January 12, 2001
LEE PATTERSON: Maybe just a couple thoughts about how you feel as we head into the weekend.
ERNIE ELS: Well, obviously I had a good day today. You know, I don't think I made a mistake. I didn't make a bogey. Hit most of the greens. You know, I just played a solid round of golf. I felt pretty comfortable out there. It's always nice when you know what to expect from the golf course, when the wind is blowing like it did the Front 9. Didn't have too many mysteries with the club selection today, which helped. Just played as good as I could, probably. As I say, I feel comfortable on the course. I've just got to go out there and play my game, kind of let it take care of itself.
LEE PATTERSON: Any questions?
Q. Do you feel like you have to play any more aggressively now, given the competitive environment the last couple of years, really have to make birdie all the time?
ERNIE ELS: No, not really. You know, when you kind of get it going, you just try and ride it, you know, you just try just do the same things over and over again, just go through your routine, go through your pre-shot routinne and stuff, think positive. On this golf course, like I said yesterday, I think it favors longer hitters. You can be aggressive on the longer holes, try and get the driver out there. Got some room there. You know, from that point of view, yeah. I don't go out there, you know, thinking I've got to be more aggressive than I've ever been. I just try and raise my game a little bit more.
Q. On the quality of the round, did you ever come close to making bogey? How many 12-foot and under birdie putts did you miss?
ERNIE ELS: I almost three-putted on No. 7, the par 4. I left my first putt from about 40 feet, left it ten feet short, and I made that putt for a par save. I must say, I probably missed three or four makable putts from inside ten feet. One on the 1st hole from about, you know, six feet. I would say one on 9 from about six feet again. One on 14. You know, a couple other ones (laughter).
Q. When Tiger finished, he sounded like we do, a 22 handicap or something, about ready to give UP the game. Have you ever had days where you just hate golf, where you get so frustrated you can't do anything?
ERNIE ELS: You're asking me (laughter)?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I've had many of those days. You should know that.
Q. Where you just say, "I want to get away from the game," then of course the next day you're out there.
ERNIE ELS: Oh, yeah, yeah, definitely. I've had many of those days. I've been a professional -- what's it been? -- 11 years. Probably 30% of that time (laughter).
Q. The Scots say it's a very humbling game.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah.
Q. Americans say it, too. You have a terrific record at this tournament in four appearances. Does winning this mean any more to you than any other regular TOUR event?
ERNIE ELS: No, not really. Although saying that, you know, a regular TOUR event, you've got to try and beat, you know, 53 guys, and Tiger. This week you've got to beat 32 guys and Tiger. I guess in a way, just looking at the size of the field, it's got to be a little easier. But the quality of the players here, they're all winners from last year. A lot of them have won major Championships, really a quality field. You know, this one and THE TOUR Championship must be "your quality players."
Q. Don't misconstrue this the wrong way. I'm seriously curious about this. When you were coming up 9, had to move off the left as Justin was hitting, you were looking at the score board for a couple of seconds, are you looking to see what kind of separation you have on everybody else, or if Tiger's name is up there?
ERNIE ELS: I think a little bit of both. Definitely I need to see, you know, what's going on with the leaders, the immediate leaders, kind of see who is doing well. I saw Vijay was doing great. I was actually walking off the second green, he was going to the 9th tee. I knew he was playing well. I was watching a lot of other players. Obviously, you need to know where Tiger is. You need to know what you have to do.
Q. Why do you need to know where Tiger is? Just because of what he's capable of? Are you curious? If you're playing well, should it matter?
ERNIE ELS: Sure, yeah. I mean, the score boards are there, you might as well use them. You kind of look at which players are hot on the golf course. You know, if it's Tiger or David Duval or Phil Mickelson, they're all capable of shooting really low scores. You know, you need to know what's going on, I think.
Q. What is it about the golf course? You mentioned sort of knowing a little bit about what the course is going to do, the wind, does that lead to a comfort level, turns into confidence?
ERNIE ELS: In a way, yes. I know how I played this golf course last year. I played it pretty well, you know. With the same breeze blowing again this year, it's very familiar to what we had last year. Although there's a lot of elevation changes on the golf course, you know, I can feel comfortable hitting a 9-iron 180 yards, you know. Guys who haven't played in these kind of conditions might not think they can get there with a 9-iron, you know what I mean? I feel comfortable hitting the shots that you have to play on the golf course.
Q. Lots of good vibrations from last year, too?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, yeah, definitely. The greens also you need to know how the grain is going, stuff like that. It was important to have played it pretty well before.
Q. A lot of golf to go, a lot of quality guys still close to you. Is it nice to look in the rearview and see that many strokes separating Tiger?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, yeah, definitely (laughter). You know, I've done pretty hard work up to now, you know. I've played pretty hard up to now. You know, I can reap a little bit of benefits right now. I've got a four-shot lead ahead of three guys. You know, I can go out there and play hard over the weekend and see what happens. As I've said to you guys, I feel comfortable on the course. If I can continue playing the way I have been, you know, it's going to be difficult for him to catch me.
Q. What is your plan for the weekend? Do you change anything?
ERNIE ELS: No, I don't want to change anything. I want to play sensible. I want to play within myself. It's all about putting, you know. I think a lot of guys are going to get the golf ball on the greens; it's making the putts. Putting is going to be quite important.
Q. What about playing with Vijay tomorrow?
ERNIE ELS: That's my partner, my 0-and-5 partner (laughter). Just thought I'd throw that in there. He's a good friend of mine, good mate of mine. I've known him a very long time. We'll have a good game tomorrow. Will be very competitive I'm sure.
Q. You didn't have a lot of confidence last year, you obviously played well. You have more confidence this year. That seems like it's going to add up to --?
ERNIE ELS: You know, I won a good tournament in December. You know, I've been playing okay for the last couple of months. I enjoy the course. So, you know, see what happens.
Q. You won in December?
ERNIE ELS: What do you mean (laughter)?
LEE PATTERSON: Need the birdies?
ERNIE ELS: 3 was a pitching wedge to about five feet, down the green. I made that. The par 5, today I got the right club. Hit a 6-iron on there, back of the green. 2-putted from about 40 feet. No. 8, I hit a 7-iron to about eight feet. 10 was a pitching wedge about a good 15, 18 feet there for birdie. 12, I hit a 3-wood off the tee, pitched it into the green to about 18 feet again, made a good one there. 15, the par 5, I hit it in the right rough. Hit a 3-wood on the green. 2-putted from about 45 feet. 18 was a drive, 2-iron. 2-putted from about 55 feet.
Q. How long was that last putt?
ERNIE ELS: That last one was five, six feet.
Q. Did you say you grew up on these kind of greens?
ERNIE ELS: Yes. Before we changed to a bentgrass, at my club we used to play on greens like this in Johannesburg.
Q. Were they this grainy?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, very grainy.
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