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May 28, 1998

Ernie Els


WES SEELEY: 35, 32, 67, 5-under par for Ernie Els, one behind that group at six. How was your day? We didn't get to talk to you since you came over from the Volvo PGA finishing in a tie for second there. But enough of that, how was today?

ERNIE ELS: It was good. I really enjoyed playing Muirfield. You know, the golf course is always in great condition, so if you're hitting the ball well, if you're on your game, you can have a good day and don't miss too many shots. I started off with a birdie on the first hole, and I didn't hit the ball that well. I got it up-and-down quite a few times, made bogey, actually on the par 5 -- I think it's No. 5 -- which got me back to even par for the day. And really didn't play a very good front 9. I birdied No. 9, hit a 3-wood and a 9-iron in there to about 8 feet, and that probably got me going a little bit. Played a very good 2nd hole. I hit all the greens on the back 9 and 2-putted for a couple birdies on the par 5s and had a really good second nine. So I can look forward to having a better front nine tomorrow. Playing with Freddie, I really enjoyed it. I haven't played with Fred for quite a while. I really enjoyed playing with him and the other Fred, Fred Funk, so we had a good day.

WES SEELEY: We'll go through the rest of this card. Tell us about the birdie on 1.

ERNIE ELS: On 1, I hit a 3-wood off the tee and I hit a wedge to about 8 feet and had a birdie there. Made a couple pars. I got it up-and-down on 3 for par from left of the green, got it up-and-down for a par out of the green-side bunker. Bogeyed 5 at the par 5, drove it in the right rough, couldn't get it out, got it out eventually onto the left side. Fourth shot I hit into the green from about 140 yards, and 2-putted for bogey. So got it up-and-down on 8 again for par on the green-side bunker, then birdied 9 where I hit a 3-wood 9-iron to about 10 feet and holed that for birdie. On 11, par 5, I hit a driver, 3-wood onto the green, 2-putted from about 25 feet for birdie. On 12, I hit a 7-iron in there, a short hole to about 18 feet and holed that for birdie. 14 was a 3-iron, a sand wedge to about 3 feet and knocked that in. And 15 was a driver, 2-iron and a 2-putted from about 35 feet. I had a couple of chances coming in, but I'm really satisfied with my round.

WES SEELEY: Questions for Ernie?

Q. Are you tired? Are you fatigued still from your trip over?

ERNIE ELS: No. Coming this way is really not all that bad. I was really tired last week when I went from Dallas there. You don't get to sleep until about four o'clock in the morning, and then at noon in the day your eyes are still kind of shut. So going that way, I really find it tough. Coming this way is not much of a problem. I'm used to it because I normally fly from South Africa here, so I'm more used to this side, coming this way than the other way. So really no problem.

Q. How fast was the course playing, and did you have to back off a little bit?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah. I think downwind it was really rolling. Like on 18, you know, I hit a 2-iron off the tee, and I hit 7-iron, I must have hit it about 270 yards. You know, it was -- that's probably up there where Tiger Woods normally hits his 2-iron, but it's getting a little bit more fiery. It's still very much fair, I would say. You're getting a better roll but you're not getting crazy bounces at the moment, so you can still play quite aggressively. I think as the week progresses, if it stays like this, we'll find the plays getting a lot more tougher. But at least you can get to the par 5s. Most of the guys can get to the par 5s now in two, so that's a bit of a plus.

Q. So you're not surprised to see all the good scores in light of the conditions?

ERNIE ELS: Not really, you know. For one, it's great to play in sunshine in Ohio again. We haven't seen too much of the sun in the last couple years, so the conditions are really good. Some of the par 5s are playing downwind. There was quite a breeze out there today, so, yeah, you could reach some of the par 5s. But, you know, as I say, as the week goes on I think the greens will start firming up. The greens have a bit of moisture in them still, so you can still aim your shots at the flags. If you hit them solid, it's going to stop. I would say the course was really fair today.

Q. How many handicap shots do you get each day?

ERNIE ELS: Two a side.

CRAIG STADLER: That's how he beats us, he hits two a side.

