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May 26, 2000

Ernie Els


NELSON LUIS: Okay. Well, a very exciting day for you. A very nice round. Why don't you go over some of your feelings out there after that nice round.

ERNIE ELS: Well, you know coming to the golf course this morning, you know, I felt like you could go out there and shoot a good score. There was no wind to talk about, and I know how good the golf course is. So if you hit the ball well and you hit the putts on line, you know you can really make a good score. Although, I missed quite a few shots out there today, you know I got the ball up-and-down most of the time, and when I had opportunities for birdies, I made them. So it's just one of those days that everything went for me. You know, I was just excited to play with Jack Nicklaus the past few days, and especially at his venue. You know, a couple of good days for me.

Q. Can you point out anything in particular that got the back side going for you today?

ERNIE ELS: Well, I really got my round going on 7. You know, on 6, I hit the most awful duck hook you've ever seen in your life. And managed to make 4 on 6, and I just felt that up to that -- I had never made a birdie. The first six holes, felt like I was losing ground a little bit. 7, I just hit the best tee shot of the day, from hitting the worst one on 6 to the best one on 7. And hit a really good 3-wood and made the putt for eagle. And I birdied 9. So that was a couple of good holes for me. The back nine, I hit a real good drive on 11. A lot of guys, we saw Jack and John Huston hitting 3-woods there. I was just -- felt like I was hitting my driver well. So I pulled out driver, 2-iron on the green, 2-putted for birdie there. And I felt comfortable. I was 4-under at that stage and I was -- felt I could just let it go and, you know, made a couple of bunker shots coming in today. On 14, there's a little short par 4. I pulled my wedge shot into the bunker left and somehow made the bunker shot. And again on 18. You know, I drove it in the right bunker and got it on the green and made another one. As I say, everything went for me today.

Q. But you didn't have to putt that much Ernie, but how was your putting when you were putting?

ERNIE ELS: Well, the last two days I've been putting very nice. I've been working with David Leadbetter, even down in Orlando when I was off the last couple of weeks, and I worked with him again on the swing, and mainly on the short game, also. And kind of feel comfortable over the putts. And these greens are so pure, you won't find a better manicured golf course in the world. It's better than Augusta. Better than anything I've seen. You know, you hit it on line, you're going to make a lot of putts.

Q. Ernie, quite a few people were surprised that you've played here rather than the PGA. What was the reason for that?

ERNIE ELS: Well, normally the PGA is always on this week. Afterward, the PGA TOUR moved this one back a week, and it's just conflicting, to be honest. And I've been in America the last couple of weeks, and with my back situation at the moment, I go over across the Pond and come back again, I'll just flare my back up again. I like playing in warmer weather. The summer is coming around. Just the schedule is perfect for me to come and play here, rather than go across the way. It's my home golf course and I've got my home there at Wentworth. That is one of my favorite tournaments, too, but just the schedule I've put ahead of myself, I'm trying to stick to that, and just hopefully next year I can play there.

Q. If it's any consolation, it rained out.

ERNIE ELS: Well, there we go.

Q. You said a couple days ago that you were really anxious to get started this week. You've only been off for two weeks. Have you always been this charged up about playing? Is there something that you feel about your game that's --?

ERNIE ELS: You know, since the Masters, I've only played once. I was supposed to play Byron Nelson, but I had to pull out there. You know, watching golf all the time on television or reading about it in the papers, when you wake up in the morning and you're sitting at home you can't be out there, kind of gets to you after a while. And I know that I've been hitting the ball well. And I've played a little bit of golf in Orlando, and when I've practiced I've felt like my timing, everything is there. And I just had to take it easy, you know, because I knew my schedule through the summer is quite hectic. And my back did start flaring up at New Orleans and I thought, well, just take it easy rather than go through the same thing I went through in '98. You know, sitting at home and just resting, you know, you get kind of charged up, I guess.

Q. How much of this getting charged up business is because the fact that the U.S. Open is just right around the corner? And we all know how you feel about that tournament.

ERNIE ELS: Not really. To be honest with you, I haven't really given the U.S. Open too much thought yet so far. I guess it's comforting when you've won two of them. You don't think about it too much. I just want to try and play good where I play. This week is a fine example of that, you know. It's a great course. Just a great venue. I'm just thinking about what I'm doing right now, and when the U.S. Open comes around, we'll play then.

Q. When you talk about your back flaring up, if you made a trip over to Europe, is that from the travel or playing over there?

