August 4, 2000
CASTLE ROCK, COLORADO
LEE PATTERSON: A record-breaking start to this week's tournament. Maybe just a couple thoughts about the first two days and as we head into the weekend.
ERNIE ELS: Obviously two beautiful days on the golf course. I played probably as good as I could. Started off this morning at 7 o'clock down on the third tee. I had nine points then. So sitting here with 34 points, I have got to be pretty satisfied with that. I don't think I made a bogey today. I kept the ball in play. The course is playing quite wet. The course is soft from the rains we had last night and yesterday. So it was there for the taking. We had beautiful weather all day. Not much wind. I know the course pretty well, so I just had to pick my irons and go for it. That is kind of what I did.
Q. Did you ever have a stretch like you had today ever in a tournament?
ERNIE ELS: I'd like to say yes, but probably have to go a long way. I don't know if I had done that before. I'd like to do it again over the weekend. Probably Bay Hill, something like that. I played pretty well that day. But again, the scoring system just kind of forces you to do that. You make a birdie, that is two points. You feel like you want to make another one. You feel like you just want to keep it on a roll all the time. That is the way I want to feel over the weekend. I just want to keep going, keep trying and make points. That is the name of the game, I guess.
Q. Were you, in this 25 holes today, were you even -- did you have any close encounters with bogeys?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, this afternoon on the front nine I made two up-and-downs on the 6th hole. I hit a wedge straight over the flag over the green. I had a pretty tough chip back down the green to the flag, and my pitch shot went about eight feet by the hole, and I made a good return there. On the very next hole, the 7th hole, a short hill, I missed the green just left, pretty close to the flag, but the ball wasn't lying very well. It was lying just above the bunker in the rough. Kind of fluffed it out there; made about a 6-, 7-footer there for par. I think that was about it. The rest, I hit most of the greens. In fact, I had a couple more opportunities, we can call it that, but I am not complaining. I played about as good as I could from tee-to-green.
Q. Everybody wants to know about the eagle at No. 10. Could you talk about it?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I mean, there was no cameras. Perfect drive, downwind. Had about 152 yards to the hole, and even from there it is still downhill to the green, and hit a wedge, bounced a couple of times, spun back in the hole. Just one of those nice, pure shots. I was quite surprised. You don't normally make 2 on that hole.
Q. It owes you.
ERNIE ELS: It owes me from last year. I had two doubles there.
ERNIE ELS: '95, too, I had a lead going into the final 9, and I made 6 there too. So I have got it covered this year.
Q. Did you watch Greg Norman today, or did you see his score? And did that motivate you as you were out there?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah.
Q. Because you guys were going head-to-head for a while.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, it is always nice to see a guy play like that playing in his best form; especially after his surgery he has had. He had shoulder surgery last year or two years ago, and then now this year on his hip. So he a great athlete. He is showing that again, coming back from surgery like that and playing at this level. Just shows you how much he probably misses the game. Everything that is going on in his life, seems like golf always brings him back. So it is nice to see him play this event and play as good as he is.
Q. So you are rooting for Greg to have a strong second-place finish?
ERNIE ELS: Yes (laughs).
Q. On 17 coming in, what were you hitting, and did you hit that fat?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah.
Q. On that approach shot, what did you have in your hand?
ERNIE ELS: I went with a 3-wood from the tee, and little far back I was 230 out, I was trying to smash a 3-iron, to get it to the green. It was a little downwind. I don't know if I got a little tight, because even my last tee shot was also a weak one to the right. I just tried to hit the 3-iron too hard, and just kind of duffed it into a good place, because I had a simple chip, a pitch up the green.
Q. Did you know it almost went in?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah. I couldn't see the green. But when I hit the pitch shot, I felt -- you kind of feel when you hit a good one, and it felt it was going to get close. I just saw the crowd's reaction. I actually thought it was in. My caddie said: No, it lipped out.
Q. How long was that shot? 30 yards or so?
ERNIE ELS: Yes.
Q. Greg said when we asked him how he felt being behind, he said he might want to ask you how it felt, since you were finishing second in some of the tournaments -- he was joking. When you get into this rhythm, it's just feeding on itself. Was that the way it was going?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, exactly. When you are playing well and you start feeling your swing is right there where you want it, seems like you get to every shot, and the yardages are just perfect for the shot you want to play. I mean, when you get it on the green, you see the line immediately. It was just one of those days today. I think yesterday was the same. Maybe I know the course very well. I should know it very well, after playing this thing for eight to nine years, and it also helps when you play a golf course which you enjoy playing. If you throw all those things into the equation, you find yourself playing at the very nice comfort level. I'd like to do that over the next two days again.
Q. Big victory at Loch Lomond. I am wondering how much urgency you feel to win on the U.S. Tour now?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah. Well, I said it the other day, I'd like to win on this Tour. And that is my immediate goal. If it's this one or the major, any tournament, you know, I'd like to win on this Tour. I am going to try everything I can to do that. I said it Wednesday, and I will say it again.
Q. I think you might have said this in the past. Is it fair that of the non-majors on this Tour, this is the tournament you'd most want to win, or one of them you'd most want to win, outside of the majors on this Tour?
ERNIE ELS: Well, I don't know about that. It's one of my favorite events, no question about it. But there is a lot of other tournaments that are big or bigger than this. THE PLAYERS Championship, Sawgrass -- there is a lot of other tournaments. I think any tournament away from the majors is another golf tournament.
Q. At this point, you are so far ahead of the average scores for the first two rounds that literally you are only three shots back than the average score over the last three years for finishing the third round. The average score was 37. You are at 34. Over the last three years, the average score literally winning the tournament was 47. I think we had a 47 -- 48, 47. With that in mind, you have such a comfort level, what kind of mindset now are you going to have playing tomorrow and playing Sunday? Are you still going to be, let's say aggressive? Have you been aggressive, or is this going to be --
ERNIE ELS: That is a good question. I mean, that is something I have got to work on tomorrow. Obviously, I have got to go prepare myself tomorrow -- tonight, tomorrow morning for tomorrow's round and hopefully I can just get out tomorrow morning out of bed and feel exactly the same I am feeling right now. But we all know golf, and your emotional state, I don't know, hopefully I am in a good mood tomorrow again, you are -- you have got to go out there and play the golf course. I have got to realize it is almost like a new tournament starting tomorrow. I have made 34 points now. Can I do it again? Probably not. But I have got to play as good as I can and I have got to try and stay aggressive -- as aggressive as I can. I have got to try and play my shots and I have got to do it with a bit of authority, hopefully, and I feel the -- and hopefully the shots come off. But I definitely have to go after it, put it that way.
Q. Did you notice whether the course was firming up a little bit as you went along this afternoon?
ERNIE ELS: Not really. It actually became kind of humid for here this afternoon and, no breeze and seems like it is going to rain again. They didn't get firmer.
Q. You mentioned on TV you were talking about your putting stroke. Do you really feel good with the putter in your hand right now? What is going on when you step over a putt?
ERNIE ELS: Well, I can only say that it felt good the first two days. I really -- I have got a new putter this week again. It's the same make I have been using the last month or so. It is just a different shape. I was kind of excited to go out there and try this putter out yesterday and even today. And when you feel excited to putt, you know, it is a good feel. Rather than get on the green and hopefully this putter is right. I just felt comfortable with the putter and I feel excited putting at the moment. At the moment it is going good.
Q. What kind is it?
ERNIE ELS: I don't want to say.
LEE PATTERSON: Go get some rest.
ERNIE ELS: Thank you.
LEE PATTERSON: Thank you.
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