Q. How do you stay competitive with all your traveling that you do, your worldwide traveling?

ERNIE ELS: Well, I've been doing it a couple years now. Quite a few, in fact, since '94. I really saw myself playing a lot more in the U.S. this year, but I guess I'll start doing that next year.

Q. So you're going to do a lot more like focusing on the U.S.?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I mean, the money is going up every year. I mean, next year we're playing for 2 and a half, 3 million dollars and it's going to be tough to let that go by. So -- but, you know, I like playing over in Europe and Asia at the start of the year, so I can't really see myself playing the West Coast yet. I know I've said it in the past that I would start earlier, but I've still got a couple of contracts that I'm bound to play in Asia and South Africa, so maybe in years to come. But we'll see. You know, this year I'm still playing the European Tour. I'm playing 11 tournaments there and I'm playing 17 or 18 here and maybe two at the end of the year. That's 30 tournaments, so that's quite a bit of golf. But I've been doing it quite a long time now, and I actually enjoy the tournaments that I play overseas, some good tournaments.

Q. How much time did you spend practicing yesterday and how beneficial was that today, do you think?

ERNIE ELS: Actually on Tuesday, I started practicing. I didn't play on Tuesday. And yesterday I played 18 holes, but I didn't practice too much.

Q. I ran into you about 7:00 and you were still practicing.

ERNIE ELS: I had some treatment on my back, and after that started hitting a little light, but did some short game and hit some shots. But that's usually when I practice, at seven o'clock, the weather is perfect and everybody is gone, so it was nice and quiet.

Q. Would you correct for me the status of the robbery at your home in South Africa?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, it was unfortunate what happened there, really. You know, I moved from Johannesburg down to where I live now to get out of the big city and away from most of the crime, and guess what, you know, I moved down there and they still broke in. I mean, I didn't have any great valuables in the house, but they kind of cleaned us out. And I've got a Range Rover, or had a Range Rover, and they put all the stuff into the car. There were four of them. Drove out of my house. I had a lot of golf clubs and stuff. They sold some of the stuff around the area to people. I don't know what happened. They must have been drinking or something, because what the policeman told me, I mean, on the road, they turned the car over, and unfortunately one guy got killed and another guy is paralyzed and another guy is still in the hospital, and the one guy got away, but they caught him. It's unfortunate what happened down there, and it's got to happen to everybody once. My time is gone now and it won't happen again.

Q. Is it accurate the duplicate copy of the U.S. Open trophy was with your mom?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, they didn't get that. That's with my parents, and I had another one made up. It's in Orlando right now, so that's okay.

Q. Does someone live at your house when you aren't there?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah. I have two families that live there, but they're quite a ways away. They're two miles away from my house. They couldn't hear or do anything. I mean, my house, they lock the place up and go to their own places, so there's nothing they could do about it.

Q. So this is a farm?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, it's -- it's not a farm. You know, I have 34 hectares of land, and I have two families that live on the place that help me out a little bit.

Q. What city is it near?

ERNIE ELS: It's about -- it's about 150, 200 -- yeah, 150 miles from Cape Town, and it's between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, two big cities.

Q. Did these guys know it was your house, or was it dumb luck that way?

ERNIE ELS: No, they knew it was my house.

Q. When did that happen?

ERNIE ELS: You know, people know me in the area, so they knew exactly who they were robbing.

Q. And when did that happen? Are there any new animals that you want to add to the ranch? And when you win all these monies, do you think in terms of, oh, I can get eight Brahma bulls or whatever?

ERNIE ELS: No, I don't have Brahma, I have Hereford.

Q. Elephant?

ERNIE ELS: Hereford. No, it's not -- as I said, it's not a farm. I'm not farming. It's just there's quite a bit of property, and I'm going to graze the land; otherwise, I have to cut it. I'd rather let them graze it than cut it. I have 34 cattle. I mean, it's just a little thing.

WES SEELEY: When was the crime committed?

ERNIE ELS: The week of the Byron Nelson, Monday or Tuesday evening.

WES SEELEY: Two weeks ago. Will that do it for today?

End of FastScripts....

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