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August 1, 2001

Ernie Els


JOAN vT ALEXANDER: You've had a chance to play the course today. There are some changes that they have made out there. Why don't you make a couple comments on those and we'll go into some questions.

ERNIE ELS: The course for one is really playing very long. They have made some changes, as you say. They have changed the hole on No. 8. They moved the tee back about 40 yards. So I hit in the rough, but even if I was in the fairway, I don't think I would have gotten there in two. That's a huge change. No. 4 I think is a nice change. There was this big mound in the middle of the green and now they made the green bigger. I think it was a good change. Then on the back nine, No. 14 I think is beautiful. I think it's still one of my favorite holes and it's even better now, with a little lake in front of the green. I hit a good driver on today and I could have got a little 3-wood; I just hit it short of the green. And on 11, the little creek in front left of the green. All of these changes look very natural. It looks like it's been there for quite a few years, so I think it's just an improvement to the golf course.

Q. They say this might be the best field in 16 years for this tournament. Are you the guy to gun for and if it is not you, who is the guy to gun for?

ERNIE ELS: It's a pretty good field. I think except for Tiger, just about everybody has a shot that's playing well in world golf today. Most of these guys who are playing well are really comfortable probably on this golf course because they are longer hitters. The kind of a player you are looking at -- I think it's a hell of a field. There are so many good players in the field, but if you look at star players, yeah, there's some really good star players here.

Q. Talking about the changes in the course. 11 probably isn't going to be playing any different, is it; do you think?

ERNIE ELS: Well, they put the flag -- it's tough when the pin is up on the left. You're going to have to play away from that now, probably. The greens are very soft now so maybe you can still go at it. But it's a great change, I think. You know, right now, you cannot miss it left. You cannot be over that left flag. 13, you're coming from a downstroke on the second shot -- if the flag is right, it's a little bit easier, but if the flag is left , you could really get your drive down and maybe go with a mid-iron. But that's not going to happen this week.

Q. How about 8? Did you go back on the back tee and look at it?

ERNIE ELS: 8, we played from the back today, and that's a big hole now. It's really long. It goes uphill. It's 575, and if you bring in the uphill, it's playing probably over 600 now. Yeah, I missed the fairway today and I had to lay up and I actually went with a good 9-iron for my third shot, and that green is really undulating, too. So you have to watch that on your third shot. All of these changes are going to probably make the scoring a little tougher than previous years. I mean, 8 is always a tough eagle hole, but you can make birdie there. Now it's a tough birdie hole, I think, and the same goes for 14.

Q. Some comments you made on No. 10 at the British Open, can you talk about 10 and why you like it so much?

ERNIE ELS: Just when you get on the tee and you look down, it's just a pretty sight. It's a long hole, it's a dividing hole. You've got to put your tee shot in play and watch out for the water in front. But it's just a -- I mean, you look at the hole and it's there; you've got two good shots to get on that green and it's bloody. On the back nine, yeah, they have got some really pretty holes and some tough ones, too. Just one of the reasons why I like this place so much.

Q. Is it any different coming into a tournament as a defending champ, you approach it a little different, come in at least as a king for the first day?

ERNIE ELS: It's nice. It's a good feeling. It doesn't happen too often with me, coming in as defending champ. So, yeah, I'm trying to enjoy my week. I've always enjoyed it up here. But it's even more special this week because I won last year, and it's one of the special events for me. I started playing in '91 and I've been coming back since then. I know the place really well, so it feels like home almost. It's a good feeling to be the defending champion. I know if I'm lucky once a year, so it feels nice, anyway.

Q. David was talking about finally getting that first major, and he said he didn't realize what it was going to feel like until he did it. You've been through there. Do you know what he's talking about, like when you win the first one, it's a major, it's not a big deal -- oh, wait, I won it is a big deal. Is it quantum leap?

ERNIE ELS: It's a very different tournament. I don't want to take anything away from the PGA TOUR or any other tour, but major championships, the pressure about it, the preparation you take into a tournament like that, it's very different from a normal event. You know, I could not answer the question for David, but I know for myself, to win majors -- mine happened quite early in my career, when I was 24, and again when I was 27. To me, you know, I feel like I made some good chances, too, in the last couple of years, but thank God I haven't had that -- whatever, that monkey or whatever that's hanging on my back. So, you know, he's been such a good player for such a long time to not have won one. You know, I'm not sure how he felt, but the way he did it was awesome. He never lost focus, and he did what he had to do. So who knows what he can do from here.

Q. Given that you had been a little disappointed in your year a little earlier and you finished third in the British Open, do you feel more confident in your game at this point?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I do. You know, there's no two ways about it. I really haven't played very well, through my middle season. May, June, was really not good. You know, I don't know quite what went wrong because I really practiced a lot and tried to work a lot on my game, but it just seemed to go south for me. I actually took four weeks off because of my lower back and I could not play at Westchester, one of my favorite events, and I could not play Loch Lomond. Gives you a bit of time to reflect on things and see how bad things really are, if they are bad. That's what I did. I had four weeks off and my family came over to London. We went to London for those weeks, had a really relaxing time, and kind of thought when I went to the Open, I felt like playing. Unfortunately, I was a little bit rusty around the greens, otherwise it could have been a little better. But I think it was a good finish for me after the month off. So I feel better about things and I feel like playing again, so hopefully that will help my game.

End of FastScripts...

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