March 6, 1999
DAVE SENKO: Questions.
Q. How do you feel about your position?
ERNIE ELS: After today?
ERNIE ELS: 11-under is leading? Two shots behind, I'm okay. As I said earlier, I didn't hit the ball well today and I just kind of hung in there, I really putted well, hit some really good bunker shots and just one of those days, you know, yesterday I was hitting iron shots on the string and today I couldn't find the planet kind-of-thing, so I was -- I've just been on the practice range now and I think I found what I did wrong a little bit today and hopefully it will be better tomorrow. I mean, today the weather conditions we had this afternoon was just absolutely perfect and nobody really made a move, so I'm kind of fortunate playing kind of poorly and kind of hanging in there, I'm still in the tournament, so, I feel I have a good chance tomorrow.
Q. What was the flaw you figured out, do you think?
ERNIE ELS: I was standing too tall on my address position and everything kind of went across over the ball. Most of my iron shots I pulled everything left. I just couldn't seem to find to hit the ball down the line and my weight was just going with the club face across the ball and I pulled it left and I'm just trying to get some more flexion in the knees and balance a little more at the address. I hit my driver beautiful and I put myself in position almost every time to get at the flag and I just couldn't.
Q. Were you watching the board, kind of struggling, but you are seeing they are not getting away from you?
ERNIE ELS: Well, I saw Greg, he got to 12-under before the long par 3 and we had a 20-minute wait there, it was 257 yards par-3, so it is not the hole where you want to wait too long on, so I made a good par, he made bogey there, I saw that, and then he must have played solid coming in; didn't make a bogey and I got fortunate enough to make a birdie on 18. I birdied 16 and got it up-and-down 17 for a par, so I felt like I gained a bit of ground.
Q. When you look at the board and you see a guy above you who has never won an official event and you see, you know, the guy you tied with never won, do you feel like you are the one that should be pulling away?
ERNIE ELS: Sure, that's the way I should have felt today. The way I play today, I kind of played maybe like a guy who has never won a tournament. I was the guy making the kind of mistakes, you know, with iron shots, hitting the wrong spots, just shows I had a bit of an off day. Tommy Armour, the guy I played with today, he hit the ball really solid from tee-to-green all the way around, he didn't quite play good enough. I ended up making -- maybe my experience in that way helped by scrambling and getting it up-and-down and trying to stay in contention, but I didn't play the way, you know, a guy that's won two Opens should have played today. But I'm not too hard on myself, I get another chance.
Q. Is there ever a concern about peaking too early, if you win too many times too soon before Augusta?
ERNIE ELS: Not anymore. I'm going to take whatever comes. As I say, I'm trying to play as good as I can and when it's there, it's there. If it's not, you know, so be it, but if you peak too soon, so be it. What are you going to try and be -- try and kind of loaf around until the Masters come around, I mean, it doesn't work that well. If you're gonna play, play. Forget next week, forget tomorrow and just try to play as good as you can and see what happens. I have tried that route; it doesn't work.
Q. Ernie, with the new purse structure, do you feel like you will be playing more or less or it won't affect the numbers that you play?
ERNIE ELS: Well, last year I only played 15. My normal schedule is between 18 and 20 tournaments. It looks like I'm going to probably play 20 this year and --
Q. You are talking U.S.?
ERNIE ELS: Play 20 in the U.S., yes. Big money tournaments, that's kind of screwing us around a little bit. I was going to play 30, looks like I'm going to play 32 this year, so I might even cut down more in Europe, but I have bought a house over there. I have committed to the German tournament either before or after, the Volvo PGA, but it looks like I'm going to play 32, still the same schedule kind of. I might not go to Japan this year.
Q. 32, don't you know you are a league player not a grinder?
ERNIE ELS: Well, you know, fly around, I have been doing it for quite a few years. You guys should try it, it's fun.
Q. Do you feel pressure to play in certain events? Do people talk to you from THE TOUR like, hey, support this event, field's weak?
ERNIE ELS: Yes.
