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January 6, 2000

Ernie Els


JAMES CRAMER: We have Ernie Els with us, 2-under-par, 71. Currently tied for third.

ERNIE ELS: I played well. I didn't make any bogeys out there. I didn't get myself in too much trouble either. I hit most of the fairways, most of the greens. You know, a good start for me for the golf tournament. I felt like I hit some shots out there, especially on the Back 9, I really hit the ball well. Probably missed about four or five birdie opportunities. You know, 2-under, good start.

JAMES CRAMER: Why don't you tell us about your two birdies, if you could.

ERNIE ELS: I birdied the 6th hole on the Front 9. Hit a drive and 7-iron to about five feet, holed it, downwind, down-grain putt. I birdied 10. Hit a driver and a 6-iron to about 15 feet, holed a good one there. Made a good save on No. 2 out of the bunker. I hit a 6-iron right, got it out of the bunker about 20 feet, holed a good one there. All in all, you know, I really enjoy the golf course. I've been here quite a few days this year with myself and Samantha, Liezel, played the course quite a few times. I've got good feel for it.

JAMES CRAMER: Questions.

Q. Now that you've gotten somewhat adjusted to family life, do you feel like that's helped your game or is it still difficult?

ERNIE ELS: No, it's never been difficult. I just think I probably focus more on family life than on golf probably. I think it will be different this year. It's never been difficult; it's just a blessing. It's great.

Q. Are you going to play more, practice more? How is it going to be different for you this year?

ERNIE ELS: I'll play more. I don't know if I'm going to practice a lot more (laughter). I'll see how my game goes. Yeah, I'm going to play more on the PGA TOUR this year. I'll probably play 21, 22 tournaments. I'm really looking forward to that. I've never really started this early in the year. This is especially a nice event to start it. Obviously 30 guys, no cut, it's a beautiful place. You know, it's a good start. I'm going to Hawaii -- Honolulu next week, play there, see how it goes there. I'll defend at LA. That's when I'm really going to start my campaign over here.

Q. Between Honolulu and LA, you'll be back in South Africa?

ERNIE ELS: I have a week off after Honolulu, then I'll play a golf tournament in Perth, Australia. That's on my way back home.

Q. You did that last year?

ERNIE ELS: Yes. I like playing that golf tournament. It's really nice there. I'm on my way around the world at the moment; just a halfway stop.

Q. Have you ever played Honolulu before?

ERNIE ELS: No, I've never been to Honolulu. I've been to the Grand Slam event.

Q. That's what you're talking about, even when you qualified at La Costa, you didn't come every year?

ERNIE ELS: No. I think I played once or twice there. It's just too far. Believe me, flying from South Africa, West Coast, you can't believe how far it is if you haven't done it.

Q. Is this an early signal of how you are committed to playing more over here?

ERNIE ELS: Definitely. I mean, let's face it, the money is great. That's a big plus. I mean, the way David Duval started last year, before April he had a million-something in the bank. I mean, that's a nice start. He obviously played well enough. You know, traditionally I have started in Florida, so this is a good start for me. $500,000 first prize, 30 guys.

Q. You talk about the money, you talk about the schedule, does the world ranking or the rise of Tiger or Duval, any of those, is there any sense of trying to catch up?

ERNIE ELS: Well, yeah. I mean, to be honest with you, I'm not in the same ballpark right now. I'll just take it week-to-week. You know, obviously, thank goodness, what Tiger did last year is history. We've written that down in the books. It's a fresh start for everybody this year. I've just got to take it week-to-week. I've got to play the best I can. I can't worry about what they're going to do. They're, at the moment, better players than I am. But, you know, golf is a great game. If I can get it on a roll, who knows. I'm just going to take it as it comes. I feel good the way I'm playing now, so I might have a chance this week.

Q. You say they're better players than you are now, but do you know that you can be as good or better?

ERNIE ELS: Well, I've got to try and believe that. Week-in and week-out, what Tiger and David did last year, I mean, that's phenomenal stuff. They played a lot of golf. They played a lot of good golf. I mean, almost every week they played, they were there. They're certainly leading the pack at the moment. I think if I really commit myself, I can maybe get to their level. Take me a while, though.

Q. Do you plan to commit yourself?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah. As I say, I'll take it week-to-week, you know.

Q. Can you tell us a little about the wind, any club -- how it affected certain clubs?

ERNIE ELS: Huge. It really blew very strongly. I think it died down now, as you can see out there. For 17 holes today, it really blew very strong. I think putting was very tough today. Thank goodness I didn't have any 3-putts, I didn't miss any short ones. On 10, to give you an example, I had 128 yards to the flag. I hit 6-iron, you know. You got to play the shot where you're comfortable at. You've got to try and visualize the shot and go with it. On 18, I hit 258 front, 295 to the flag. I hit 2-iron through the green. The elevation and the wind, really that's the way the golf course was designed.

Q. Can you talk about how you determine that, 128 yards, pull out a 6-iron?

ERNIE ELS: As I say, we've played in these conditions before, Links courses, in Florida, whatever. It's just the way you feel. Make up your mind you're going to play the shot, that's what you're going to do.

Q. If you have a flat, no-wind shot, what would a 6-iron do normally?

ERNIE ELS: 6-iron would be 184 (laughter). I mean, the shot I played was kind of a little chip shot. I mean, I just felt that was the shot, I could keep it under the wind, kind of control the ball.

Q. And a full 6?

ERNIE ELS: If I hit a full 6, I think it would have gone this way (indicating over his head).

Q. Did that make it like a 6-club wind on 10?

ERNIE ELS: If you want -- if you look at the numbers, yeah. With the conditions, it's kind of different. I would say a 3-club wind.

Q. We hear about how taxing it is emotionally in those conditions. Is it enjoyable?

ERNIE ELS: It's enjoyable when you're under par. I played with Jeff Maggert today, got off to a bad start. You can go the other way. Really depends on how you start out. When you have a bad start, you're going to try and go too much trying to make birdies. You're going to go the other way. I had a solid start, as I said, kind of hung in there and played my game. The start here is very important. I wouldn't say it's very enjoyable.

JAMES CRAMER: Thank you, Ernie.

End of FastScripts….

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