, then Justin winning the British Open. Davis, who is 33, winning PGA, also is a young guy. He is not in his 20s, but he is early '30s, so, couple of young guys have won this year. Last year or year before it was guys in their late '30s. That is why I believe this is just a wonderful game. Next year you might see Nick Faldo who will be 41. Then Nick Price who will be 42, and guys like that. They are not going to disappear. You are going to have experience to win major championships and so be it. This year the younger players did better than the older players. Who knows? I can't predict what is going to happen in the future. And maybe it is -- in a way it is a bit of an unfair question to ask me because I can only play my game as good as I can and Tiger and Justin, same for them. But, you know, I would say that all the guys aren't going to go away. They are going to probably try and win golf tournaments in the future. But it is really good for golf to have seen the young players win the Majors, to show the older guys and show the world that the younger guys aren't scared of winning the big ones. And, who knows, we might have started a big thing here, you know, you never know. Guys like Tommy Tolles, David Duval, Phil Mickelson, you got guys like that Darren Clarke, Lee Westwood, there are so many young guys coming through now. Who knows? Maybe we have showed them that it can be done.

Q. I was going to ask you about Clarke and Westwood. Would it surprise you to see either of those guys win here this week? Do they have games big enough to win on a course like Firestone?

ERNIE ELS: Yes I believe they have got the game. Both of them hit it a very long way. They haven't played enough golf in America, I don't think, to -- they need experience on these American golf courses. This courses in Europe are a little bit different than over here. But Darren showed at the British Open that he is capable of doing big things. Lee Westwood has won a tournament this year and he is right up there on the money list. Both of them are Ryder Cup players. So, the talent is definitely there. But, you got to get used to the conditions over here and a lot of the things around the golf course. So, I would say they have got a very good chance, but you know, it is hard to say.

Q. When Davis was in here earlier he said that he is a little fatigued right now with everything that has gone on in the last week or so. He was kind of wondering how he would do this week. When he was out there, during his practice round, one of the spectators said "Pull an Ernie Els and win back-to-back." And, how did you manage to keep your game at that level after what you said was a grind?

ERNIE ELS: I was in such a good mood when I got to Westchester. I was really feeling good about myself, good about my game, and although I was tired, I was just going to go out there and enjoy the golf course because I really enjoy Westchester. It is one of my favorite golf courses. I just had a good feeling when I got there. And, the week before at the U.S. Open, I really started working on a couple of things in my swing and that was kind of the first time that it worked. (Laughs). Then the next week at Westchester I got there and you know, I thought, well, I am going to try this move again, you know, obviously it worked the previous week and I'll give it a go. And I just felt my rhythm was there. When you are hitting the ball and you look up and the ball is going exactly where you are aiming, it is a great feeling. As I said, I enjoyed the golf course so much that I just I went with the flow. The week after that, I was completely tired. I was just doing nothing at home. I think Davis is probably going to take next week off so he can play one more hard week.

Q. Kind of following up on that, how much physical and mental fatigue is there among the guys out there right now?

ERNIE ELS: I will tell you this has been quite a long year for me already. I have played -- this is my 24th tournament this year so I have played a lot of golf. Me, personally, I am a little fatigued at the moment. But, as I say, I am coming in with new focus into this week. I want to play better than I have in the past. But there are some players out there that are little tired right now. Coming off a major championship then playing another big week, I mean, this is one of the biggest years of the week for us. The World Series of Golf is a prestigious tournament to win so the guys want to give it 100 percent, but you will see a couple of guys a little frustrated out there this week getting a little edgy maybe. So it has been a pretty long year and especially after the last major, it feels like, to me, you go down a little bit, start maybe getting into these what do you call this third circuit end of the year -- funny?

Q. Silly season.

ERNIE ELS: Silly season. So, some unique tournaments coming up, so after the last major your year sort of dies down. Next week I am playing a tournament in Germany. Then I have got five weeks off. Going home for five weeks in South Africa and I have got a new house right on the beach and I am going to do as little as possible probably.

Q. With all the Ryder Cup frenzy, do you feel kind of left out?

ERNIE ELS: We have got a nice tournament going on, The Presidents Cup. They started it up a couple years ago. And, that is becoming a priority for us on the International side to try and win because we lost the last two. So we have got our own little battle on with the American side. Ryder Cup, you know, it is the biggest team event in the world. It has really grown -- in the last ten, twelve years, it has really gotten very big because of the Europeans starting to really compete a lot better against the American side. And, I think ever since 1985 when I think Sam Torrance make that long putt at the Ryder Cup, I think that is when it started changing, that is when the Europeans might have started thinking that I can beat the Americans. Yeah, it has become really a big thing. It is pretty big in South African even, we watch it in South African. I will be watching it again. We watch it live down there, so I'll be watching. And, you know, it is going to be pretty interesting to see -- I think on paper the American side is a lot stronger. On paper you would think they can't lose, but they still have to go out there and beat the other guys. So it is going to be interesting.

LEE PATTERSON: Anything else?

Q. Do you know what you shot today?

ERNIE ELS: 66. 4-under.

Q. I think your focus is back.

ERNIE ELS: I hope so.

End of FastScripts....

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