|Browse by Sport
|Find us on
October 29, 1997
ERNIE ELS: I've got to get back to the practice range and find something for tomorrow. Great to come here for this kind of a golf tournament. Pretty good golf tournament for us money-wise, obviously. It's wonderful, you know, a wonderful place. It's a very flat golf course. Just perfect. I think the guy that wants to win here this week, he's got to play some good golf, got to have your whole game here this week. I think it's going to test your short game, especially your driver, your iron play, and your patience, I think. I think a very low score winner around here this week. I might be wrong.
Q. Ernie, you've obviously heard about the announcement this morning of the three tournaments on the World tour. What are your feelings about that?
ERNIE ELS: Well, that's great for the Top 50 players in the world. I think something like that, it's been inevitable. I think it's always been -- you know, you're going to have special tournaments. As I said before, I think golf at the moment has a very high profile in sport. Obviously Commissioner Finchem has been doing a great job on our tour, on the USPGA Tour, to bump up the money for us. I mean, I don't think you can get more out of a golf tour than we have at the moment. Now, to have a couple special events like this, I mean, makes it even more worthwhile to really work harder at your game and try to get into tournaments like that. You know, it's phenomenal. You know, golf has really taken off the last couple of years. You know, I might go into retirement a little bit earlier than I thought (laughter).
Q. Ernie, also, I think -- correct me if I'm wrong -- but I think you've been deleted from the European Tour money list because you didn't play 11 events.
ERNIE ELS: Uh-huh.
Q. One, did you find it difficult to play 11 over there and 15 here?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, yeah.
Q. Next year, what are your plans for next year?
ERNIE ELS: Well, I kind of spoke to Ken Schofield. They say there's another little category you can get in, honorary membership. If you win two majors, you get honorary membership. And you can play seven events and still be on the money list. I'll have to speak to Ken Schofield about that for next year. I don't think I can play 11. I thought I could. I played ten, as you say, this year in Europe. I played quite well. I don't think it's really worth my while to try and play both tours at the moment, you know. I'm a South African tour player, you know, that's my home tour. So Europe's not going to help me in any way to get releases or anything like that, you know. They took the four majors into account this year, and I still played 11. No way I can do it next year. I think I can play with the majors seven or eight next year. Colin Montgomerie, he wants to, I think, play both tours. He'll have to play 15 here and 11 over there. That's 26. He can probably do it, you know. He lives in England. But I don't think that's the way to do it. You know, you've got to really concentrate on one tour and try and play as best as you can. I was kind of fortunate. I had a good start in Europe, first tournament in Australia, way up in the money list all year. I think I'm sixth or seventh over there. I think next year I'm going to concentrate a little bit here, but still play a few over there.
Q. Ernie, how would you assess this season? Obviously I guess the highlight would be The Open. But looking back at this season, what's your take on it?
ERNIE ELS: Obviously when you win a major, I mean, it makes your season a great season. My goal always is to go out there and try and play as good as I can in the majors. Also, as I said before, it's also hard these days, you want to get your game to a peak level going into a major. I think it takes you a couple of seasons to find out what's the perfect formula to get into top condition in the majors. I've tried different matter of means to get into top condition. This year, playing into the U.S. Open, I wasn't playing very well. I missed the cut at the Kemper. I thought that formula then wasn't going to work. But my game came around. I won that one. But, you know, I had a really slow start at the beginning of this season. I really wanted to come out and play really well. I switched clubs this year, so that could have had an effect at the start of the year. You know, you get used to your clubs and stuff. But after I would say April or May I got into a new golf clubs and stuff. Then it was just myself, you know, trying to get myself, my golf swing into shape and stuff. After the U.S. Open, obviously my year was made. I played okay at the British Open, finished tenth there. Never really got it going. PGA, I didn't play very well. Good season, I would say. I won in Europe. And I won twice over here. So not bad for me. I'd like to get started next year a little quicker, hopefully get my game into shape for the Masters and see how it goes there.
Q. Did you notice any difference with the presence of Tiger and his early success this year on the tour, change in atmosphere or attitude or anything like that?
ERNIE ELS: What do you mean by that? In a player's way?
Q. I was wondering if his performance early on might have boosted some other people. We had a lot of men in their 20s win I think a total of 18 events this year, something like that.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah.
