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January 8, 2000

Ernie Els


JAMES CRAMER: Ernie Els with us. 6-under-par, 67 today. Your second bogey-free round of the tournament. Why don't we begin by quickly going over those six birdies, if we could.

ERNIE ELS: Well, I birdied 4 today, which was three shots better than yesterday. I hit a 3-wood into the fairway, 6-iron, knocked down 6-iron to about ten feet, made that down the hill. The next hole is a par 5. I hit a good drive and a 4-iron, pin-high left about 40 feet, and 2-putted for birdie. 6, I got a good drive down the hill there, pitched it to about four feet and made that. 7 was a good drive down the fairway, a wedge to about ten feet for another birdie. I made a really good save on 8. I had too much club, hit it into the back bunker on a par 3. I had no real shot. I mean, it was sloping away. I made a 25-footer there for par. All the way around to 11, the short hole, I hit a 7-iron there to about eight feet and made that one for birdie. Birdied 18 where I hit a drive and 3-wood just pin-high right, 50 feet, 2-putted from there for birdie. I had quite a few chances in between 11 and 18 for birdies. On 14, short par 4, I had about a 12-footer down the hill. The next hole was the 15th. Missed about a five-footer there for birdie. You know, I'm not complaining. I really played nicely; I kept the ball in play; I hit most of the greens. I think I missed one or two greens today. You know, I think that's the way you've got to play to have a chance.

Q. So that means we were wrong to declare Tiger the greatest golfer of all time; one day later we can change?

ERNIE ELS: Not of all time, not yet (laughter). But he's fast on his way there, you know.

Q. You said yesterday you hoped he made mistakes, hoped he was human. He did make a few mistakes today and you didn't.

ERNIE ELS: I don't think you want to hope for mistakes. You know, he did make a couple of mistakes today. You know, I think after his round yesterday, you know, when he just shot the lights out, you know, he kind of played a different game today. He was a little bit more -- I think he was more conservative in a way. He played well, but, you know, a couple of mistakes here and there, a couple of missed greens on the wrong side, you can make bogeys on this golf course, anybody can.

Q. He birdies the 1st hole, I believe you're five shots back at that time.


Q. Are you thinking about him and the differential or just trying to go out and hit the ball?

ERNIE ELS: You know, what can you do? I mean, when he starts off like that, and if he's going to blitz the golf course, what can you do (laughter)? You can only be in control of your own game. That's what I try to keep in my mind: just play my game. I'm playing pretty well this week. I'm hitting the ball nice. If I give myself chances, just try and stay with the guy at least. You know, as it turned out, you know, I played more consistently than he did today. I'm very pleased with that. I'm back with a very good chance to win tomorrow now. I think you'll see a different Tiger Woods also tomorrow. I think he'll be more aggressive, you know, probably make more birdies.

Q. Do you have a different mindset tomorrow than you did today? Is there a greater sense of urgency tomorrow with just one round left?

ERNIE ELS: Well, if I can predict something, probably it's going to happen on the Back 9, you know. If Tiger starts off, you know, going ballistic, I've got to try to, as I say, play my game. Maybe I'll get it going early, you know. It's still going to happen on the Back 9, the guy that can probably keep his nerve and make enough birdies coming down the stretch tomorrow. I mean, David Duval is not too far back. It's not going to be totally just myself and Tiger. There's other guys in the tournament, too. I've got a pretty good outlook on my game right now. I've got a good mental picture. If I keep that, I might be okay.

Q. Is it important to get off to a good start tomorrow, because on this golf course, if you start having to press, just can kind of make things worse?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, yeah. I've seen that happen this week with other players. You know, I did that yesterday. I played pretty solid after No. 4. I mean, yeah, any golf tournament, last round, you need to start playing solid from the very first tee shot. You know, hopefully I'll be doing that.

Q. You mentioned your game wasn't as good as David's or Tiger's. Playing with Tiger today, you were the better player out there, as today goes. What do you take out of it?

ERNIE ELS: Well, it's nice to know that I've actually got him in one round (laughter). I think the last time I beat him was at the Nissan Open. In between that and now, I played about 25 tournaments, and I never beat him. You know, it was nice. Let's face it, he had an off day today and he still shot 2-under. I mean, the talent/ability is there by abundance. You know, if he's out there playing his game tomorrow, I've got to try and match it and keep up with him.

Q. Tiger said that you at times off the tee were maybe more aggressive than he's seen you in the past. Did you put a little more pressure on out there today?

ERNIE ELS: Not really. I feel comfortable right now. You know, as I said, the fairways are generous. I can go out there and be aggressive. I think that's the way you should approach it, this golf course anyway. I think you should go out there and try to be aggressive. I've got a good driver. Taylor Made gave me a new driver this week, which might also have made a difference, a little bigger head, a little longer shaft. I'm swinging well at the moment, hitting it pretty pure.

Q. How about the idea of playing three days in a row with Tiger now?

ERNIE ELS: It's good. Maybe he feels the same way playing with me.

Q. Do you feel on a couple of the short putts today you may have overread them just a little?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I could have. Grainy greens, very windy. I think the putts that I missed, I don't think I was on the right side of the hole. I was going down the hill and down grain with the wind. You know, you can't really be very aggressive with those. If you can keep it under the hole putting into the wind, you know, you can give it better rap.

JAMES CRAMER: Thank you.

ERNIE ELS: Thanks.

End of FastScripts….

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