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March 28, 2001

Ernie Els


NELSON LUIS: We'd like to welcome Ernie Els into the interview room. Ernie, your first visit back to this tournament since 1996, so obviously must be a nice week for you to kind of get ready for next week and enjoy this week here.

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I wasn't going to play this week. It wasn't in my schedule. But my form of late suggests to me to play this week, so I committed last week Thursday to come play here. And I'm working on a couple of things in my game, and I feel that playing and working on it is better than staying on the range and practicing and thinking about next week too much. So I want to come and play and try to get it ready and hopefully have it right by next week so I can be competitive. I've listened to some players comments about the course in the past and a lot of them say they try to set it up similar to next week, especially the greens and around the greens. And there's a lot of slopes here, and I think it's true what they say. I think it's very similar, especially the way it's playing right now. I know we're going to get some rain, so that's going to soft even things up a little bit for us, but I've had a couple of good days on the course already. I think it's better warming up here than probably staying at home.

Q. Did you know you were going to get this Dunhill Cup weather?

ERNIE ELS: No, I was supposed to play at 6:30 this morning, and I was here at I think 6:00 this morning, and it was colder this morning than any Dunhill Cup I've ever played. It was near freezing this morning. It's a good thing we went off at 8:30. It was a little better.

Q. How do you like the course overall?

ERNIE ELS: I think it's a good course. It's a lot of right to left holes, which is again very similar to what we have next week. There's a couple of holes where you can go with a 3-wood off the tee, but it's really a big course. It's a big hitter's golf course, I think. Par-5s are very long, but you've got to drive it well here. And you've got to try and get yourself on the right spots on the greens. It's a testing course, especially the way it's playing now. It's going to change. It might play a little easier in days to come, but right now it's --.

Q. Based on what you've seen, do you think it sets up well for your game?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, when I'm playing well, I think it sets up really well. I drive it quite nicely today. I think it's a comfortable course when you're hitting it well. Obviously, I think it can set up very well for me. I can reach some of the par-5s, some of the par-4s with short irons, so if I can strike the ball well, I think I can have a good week.

Q. Ernie, how much have you been hurting the last fortnight.

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, the last month I haven't played too well. I got into bad habits with my swing. I'm trying to get it back. Even since last week I've been trying to get it back, and I get my basic fundamentals right. And it was tough doing that last week on that type of golf course. You really had to have your game there last week. And I didn't feel comfortable last week, and I worked hard this weekend and even the last couple of days. I'm trying to get it back as soon and as hard as possible. It hasn't been a very enjoyable time for me the last month on the golf course, obviously. I'm trying to get it back.

Q. Ernie, with the weather a little unsettled the next day or two with some rain, I know you want to come here for momentum next week, sometimes you can run the risk of it being a weather ordeal and it can work the other way. It's still a better situation to be doing something this week than just practicing, at least some kind of competition?

ERNIE ELS: Hopefully, yeah. When we have the weather problem, that becomes a problem when you're sitting around and not playing and not doing anything, then I might as well be at home, where it's more comfortable. But hopefully we won't have it too bad this week. I know there's some stuff coming in. Hopefully something happens and we can get four decent days of play in. I think most of the players would obviously like that, and I would definitely like that to happen. So hopefully we can get things going. But if it happens the other way, that's not nice to sit around and wait. And that will be a bit of a problem, a bit of a distraction, before next week starts.

Q. If you could change anything about Augusta National, within an hour of conversation here, what would it be, here?

ERNIE ELS: The rough.

Q. The rough? You don't like the change of a few years ago?

ERNIE ELS: No. I think the way it was designed with the land flowing like that, and you get that place rock hard, it will still play very, very tough. Put a bunker in there, but it's hard to criticize Augusta National. It's one of my favorite places, and it still is. But I really enjoyed it the way it used to be.

Q. Do you have a general philosophy about whether or not you want -- the pros and cons of playing a week before a major?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, with myself I've done it both ways. I've played going into majors. I've taken weeks off before that. It just is the way your game is. Sometimes I enjoyed the tournaments before majors, like the Buick Classic, like Loch Lomond before the Open championship, and sometimes I play before the PGA at the Buick Open, so personally it's just the way I feel. In past I haven't played going into The Masters. As you know, I've only played once before The Masters in the last six years, so I just felt like I needed to play. I needed to work on the game on the golf course. It just goes from person to person, really.

Q. (Inaudible.)

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I've listened to what the guys have said in the past, obviously. It wasn't a major factor if I came here. The bottom line is I just feel like I want to play. But I've heard comments about the course, and good comments about the golf course, so it helps.

Q. I was going to ask you, have you been able to identify what is the problem with your game?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah. As I said, it's just basic fundamental things. My grip went bad on the club. I got into a position where I released it through the ball, square through the ball, you know. And I had to do something with my body to try to square the club face up. And obviously that's not always going to happen that way. So I've been trying to get my grip back to where I think it belongs. And at the moment it's just an awkward thing playing with your hands feeling a little awkward on the club. But I know where I've got it now is where it should be. So I think with time it will be where it's very comfortable in a couple of days.

Q. When you're not playing well, is the game so fickle that it can change over night or even with a shot, some light comes on?

ERNIE ELS: Well, no, it's not that easy. I've done the work now. I've put in a lot of work in the last four or five days. And when you start feeling comfortable and you start seeing the ball going where it should be going, then you can start working on your mental side, and I'm almost there right now. So you've got to get the ball rolling in the right direction again. When you start getting everything in place, that's when you can start really focusing on winning golf tournaments and getting back to where you should be. So I think I've hopefully gone over the worst period now, and I can kind of turn it around again.

NELSON LUIS: Thank you.

End of FastScripts....

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