Q. Are you on a level where they don't touch you?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, you get that comment from THE TOUR guys, you know, they'd like you to boost the field and you consider it. It's not a thing that you have to do. They don't pressurize you that way. You see a lot of these tournament promoters out on Tour, you know, either from the Honda Classic or from Greensboro, whatever, they try and get you to their tournament and obviously a star player guy that's won a major in the last five years is very obviously going to boost that tournament field, so they try and get the top players there, but you can't play everywhere. David Duval and Tiger, I mean, those guys couldn't make it here this week. A lot of people think the tournament is maybe flat, but I don't think so. You might get a superstar that might win -- you might get a guy who might become a superstar, win this tournament and that's always fun.
Q. If Azinger didn't knock you out early, would you be here?
ERNIE ELS: Probably not.
Q. What was your --
ERNIE ELS: If I made it through to Saturday, I don't think I would have been there.
Q. I was going to ask you --
ERNIE ELS: I think maybe on Friday. Probably went through the first round, I wouldn't have been here.
Q. So you have played a lot in a row?
ERNIE ELS: It would be L.A., if you call it a week last week.
Q. That's a day.
ERNIE ELS: I was out of there on Wednesday, and enough got Florida, I have this, TPC. I might -- by TPC I might not have a back anymore. I might not be -- we'll wait and see. I'm enjoying what I'm playing.
Q. What's the deal with the German tournament, why is everybody playing in that this year? Has it always been a big marquee event or is it new sponsors?
ERNIE ELS: Last year I think they got Mark O'Meara to go play over there. The guy that kind of is the main sponsor of the tournament, he owns the golf course in South Africa where I'm a member at and --
Q. Is that Rupert (phonetic)?
ERNIE ELS: No, I have a little tournament down there and he was down there, you know, we had a nice chat. I decided I'll go play his tournament. It's not UM.
Q. Tiger getting a million to go over there?
ERNIE ELS: Who knows. Probably close to it. He's pretty popular in the world. They love to see him play all over the place, so sometimes I wish I was in his shoes.
Q. Who is the guy or you don't want to say, the guy who owns the tournament, who runs the tournament in South Africa?
ERNIE ELS: He owns the golf course in South Africa and he is the -- SAP, he is one of the partners in SAP.
Q. If you're fortunate enough to win tomorrow, are you prepared for the escalation the talk about you joining Tiger and David as the No. 1 talk?
ERNIE ELS: It's not going to bother me. I'm just going to go out there tomorrow; I'm going to play as good as I can. If I win, so be it; if I don't, so be it too. I know I'm up there anyway. I might not be quite as good as they are right now, but I know I'm up there. They'll still be the guys you guys are going to be talking about next week.
Q. You say you are not as good as they are, but you have two U.S. Opens and Tiger has one Masters and the other, Duval, has yet to win a major, so aren't you short changing yourself a hair?
ERNIE ELS: I don't know where you guys are going with this thing. I'm just, hey, they've got a better record than I have right now. That's the bottom line. I'm not worried about them right now. I'm trying to win this tournament and that's -- let's talk about it tomorrow kind of thing. Thanks.
Q. How are the nerves and anxiety of being in the hunt? How are they different for you now then when you weren't proving --
ERNIE ELS: I think with experience, whether you've had good experiences or bad experiences, you learn from it and, sure, I have been in this position and late tournaments, going into, the times where I have won and I have lost quite a few as well. You learn from your experiences and it's always good to go out there when you know you've been in this position so many times and you kind of know what to expect. You have just got to kind of hang in there, hang in there, anything can still happen in the back nine. If you can just kind of stay positive and -- I mean, the other guy's feeling as nervous or more than you are, so you just got to try to stay in control of your own emotions and your own game and see what happens really. That's about all I can say about that. But from being in this position many times, you learn a lot and you gotta learn from that.
Q. Ernie, you went overseas before you came to L.A. this year, I'm trying to remember?
ERNIE ELS: Yes, I won in South Africa, PGA, South African PGA, yeah.
DAVE SENKO: Okay.
ERNIE ELS: Thank you.
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