November 2, 2000
LEE PATTERSON: Ernie, thank you for joining us. Wonderful start to THE TOUR Championship. Maybe just a couple of thoughts about today and then we will open it up for questions.
ERNIE ELS: Well, obviously it was a good day for me. No bogeys and six birdies. I definitely got off to a good start. I was 3-under through five holes, and yeah, it was nice making a nice long putt on the first hole to get things going for me. I just kept it in play all day and -- well, not all day. I tried to do that, that was kind of some of the stuff I tried to do. But I putted better today. I hit my iron shots a lot crisper, a lot better than I have been, and I just tried to keep the momentum flowing today and I enjoyed the golf course when I played it on Tuesday in a practice round for the first time. So it is always nice when you go out there and enjoy the golf course.
LEE PATTERSON: Any questions?
Q. You left Washington a couple of weeks ago not feeling particularly good about things, obviously. What have you done in the interim and any lingering thoughts about what happened and did it have any influence on what happened this week?
ERNIE ELS: Well, I spoke to some of you guys on the Sunday afterwards in the pressroom. It was -- really it was a very tough week for me. Going through that week the way I did, just playing from really mediocre to very bad at the end of the week and losing every match, that is not like me. I normally enjoy that kind of format, that kind of golf, but for some reason I couldn't get it together that week. Luckily for me, I had the opportunity to go and take a week off. I went down to the Bahamas with my wife and little girl and really had a great enjoyable time down there. I had a great time. I played two rounds of golf on Saturday and Sunday at Lyford Cay and that was about it. Then I couldn't go fishing. It was too choppy. The water wasn't very good. I just stayed on the island and did a bit of gambling, all kinds of stuff, so that kind of got my attention away from golf and away from the week. I didn't read a newspaper. Didn't watch television, so whatever you guys wrote about me last week, I guess you could have wrote whatever you wanted to because my play really sucked over there. I just wanted to get back here and get into playing golf again and try and enjoy myself.
Q. Did you win at gambling?
ERNIE ELS: I won 4-under. That is not bad for the week.
Q. This has been a round that has been waiting to happen with Ernie Els. But what was key to it? What sort of got you really cranked and started into it?
ERNIE ELS: Well, I think yesterday's work with Led, Led came up from Orlando yesterday morning and we spent some time on the range and you just said to me, you are not swinging as bad as you think you are swinging. He said things are kind of looking pretty good and we played -- I played 14 holes yesterday and he was with me most of the time and we just worked on a couple of things. I definitely felt that, as I said earlier, my iron-play was a lot better today. I was really quite confident and quite positive over my iron shots. And I made some putts for a change. So I basically played well altogether today for a change.
Q. Do you think the kind of year you have had where you finished second in three of the Majors and you came close a couple of other times, in other tournaments won once, do you think that it took its toll as the year went on just trying to trying to play catchup all the time?
ERNIE ELS: Not really. Obviously in the Majors this year I really only had one chance of a win and that was at The Masters. The rest of them I played pretty well, but I didn't play as well as I could, obviously. At the British Open I let one round slip away. At the U.S. Open I played one great round and that was it. Other second place finishes, the one in Hawaii I played really well there, then got nipped by Tiger there, but I have basically had a pretty good year. I have come along way from where I was last year and the year before and in 1998/1999 I really didn't play anywhere like I can play and I knew I had to put in the work this year and I had some real -- a lot of positives come out of this year. I am right up there on the money list and in Europe, so, I have got to look at a pretty good year. Hopefully this is a stepping stone to better things for me to come in the future.
Q. In view of the year you have had which has been pretty successful, would it be very satisfying for you this week to finish ahead of Tiger as you have finished behind him five times?
ERNIE ELS: Absolutely. I am not looking at it that way, though. Really I am not. I am going to try and play as good as I can this week, and whoever I play with, so be it. If I get bit by Tiger again it will be 6. But, who cares? I am going to try and do my thing. I am going to play as good as I can. I feel like I am playing well at the moment. I am striking the ball well. I just got to, you know, not get in my own way this week and just let it flow. Whatever happens at the end of the week I want to give it my best shot.
Q. Given the amount of travel that you have to do and a lot of the European players have to do, do you all get sometimes a little annoyed listening to the American players complain about flying overseas once or twice a year?
ERNIE ELS: You know what, I think I have commented on that enough already the last couple of weeks. You know what the problem is, the dates of these tournaments overseas, it is just -- this is kind of the end of the season right now. THE TOUR Championship has always been the last event on the U.S. Tour and now to ask the players to go to Valderama at the end of the year, then fly straight back, that is asking quite a lot. And especially with the January 3 tournament coming up in Australia, I mean, that is a lot of flying going on. These guys have to go play Ryder Cups and Presidents Cups. Hey, this is the way golf is going at the moment, I can understand that. These World Championship events have to be World Championship events. You can't play them in America even though the best players in the world are playing over here. It's a global game and it is not like anybody is putting a gun to their heads anyways. You don't have to do anything. You can pretty much play your schedule. Nobody is going to fine you or sanction you or anything like that. We can still pretty much do what we want to do. It is just to promote the game worldwide, I think every player has that opportunity and kind of their job to do for the game of golf. That is the way I see it.
Q. I wanted to know if you like this particular layout of this course - if you feel this is the type of layout where it is just sort of separates guys who are playing really well as the week goes along?
ERNIE ELS: I think so. I think that is a good question. I think I mean, this is a classic golf course. You can play any kind of a major championship on this golf course. It is that good. It is in great shape. The greenkeepers here have done a magnificent job with the golf course, condition of the place. Yeah, you are right, it is kind of it slopes a little bit but it is very natural. What you see is kind of what you are going to get. Then you have got ^ shape some shots around this place, so it is a classic course. It is a golf course these guys will definitely enjoy. You have got to play well. You have got to put the ball in play. You have got to hit great, good iron shots and you have got to putt well. So it is going to test your whole game. That is kind of what we are looking for.
Q. Off the tee on one you hit a sprinkler head?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I hit a perfect drive down, kind of down the left side and hit a 3-wood off the tee and I was kind of picking up my tee when I saw the ball just come flying back at me. It hit a sprinkler head and it came back about 30 yards back up the fairway. I was kind of a little worried after that bounce. I thought what is going to happen after that. (laughs) It was nice making that putt.
Q. What did hit in from there?
ERNIE ELS: I hit 7-iron in from there. It was a weird bounce.
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