March 5, 1999
DAVE SENKO: 6-under, 66. Just maybe run down how things went today.
ERNIE ELS: It went pretty smooth today. I got off to a good start there, birdied No. 1 and I birdied No. 2 to get off to a really nice start. That is kind of what I needed. I was kind of hanging on the borderline of making the cut there. This game is kind of strange, you've could have a bad start and not be in a good frame of mind. Birdied No. 6. Had some really makeable birdie putts on 7 and 8: I didn't playing them. Then I had a pretty strong finish, you know, on 12 the long par 5, birdied that. Birdied 13, long par 3. Actually, 13 was really the best birdie I made all day. 16 was kind of nice. I gave myself a lot of opportunities putting for birdies today. I tried to keep the ball in play. The wind was not as bad this afternoon as it was yesterday morning. So the weather really played a little bit with us today and kind of helped us for better scoring. But I needed to make a good round today to get myself in position. But as I say, in a way I am just happy to be here. (laughs).
DAVE SENKO: How about No. 1, what did you hit?
ERNIE ELS: One was a drive and 5-iron into the green-side bunker and got it out to about six feet and holed it for a birdie. Second hole was a 3-iron, was downwind into the fairway and a wedge to about six feet again for birdie. The 6th was a drive and 7-iron to about twelve feet. No. 12 was driver, 4-wood short of the green and a pitch from about 40 yards to about five feet. 13, was a 5-iron to about 14, 15 feet behind the hole. 16, was a 3-wood into the fairway. Sand wedge from 110 yards, 15 feet made it for birdie.
DAVE SENKO: You mentioned 7 and 8 you hit birdie putts how long were they?
ERNIE ELS: 7, birdie putt from about ten feet. 8, from about the same distance. 9, also from the same distance, but can't make them all.
Q. How many greens did you miss today, not including 18 which was just a couple of inches anyway?
ERNIE ELS: I didn't miss too many. I missed the one on 15. Tried to go at the flag there with a 7-iron and just kind of pulled it a little bit into the green-side bunker. As I say, I hit most of the greens, I think. In the last two days I think -- I had interview with Roger down there, I think he said I hit 30 greens in two days. So that is kind of nice. So if I keep hitting it like that, I think I will be close.
Q. Yardage for 13, please, playing today?
ERNIE ELS: 13 was downwind. It was -- I think I had 198 front to the green and the pin was 14 on. So, 212. Call it 210 yards.
ERNIE ELS: 5-iron, down wind, yeah.
Q. It turns out what happened last week turned out to be a blessing for you?
ERNIE ELS: Well, sponsorship will be happy this week because I wasn't going to play. But as I said, really, I lost the -- on Monday morning, I was in the plane and 5 o'clock Wednesday afternoon and I was in Orlando, so, it felt like I had a week off. It felt like I missed the cut last week, decided on Friday morning to come down here. Maybe it is, I just felt that especially after L.A. I was playing well. Okay, against Paul I was kind of flat, but I mean, he played well, lost a match there. I just felt that I was playing well and if I take this week off and I had kind of last week off, might lose out on that bit of magic, so to speak. So I decided to come down here and play.
Q. David Duval starts off hot, Tiger responds, you win. Are you guys pushing each other?
ERNIE ELS: As I say, those guys are still 7, 8 wins ahead of me, especially David, so, who knows. I am not -- he is not playing this week. Tiger is not playing this week. You can't really get into an argument that I am playing as good as they are because I don't think you can do that because they are not playing this week. I am just -- I am trying to do well in the tournament. I am trying to shoot under par and let's see what happens. I don't want to think about winning right now. I don't want to be thinking about them, they are not playing.
Q. Do you enjoy going head-to-head even in stroke-play tournaments with 144 guys in the field and it comes down to Bay Hill last week with Tiger and Davis for 36 holes, do you much more enjoy that kind of pairing, I guess?
ERNIE ELS: When you play with that caliber of player in a threesome, like Bay Hill last year, you know, you have got to be on your game. These guys are major winners and you know, it is kind of -- not Match Play, but I mean, you look at the guys really closely. This week with different players playing here and doing really well, you can't try and be softer because they are not major winners, you have got to go out there and forget -- always try and forget about it and get on with the job. It shouldn't be any different, but it is. (laughs) I mean, I am trying to give you answer on that one, but I don't know. Do you sense that you get that type of respect from them this week. You know, I would hope so. I think so. If you win a major I think there is a bit of respect out there for a guy who has won a major. But I don't look at it that way. I just try and go out there and play. If they do, good. If they don't, so be it. I mean, you know, you can only be in control of your own game and think about your own kind of -- what you want to do out there. But believe me, it is a good feeling to be a major winner out there put it that way.
Q. Have you decided about next week?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I think I am going to play. I think it will be really messy if I don't play. It is not the reason, but I committed in December (to playing Honda) and I am playing decent golf now and it feels like if I am playing a full-week stretch and not a six-week stretch because it feels like I had a week off last week.
Q. You said you got married in December?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah.
Q. What does that have to do with it, with playing four weeks or six weeks; is it still your call or --
ERNIE ELS: (Laughter) It was an expensive wedding, I will tell you. I have got to cover that. I am just, you know, out there I am feeling good and Florida is pretty warm down here, so I am not going to be doing anything at home anyway, so I might as well play a little bit.