ERNIE ELS: No. It's mainly from traveling. And I don't want to bring all this up again, just it gets a little bit stiff when I -- when I travel a lot in the airplane. Or sometimes when I make a bad swing, you know, there's a little tweak in my back where it just goes very easily. So I'm very careful about that. I've started working out a little bit again; so that might also help a little bit, hopefully.

Q. The bunker shot on 18, Jack had a similar bunker shot as you.

ERNIE ELS: No. He had a lot tougher shot than I had. He was in the back bunker on the downslope. I was in the front of the bunker on the upslope. Totally different shot. He almost played it perfectly. He hit it as good as he could there. The green slopes away from you right-to-left. Was almost impossible. So just unfortunate.

Q. Yesterday, on the hole -- (Inaudible.)

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, the wind was blowing yesterday, obviously. I probably -- I was too aggressive on that second shot. I had 152 yards I think to the hole, and we kind of misread the wind a little bit. It was more into my face, and I thought it was more across. And I kind of started the ball at the flag and I had never had enough club and never made it to the green. So that was not a good situation at that time because I played pretty solid up to that point. And I made double-bogey there; it threw me back a little bit. But after -- I never really played that hole very well in the past, but it was nice making birdie there today.

Q. You're obviously playing pretty well. You have been for most of the spring. Does it matter if you -- do you have to win, do you think, before both Opens and the PGA and the summer stretch come up, or if you're playing the way you're playing, which is good, is that all that matters in terms of your confidence?

ERNIE ELS: That's a good question. Obviously, I want to win. I had my chance at Hilton Head this year and I blew that. You know, when you come out and play here and you play against a field like this, first of all, when you start out the first round, you know, you think Top-10 is good. But in my situation right now where I am now, I'm 7-under par, and it seems like I'll be two shots behind the leader. And the way I'm playing, I've got to think about winning now. I've got to go out there and do my thing. I've got a long stretch ahead of me before the Open starts. I've got a lot of chances to come, but I'll try and take the first chance that comes my way. Try and play solid over the weekend. I just want to stick with my guns and try and stay in the present, if I can. I don't want to think about Sunday right now.

Q. But you're comfortable with the way you're playing?


Q. The way you're swinging?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah. I've had a pretty good year up to now. I've had some chances, and I've been working on my game quite a bit. I think the things I'm working on is positive and it's working. So I've just got to go out there and play.

Q. Jack said that your two shots out of the sand, that if went in, it could have been a four-shot swing, were you trying to make either shot?

ERNIE ELS: Well, no. I mean, you can't get into the bunker and be cocky enough and think you're going to make the shots, you know. I had some difficult shots on 14 and 18. The green slopes away from you, and if my ball -- both instances, if it didn't hit the flag -- the one on 14 would have gone about 12, 15 feet by; and the one on 18 probably would have been about six to eight feet by. He's right. It could have been a four-shot swing. But, you know, as I said before, everything went my way. I think Tiger has made a lot of those shots in the past. So has Jack.

Q. Did you and Leadbetter work on sand shots at all?

ERNIE ELS: We have, actually. I'm going to give him the credit, though.

Q. When you play six holes without a birdie, a duck hook and feel like you're losing ground, and play the next 10 in 8-under, have you ever put your finger on how something like that can happen in the middle of a round?

ERNIE ELS: No. If I knew that, I would have won a lot of golf tournaments. You know, you just try and put it out of your mind. I thought the par I made on 6 was kind of a bonus. It could have been worse. And on 7, I just felt, you know, I could get there in two shots if I hit a really good drive. And I've been driving it well, and I just, you know, try to move on. I think all the great players in the past have done that. I think playing with Jack, maybe helped me a little bit because -- I mean, he missed an awful lot of putts and it seems like it doesn't get to him. You know, I think maybe something rubbed off on me, on my game.

Q. After you made that duck hook and came back to the tee and hit a great shot the next time, did you make some noticeable adjustment; that you knew you did something wrong on the previous drive?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah. We kind of know -- you know, when you've made a bad swing and you know when to -- how to correct it, I think most of the guys on TOUR can do that. And I knew exactly what I did. I was way too fast with my legs, and my hands were not catching up until the last moment., And then I flipped it. Next time, I just left myself in a better position on the backswing and just let it all go.

Q. With rain in the forecast tomorrow, what are your thoughts about teeing off early in threesomes?

ERNIE ELS: I don't know. I guess we've had pretty good weather up to now. I guess the weekend is not going to be all that good. It's just going to be normal. Threesomes, that's fine, whatever. Whatever it takes. The golf course is always going to play a lot longer and it's probably going to suit the longer hitters. Probably won't reach any of the par 5s tomorrow; so maybe the short game has got to be pretty strong tomorrow again.

End of FastScripts….

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