Q. You're one of those guys. I wondered if there was any explanation for that.
ERNIE ELS: Well, I think, again, most of the guys that have won this year in their 20s have been around a while, you know. If you look at Justin, I think this is his third year on the tour. David Duval, okay, he won at the end of the year. Now Stewart Cink, I think he's only 25. He was player of the year on the Nike Tour. If you look at the guys in their 20s, they've all been playing a lot of golf, a lot of professional golf on a high level. They've obviously learned a lot quicker than most people might have thought. Come back to Tiger. Tiger is just a different kind of player. You know, he definitely was on a high at the start of the year. You know, he won Mercedes, went into the Masters with a lot of confidence. I mean, he's going to win the Masters quite a few times, I think. That golf course is just perfect for him. He won by, I don't know, by 12 I think or something. That got a lot of people's attention. Certainly got my attention in a way. But I think -- I just felt that he took the game maybe to a little different level. You're either going to stick with it or fall by the wayside. You know, a lot of guys might have started to practice a little bit more. To be honest, everybody's got their own goals, you know. As I say, I think Tiger just lifted the level of play a little bit.
Q. Ernie, a lot comes with winning the U.S. Open. How have you handled it differently this time? What's different about it?
ERNIE ELS: What's that again?
Q. What's different about winning the U.S. Open the second time around as far as how you've handled it?
ERNIE ELS: Well, the first time I was 24. I thought I was a little young to win majors. I thought, you know, it was only my first year on the U.S. tour, I was still trying to get a tour card in '94. I secured that the week before going to the U.S. Open in '94 at Westchester. I guess I had all the pressure off me. I just went in there to have a really good tournament. I was playing well. I was thinking, you know, just trying to get a top 16 finish or whatever, maybe get into the Masters. As it turned out, you know, I played really well. Everything was going my way until the last couple of holes when I started hooking a couple tee shots. I think I was just a little inexperienced at that time. I think I just won it by pure, you know -- I was just trying to hang in there, you know what I'm saying? I wasn't really playing all that well. So the second one was total different ball game. I mean, I had more belief in myself, my game. I felt that I belonged there. If it's a couple years later, you just get a little bit more golf wise. I mean, I had a couple of tough finishes in the majors in between '94 and '97. You learn from that. So it was a total different feeling and win.
Q. What is the difference between the U.S. Open before the U.S. Open? You had a slow start this year. What's the difference between it technical-wise?
ERNIE ELS: Before this year's U.S. Open, why I was playing bad?
Q. Before U.S. Open.
ERNIE ELS: I don't understand the question.
LEE PATTERSON: Before the first U.S. Open.
Q. Yes, slow start this year.
ERNIE ELS: Yes.
Q. But you won the U.S. Open. What's the difference between U.S. Open, before the U.S. Open, technically?
LEE PATTERSON: Technically.
ERNIE ELS: I don't know. As I said, I think my golf clubs -- in a way, you just go through a period where you don't play well probably. That happened to me probably before the Masters and after the Masters. I wasn't really playing all that well. You get down on yourself a little bit and you start doubting a couple of things. You know, I was still working quite hard at my game. I just didn't have that clean, clear goal you want to reach. I was just going through the motions. I think I was just practicing, practicing because I had to practice, or I thought I had to practice. I wasn't really doing constructive work out there. Maybe that had something to do with it. Obviously I think it did. It's hard to explain. You know, you go into a major, and you have kind of won it before. Then you start -- things start clicking a little bit. You go out there and you try and believe in yourself, things on the golf course happen for you, and all of a sudden you're on your way. That's probably it. I probably played a little better the next week at Westchester even, you know. That's when I really hit my peak. It's hard to explain. You know, you just play bad and then the game changes it around for you.
Q. Ernie, after you won your first U.S. Open, you talked about so much intense not pressure, but a lot of attention, a lot of demands, kind of overwhelming and everything. Was it easier to handle this time around? Has it been less overwhelming being The Open champion, less demands on your time or can you just handle it better?
ERNIE ELS: I think it's a lot easier this time. In '94 I was really a youngster coming through. You guys didn't know much about me in the States. I had a lot more questions thrown at me. There was a lot more time that I had to deal with the media because people really wanted to find out more about me. Obviously, now, three years down the line, you know, I guess you guys have asked me most of the questions you wanted to, and you guys just write your stories. There was a lot less time on that side, on the media side, this time around than the last time. And obviously maybe because of the emergence of Tiger. I don't know how his weeks go every week on tour. Must be very hectic. This win was a lot easier. I guess now I kind of know how to manage my time a little better with the media and other people. Rob Delay (phonetic) opened an office in America, which also makes it a lot easier. Last time my agent was only in South Africa. That was a mistake also. Things just got held up, and all of a sudden when it comes, it just came for about a week, all the work and stuff. But, yeah, this time was a lot easier. You know, I felt more comfortable. It was a lot different win. It felt like I won the tournament instead of it being a battle in the sun (laughter). It was a lot easier.
Q. When you look at your game and this course, how do you think your game plays well on this course, and vice versa, where do you think it may give you some trouble?
