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June 7, 2000

Ernie Els


NELSON LUIS: We'd like to welcome Ernie here. Ernie, you're a two-time champion of this event and you've had a very successful year so far, on par for pretty much your best record on TOUR in your rank on the Money List. Can you talk a little bit about how you've been playing recently and what you're looking forward to this week?

ERNIE ELS: I've been playing well, okay. Last week I didn't play all that great. I didn't score very well. But the week before that I played okay, and always seemed to enjoy myself here at Westchester. So I'm looking forward to this event. You know, we've got a long way to travel from here to next week's U.S. Open. But as I said before, I like to take every week as it comes now and see how it goes. I think the week here is going to be quite difficult. I played nine holes this morning, and it looks like it's going to be our preparation for next week. The golf course seems like it's in great shape, but the rough looks like it's very tough. I was in the rough a couple of times on the back nine today and could only advance it a couple of hundred yards. So it's going to be a difficult test this week. The greens are running very fast, though they are quite soft at the moment. It seems like they are going to be like that the whole week. So a guy that plays well can really score here this week. But other years, this is not really a great warm-up to the U.S. Open, and because we've got to go to the West Coast, and there we are going to play under different conditions, I think, at Pebble Beach, the elements, the wind blows quite a lot there and the greens are different, too. You've got to play here this week and then move into next week.

Q. Did you think long and hard before deciding to go play here?

ERNIE ELS: No. Not really.

Q. Because of going East Coast to West Coast?

ERNIE ELS: Not really. We've been traveling a lot the last couple of years. The traveling is not going to effect me too much. It's a three-hour time change. It takes you three days to get over that bit of time change. Most of the guys now, they fly their own planes; so, the traveling shouldn't be all that difficult. So, you know, as I say, I always enjoy playing here. This is one of my favorite events. It's tough for me to miss this one.

Q. What about next week? How are you feeling about going for a third U.S. Open win?

ERNIE ELS: Well, it would be great to get another one. But I don't know much about Pebble Beach, to be honest. I only played it once. I played in a Pro-Am there with my dad four years ago. It was raining like it has been raining here the last two days. We could only play 36 holes that time. I played Poppy Hills and Pebble Beach the one day. I don't recall anything, to be honest. I remember 18 was great. 17 is a great hole, and I remember the little short hole on the front nine. But the rest, I've got to go check it out again.

Q. So you've only had one competitive round there?

ERNIE ELS: Exactly. I never played there before. Just that one time in the Pro-Am. I couldn't play a practice round. Just too wet. Just a fiasco that week.

Q. You talked about the Open and the way they like to set up U.S. Open courses; does it suit your game pretty comfortable? Do you feel fairly comfortable the way they like to play it out there?

ERNIE ELS: I don't know if you can call it comfortable. You just go out there and try and play the event and try and get out there without too much damage, you know. U.S. Opens are the ultimate test in golf, you know, tests your whole game. You've got to drive it, you've got to hit your irons, short game, putting; you name it. I don't know quite where my strong points are. It's kind of, you play -- when I'm playing well, I kind of do everything pretty good. So, you know, to be honest with you, I wouldn't be able to tell you how I won those. I was just playing and surviving.

Q. You said this is one of your favorite events, and other than your success that you've had here, what makes it that?

ERNIE ELS: Well, it's the golf course. I remember the first time I came here was in '94. I spent quite a few days here before that event started. Played quite a few practice rounds around Westchester, and just had a really good feel for the golf course from the word go. And ever since then, you know I've enjoyed coming back. I think when you do well at a course, it also helps you enjoy it a little bit more. That's been my case. There's quite a few events like that on TOUR which I like playing. I find a golf course that suits my game and I like to put those in my schedule, like this week.

Q. Do you think the old, traditional golf courses suit your game, because you've won both Opens on them?

ERNIE ELS: I think so. I really enjoy playing my golf on the East Coast of America up here. I find the golf courses are very much the way I grew up in South Africa and Johannesburg. You've been to Johannesburg, and in the Johannesburg area, we also have the tree-lined fairways and the whole traditional-like golf courses, and that's maybe another reason why I like it up here. As you say, I won my U.S. Opens at these kind of courses. Just from looking at some of these holes, it's just easy for me to make up my mind what I have to do from the tee. When you're that comfortable on a course, you know, I can normally do well.

Q. Vijay was in here saying that he had the eye surgery. You said that you were thinking about it; have you decided to have it?

ERNIE ELS: Well, I had my chance last week. I was in Washington and I know the guys in Washington. But I think I'm going to wait a while. I'm happy with the contacts I wear. I see pretty well with them right now. I am minus 1.50 both eyes; so that means I'm nearsighted. I don't know, I'll speak to Vijay. I've seen Jesper. Tiger's done it. I guess it's a really good thing to do. I guess I'm just a little bit nervous at this time. I'll go with the contacts for now and see how it goes.

Q. The star players, do you think they ever look at how big a crowd is or how well-behaved a crowd is before they decide to go to certain tournaments? Certain tournaments get 100,000 people plus, and do you think that could be a double-edged sword, maybe some pros don't like that many people?

ERNIE ELS: I don't think I've ever had this question asked. I pretty much am 100% sure we don't even think about that. We look at the venue, we look at the golf course, and we look at the time of the year the tournament is in your schedule. You know, I certainly don't look at how many people is going to arrive at a golf course. I mean, if Tiger was playing, I will have a lot more people coming -- come through the gates. Got a great field here this week. I guess as you play the TOUR, you just -- you kind of start thinking where you like to play and that's how you pick your schedule. I don't think there's any revelation in people showing up or not.

NELSON LUIS: Thank you.

End of FastScripts….

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