Q. Did you verbally commit to Honda some time ago?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah. I did my whole schedule in December.
Q. Did you let them know?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah. Yeah. I committed to all these tournaments in December.
Q. They are expecting you?
ERNIE ELS: You said it.
Q. It is very difficult to get out of commitments?
ERNIE ELS: No. I don't have to go if I don't want to go. I can pull out on Tuesday if I want to. Could have a bad back by Tuesday, you never know.
Q. Tournament like that, if you just, all of a sudden, even if you were fairly healthy, for whatever reason felt like I really don't want to play this week -- have you done that before, would you rather not do that if you can help it?
ERNIE ELS: I have done it before. It is a commitment you make to a golf tournament to people there and to yourself, hey, if you can't play, you can't play. I have pulled out of tournaments before. I did it at Westchester last year, you know, who knows.
Q. That was the back though, wasn't it?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, it was the back. You know, it will be really flak on your face if you get paid for playing a golf tournament. That is when people really get kind of nasty with you, but I am going to play next week, I look forward to that.
Q. You want to shoot low no matter when you play, but after yesterday you look on the leaderboard, you see those guys up there, Langham and Burns and combined they only have one Tour win, did that kind of motivate you even more today like, here I am, I have some majors, I can't lead these guys --
ERNIE ELS: No, not at all. These guys, they have been around quite a while too. Franklin Langham, he has been out here three, four years, same with Burns, I played with him on Tuesday in the practice round actually, he was hitting it really nice then. I could see he was going to have a good week. You play on this Tour, you can play. If you got your card on the PGA TOUR, I mean, you are a good player. You can probably win whereever you go in the world. And, these guys, you know, they have got it coming to them now. They have been around. They have picked up the experience. Sure enough, when there is a guy like David Duval or Tiger Woods in the field they might feel a little bit, how do you say, intimidated, maybe, they are not here this week. I mean, these guys, they are good players and when they give themselves a chance, they are going to be out on the leaderboard, that is what they are doing. I don't think anybody should take anything away from them. They deserve to be there, if they are playing well, who knows, I mean, Franklin Langham might win this tournament and win The Masters, and then you are really going to try and write about him, aren't you? You have got to give the guys a break. They have got to come out and prove it to themselves and that is what they are trying. It is not an easy life out there.
Q. I know it wasn't that long ago, but are you playing as well now as you were out on the West Coast? Is your game about the same?
ERNIE ELS: I would like to think so. Yesterday as I say, I thought we got the bad end of the draw yesterday and, you know, it was kind of tough yesterday. I thought if you break par in the morning, you played kind of nice. But, you know, I am hitting it nice and that is why I am playing here. I was supposed to have the week off, but I decided to play because I feel like I am playing nicely. Let's see how it goes.
Q. What will it take to make you nervous?
ERNIE ELS: Double-bogey, birdie, same thing, I don't know.
Q. Will you not be nervous until Sunday?
ERNIE ELS: I am kind of nervous all the time.
Q. Did you feel like you beat the odds a little bit because a lot of the guys on the leaderboard played late yesterday when the winds died off and you had to go off early?
ERNIE ELS: I didn't get your question, I was a little -- thinking about the last one. (laughter)
Q. Did you feel like you got the best of the draw playing -- I mean the worst of the draw playing early yesterday when the wind was kind of up, you kind of got away with that?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I kind of felt that. I was going to watch a bit of the golf yesterday afternoon, but I fell asleep, but, you know, it looked like it calmed down there a little bit yesterday afternoon. It was really pretty chilly out there in the morning and you know, just playing blowing quite a bit. 18 I hit a drive and I hit it about 90 yards to the green. I mean, it was really blowing and playing No. 2 it was like going in with a 6-iron, today it was only a 3-iron and a wedge. So it was a total different golf course yesterday morning, I thought, and I don't want -- I mean, I already sound like sour grapes here, but that is just the way it goes. I will get lucky somewhere down the line with the draw. But I can't see myself unlucky, I am on the leaderboard.
Q. We forget sometimes, I guess that Duval spent like two years on the Nike Tour and you spent one year on the Hogan Tour?
ERNIE ELS: I spent four months on it. Came over and started in August and played through until the TOUR school started.
Q. But you probably have a different perspective than us when you see a guy like Burns or Chris Riley, maybe just a matter of time before we start finding out about them?
ERNIE ELS: Exactly. There is a lot of players out there. Obviously you guys want to write about the superstars, but I mean, these are guys have come through the real world. They have come through, let's call it Asia. They have come through Europe. They have come through that Nike, Hogan Tours, that is the real world. These guys are tough players, and they -- they know what it is all about. They are not making millions of dollars every year. They are taking their chances when they come. You have got to respect them for that.
Q. So you are saying it doesn't really matter who is on the leaderboard, no matter what, just go low?
ERNIE ELS: Exactly. It is almost, you know, in a way it is almost tougher to go out there and play probably this weekend because we are so used to seeing these superstars in the leaderboards and now we got new names. You are not -- you don't know quite what to expect, so, I think you still got to be on your toes out there this weekend.
Q. On 18, today what did you hit in?
ERNIE ELS: 6-iron. 170 to the hole. Thank you.
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