ERNIE ELS: You know, that's another thing I don't understand. I mean, if you're thought of as one of the best players in the world, you should be able to play any golf course. I've heard some comments, people saying this golf course doesn't suit him, these conditions don't suit him, this and that. To me, that's bull. I mean, you either got it as one of the best players in the world, you should be playing any golf course. I would say, yeah, if I'm playing well, this golf course should suit me, like any other golf course in the world. So, to me, I mean, it just doesn't really make sense when people say, "This one suits that guy better than that." So I don't know. To come back to your question, yeah, if I can sort it out a little bit this afternoon on the practice range, should be perfect.
Q. Ernie, how long does it typically take to get comfortable with all of the time management issues, playing internationally, professionally? How long did it take you before you were really comfortable from week to week in the way you were managing your time?
ERNIE ELS: I'm still not comfortable. I just do it because you kind of have to do it, you know. You know, just go with the flow really. If I didn't have to be here today, I obviously wouldn't be here. It's just you guys wanted to talk to me a little bit; that's why I'm here. That's why I do it every day. A guy comes up to ask me a question, I'll probably answer it. But, you know, to get more comfortable, I don't know. I just go with the flow.
Q. Ernie, you mentioned that players kind of gear their games around major tournaments, you know, trying to get hot at that time. Will that be the case with these three new events? If so, will that take away some of the other lesser PGA TOUR events?
ERNIE ELS: That's a good question. I'm not sure when it's on the schedule. I don't think it will be around the majors. Obviously big money tournaments. But the U.S. PGA TOUR has grown so fast also. To make those special events, it's really got to be special, which I think it is. I'm not quite sure what the format or whatever is, I think it's Top 50 in the world that play them. Is that right?
Q. To some extent. Matchplay is top 64.
ERNIE ELS: Only matchplay?
Q. Top 64 for the matchplay.
ERNIE ELS: Oh, yeah, 64.
Q. The one at Firestone will be Ryder Cup players and Presidents Cup players.
ERNIE ELS: That's very special. That's different, a lot different. I think it will be good, you know. It will be good for the guys to try to get into the Top 50 in the world. They've changed the money ranking system, so it's sped up a little bit, it's quicker. If you don't play well, you're going to play out of the Top 50. It's going to put more pressure on the guys to stay in the Top 50 or get into the Top 50. Or it will give you more incentive. I don't think it will take anything away from the PGA TOUR.
Q. You came in here at a shot with the World Money List title. How significant would that be?
ERNIE ELS: I don't know where I am on the list.
Q. Maybe within $200,000 of Tiger, maybe with a $4 million purse.
ERNIE ELS: Really? When does that money list end, at the end of the year or after this week? Probably end of the year. Yeah, that would be nice (laughter).
Q. Being a world player, does that kind of signify that accomplishment?
ERNIE ELS: The last six years I've played around the world. I think I was pretty close to it in '94. I had a really good year in '94. I think I might have topped it then. I think Old Jumbo might have topped it on that occasion. It will be nice. As you say, I play in Europe every year, I play all over the place. I'm not going to Japan unfortunately this year. I'll go there next year. That will be nice. I don't know what it really means. If you play well, obviously you're going to be up there.
Q. You said that Tiger was a different player, different type of player. What is it that he does that makes him different from other good players?
ERNIE ELS: Hits it longer, when he's on his game hits it straighter, makes all the putts. He's just a great talent. When he's on his game, he's quite awesome. You know, he's like a Greg Norman a couple years ago, like a Fred Couples, you know. You get these guys that come out, they're very explosive players. They come out and make six birdies, you know, stuff like that. A guy like Davis Love, you know, powerful players, people want to see powerful players. And he's got age on his side. People still come out and watch Greg Norman and Freddie, guys that can turn it around in a minute, people love to see that. Tiger is definitely one of those kind of players. That's why he's so explosive at Augusta, because that's where power golf is great. You just overpower the golf course. He can do it. There's only a handful of players that can do it.
Q. Do you have to be a power player to do the things that you're talking about, to be that type of player?
ERNIE ELS: I'm just telling you what Tiger is like.
Q. Well, the other guys you mentioned here are also power players.
ERNIE ELS: But you were asking about Tiger. Yeah, I would say when you come and watch golf, would you rather watch Tiger Woods on No. 13 with a 4-iron make the putt for eagle, or watch Corey Pavin make birdie making a 12-footer?
Q. I think I'd rather see Tiger.
ERNIE ELS: Me, too (laughter). It's like Seve Ballesteros. If he was on form right now, I would pay money to go watch him. You just have these unique individuals that can really get your attention.
Q. Like Lee.
ERNIE ELS: Like Lee (laughter).
MIKE TIRICO: Very unique.
End of FastScripts....