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May 29, 2000

Ernie Els


LEE PATTERSON: We appreciate you popping in. A couple thoughts -- nice finish to this weekend.

ERNIE ELS: A good round I played today. I was quite happy about that. For a while it looked like we weren't going to play the fourth round, but I guess it wouldn't have made any difference, with Tiger out there. But at least I got myself into a position to play myself into a Top -3 position, and that's kind of what I aimed for today. Tried to go out there and play my game, and, you know, try and play the par 5s better than I did the other day, and I shot a good score. Got off to a nice start, birdied the 2nd hole and then I birdied No. 5, the one I bogeyed on Saturday; so got two back there, and I birdied 7 as well. Had a nice finish -- shot 31 and really played a nice back nine. Just the one blemish on 16, and then I went for the flag and pulled it a bit left and made bogey there. But all in all, I played pretty well. If it wasn't for Tiger, I would be in a pretty good position.

Q. Is there any hope at all after your birdied on 15?

ERNIE ELS: I wanted to think so. (Laughs). He was 20-under; I was 15-under after I played 15, so I figured he's bound to make birdie on 15. But, you know, as I say, I kind of got overly-aggressive on 16. It's a long iron par 3, I hit 5-iron there. Tried to get it in close but I pulled it left. I felt if I could get it to 17, might get the guy to think about it a little bit, but, you know, I bogeyed 16 and it was all over for me there. But all in all when I was 15-under, I still don't think I had a realistic chance of winning.

Q. Given that, how much did your 72 the other day, kind of stick in your mind?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah. No, definitely it was a thorn in my side. Saturday, very, very mediocre on the front nine. The first 12 holes I played really bad golf, and then I came back with three birdies the last six holes, but really just trying to salvage my round on Saturday. You can't do that, you know, with the best player in the world, and he's on his game and you can't play any mediocre golf out there when he's on his game. So I guess Saturday was -- was the round that really got me out of it.

Q. Tiger was in here yesterday saying that he's, you know, he can only get better; that every aspect of his game can improve. He's 24, what does that -- I mean, what do you do with that?

ERNIE ELS: He's obviously very confident. (Laughs). I don't know, you know, he's 24, I guess he's got to get better. If you look at the past history of great players, if you look at Jack Nicklaus winning, when did he really turn it on, probably when he was my age, 30, 35, and he won some majors early on exactly like Tiger. But I guess, yeah, he's right. You know, I mean in his own mind he can get better and everybody else's mind, he's probably as good as we want to see him play. (Laughter.) Especially from my point of view.

Q. How about yourself, Ernie, you're playing very well right now. You had a couple real good rounds here, are you going to continue to get better?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, that's my aim. Like I said early in this year, you know my aim was to really come out and play again and try and mix it up with the big boys, and I've had my chances this year and didn't quite do it. At least I feel like, you know, playing more with Tiger and with David today, I can improve my game. And after Saturday's round playing with Tiger, I felt that, you know, I didn't play all that bad. I just made mental errors, and that's kind of been what I've been doing this year, I've been making stupid mistakes. But playing in this type of situation, late on Sundays will help me -- my mind gets a little better and, you know, stop making those stupid mistakes.

Q. How do you feel going into the Open?

ERNIE ELS: I'm not really thinking about it right now. I'm thinking about the Kemper Open right now. And hopefully I can really play well there and, really looking forward to Westchester as well. You know, in time, if I'm playing well the next two weeks, you know, I'll be ready for the U.S. Open.

Q. Can you give me an example of what you consider to be a mental error from Saturday's round?

ERNIE ELS: You know, missing the greens on the wrong side, especially on 5, which was a real scoring hole. 5, which is a par 5, we can reach it in two shots, and there was trouble on the left, and there I was in trouble on the right. You know, the percentage shot was to miss it to the right instead of to the left. I hit, I thought, a really good 2-iron. I just missed it on the wrong side and cost me two shots.

Q. Could you explain your philosophy on playing three weeks in a row prior to the Open and how you like to prepare for a major like that?

ERNIE ELS: Well, I've kind of mixed it up in past years, you know, I've taken weeks off before majors and I've played right into majors. You know, it's kind of what you feel is the right thing to do. Right now, I think the right thing for me to do is to play going into the U.S. Open. I feel like I want to play. I've had four weeks off and I've played one week since the Masters. So I need to play, and that's what I'm going to do.

Q. You've won enough tournaments that you're not a player who is trying to learn how to win, so if this would turn out to be your third second of the year, I mean, how do you reconcile that? Are you happy with that, are you not happy with that?

ERNIE ELS: Well if I look at the way I played, if this is my second, as you say, I played pretty well, it's always nice to play well, even if you still lose. You know, if you've played well and you feel you've played well, it's not a bad feeling. I had it in Hawaii there. Tiger just played better than me, and kind of the same here this week. The one at The Heritage, that one I really blew, so that one I don't want to think about; you shoot 74 the final round, losing. Again, it's just what you make of it. This one, I'm going to take a lot of positives out of it and head into the future.

Q. You said playing with Duval today helped you. You beat him by 10 shots today. Where is he leaving shots out there? He said he played well; you beat him by 10 shots today.

ERNIE ELS: Man, I don't even think about that. Nobody thinks about that. I just played a good round. He had a bad round. You know, it's simple as that. This golf course can do it to you. It did it to me on Saturday. You get off to a shaky start, you miss some shots early on, and you finds yourself over par and you've got to try and fight back and that's what he had it do and that's what I had to do on Saturday. And I lost to Tiger by 7 on Saturday, you know, it's just golf as simple of that.

Q. Did the psychology of this tournament change with Tiger having a six-shot lead, and do you feel like you've won the other tournament, so to speak?

ERNIE ELS: Well, yeah, he had a six-shot lead but he worked a lot for it. He played great, 63-65 middle rounds. Really set himself up for the victory. As I said, you know, I don't think about the leaderboard too much. I try to just get myself in double figures early on and try and shoot a really low score, and that's what I did.

End of FastScripts….

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