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January 7, 2000

Ernie Els


JAMES CRAMER: We have Ernie Els with us, 3-under 70 for a 5-under 141 total. Why don't we begin by going over your card.

ERNIE ELS: Really didn't get off to the start I wanted. A double bogey at No. 4. Had a beautiful drive down the fairway. I tried to hit a 7-iron, cutting with the wind, wind was coming left-to-right, came over the top of it. Actually finished short of the green, left short of the green. I had to go over this big swale in the green. Didn't get it to the top. Came all the way back. Got it up there 10, 2-putted. Double bogey there from really not being in trouble at all. Then the next hole, par 5, I hit a good drive and a 3-iron to about 30 feet and 2-putted for birdie. I birdied No. 9. Hit two drivers up the fairway there. Pitched it well past the hole, about 20 feet, made a good putt down the hill. That was a big putt, you know. I got back to even par for my day. Back 9 I birdied 14, short par 4. Pitched it from about seven yards to a foot there and tapped it in for birdie. 15, I got it up-and-down from left of the green. Made about a 10-footer there for birdie and a par 5 there. I birdied 18. Hit a drive and a 3-wood, 2-putted from about 40 feet. Good finish for me. If I didn't make the double, I could have been more in the ballpark. I mean, playing with Tiger, especially on this golf course, to see him play on this golf course, I mean, it's awesome. He drove it on two greens today (laughter). You know, he was never in trouble. I mean, I think the wind should blow a little stronger, if that's any help.

JAMES CRAMER: Questions for Ernie.

Q. Obviously Tiger has become the story because of his four in a row, going for five. You're one of the top golfers in the world. You're playing ,in effect, head-to-head, even though you're not. What is it like playing with a guy on this incredible run?

ERNIE ELS: Well, first of all, like I said yesterday, this year I know it's a big year for me. I'm going to play a lot of golf on this Tour. Last year I only played once with Tiger at the end of the season. I think it's good for myself, for my game, to start playing with the best in the world early on in the season, to see where I've got to go to. You know, it's wonderful. I mean, for me, I like playing with Tiger. I like him as a person. He's very intense when he's over a shot, but we have nice chats when we're away from the golf ball. I've known him quite a long time now, so, you know, it's nice playing with him. But I'd like to beat him once (laughter). Don't get me wrong, I'm not out there playing for second; I'm going to try and win. You know, it's awfully tough playing a guy that's driving onto greens that's 450 yards away, like on 6. On 12, he drove it almost through the green, which is 378. You know, the guy is kind of a freak, you know what I mean? He's a great player.

Q. You did beat him down in Florida a couple years ago, Bay Hill, 36-hole final day.

ERNIE ELS: That was a couple years ago (laughter). I mean, that was the last time, what, two years ago. It's going to take a lot to get close to him this week. I mean, this golf course is just perfect for him, the fairways as wide as anything. I mean, he can use his driver. Most of the courses on Tour that he plays, he's got to use a lot of 3-wood. This week is just perfect for him. You know, as I say, I'm going to try and win this tournament. It's going to take a lot.

Q. You talk about chatting with him, having a good time when he's not over shots. Yesterday you talked about not being at his level right now. You said you're not here for seconds. How do you stop yourself from pulling your hair out when you see what he does?

ERNIE ELS: I can just say the same thing again. You know, it depends on what he does. If he goes out there and shoots another two 66s, there's no way we can get there. I've got to do my thing, I've got to play as good as I can, and hopefully stay out of trouble. Putt for a lot of birdies, hopefully my putter gets hot. You never know, Tiger might make mistakes. Hopefully he's human. I've just got to play my game, stick to my game. I enjoy playing with him.

Q. How did the course differ today than from yesterday?

ERNIE ELS: Not much. Very similar. Same breeze, same direction. They played us up on 9 so we could get close to 9 on a par 5. I mean, very, very similar. Obviously, they changed the pin placements, but the greens are the same. I mean, it's probably going to be the same the next two days as well. What you see is what you get.

Q. How much does he motivate you to want to work out or practice more, get better, be No. 1? Does that influence you at all?

ERNIE ELS: I think you are what you are. I'm never going to become a workout freak. Look at me (laughter). I do my thing. I get on the bicycle. Look what David Duval did to himself, he looks like a body builder out there. Tiger keeps on getting bigger and stronger. You know, I'm 6'3", I weigh 225. I think I'm big enough, strong enough for this game. Could maybe work on my cardio a little bit more, especially up these hills. No, I mean, it depends on what makes you happy, to what level you want to take it. I'm happy with the way I'm progressing so far this week, and I feel this year.

Q. Do you work a lot on your swing? Tiger has talked about the fact from one event to another he may make changes or do different things. Do you spend a lot of time on that?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, you do. I think we all do. When you see a guy, it's really all the image, the image you have in your mind, the way you want to swing it. Obviously when you get it on plane, you don't get ahead of yourself, you know, you don't trap yourself going through the ball, you know. That's what I try and work on. I like to swing pretty free. But it's a mental picture you get. I can only speak for myself. I get a mental picture the way I want to swing and go with it. Sometimes, you know, doesn't kind of come off. But, you know, I wouldn't say I'm the Vijay Singh of the Tour. When it's there, I don't bug with it too much. At the moment, I feel like I'm swinging well. You know, right now, if I can make some putts, I'll have a chance.

JAMES CRAMER: Thank you, Ernie.

ERNIE ELS: Thank you.

End of FastScripts….

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