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March 1, 2002

Ernie Els


JOAN V.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, Ernie, for joining us in the press room. Great round today with all that wind out there. So far you have been bogey-free for the week.

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, that's always nice. I was pleased with the up-and-down on 18. To make par there, take a little momentum into tomorrow. 18 is a really tough hole, probably the toughest hole we played today. That was nice, but I felt I played good today. I felt I knew that the conditions were pretty tough, but I was looking forward to it. I mean yesterday, really, the golf course is in such great condition and it's a really good course and really like I said, I just think the golf course needs a bit of breeze and a bit of wind to make it a little bit more difficult for the players, I think today it proved to play pretty well; to break 70 and I think that's the way, hopefully, it will stay like that this week.

Q. You say that you want it tough because you are playing well, it sounds like that's what you are --

ERNIE ELS: I don't really want to say that. But if you want to write that, you can write that. (Laughs).

Q. If you want it tough when it is tough, it separates --

ERNIE ELS: I think so. I don't think -- like I am going to say it again, I don't think it played the way it should have played yesterday. It was really too benign out there. You are hitting 9-irons into 18, which is a 460 yard par 4. That's not the way the golf course was designed. I am saying that now being 11-under (laughs) but I just feel that, you know, at least it gives the guys that are really playing well a good opportunity to show that they are playing good.

Q. Is it possible when it lays down that you could also stop thinking, not you, I mean anybody -- when it gets too easy that you, you know, you lose your train of thought and go to sleep over certain shots?


Q. Yesterday you got a really --

ERNIE ELS: Yeah. Like today, I mean, you know, when you miss your tee shot you really will have to figure out if the ball is not going to hold the green, where you are going to try to get it up-and-down. Where yesterday, you can hit it basically anywhere, if there's no wind, so I mean, you can still just go at any flag yesterday, so it's a lot like Augusta in ways. You have to play to certain areas and, you know, when you hit it in the right spots you can go at any flag.

Q. That's the only way this is like Augusta?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah. (Laughs) sometimes downhill it is similar.

Q. You have been on a pretty good roll, not all, but in the U.S. obviously since, I guess THE TOUR Championship last year you won the team thing with Retief and then the European Tour win at the Heineken, I guess then the South African win. But yet here, it is still first winless season in seven years. Been kind of ramping up to being in this position, I guess?

ERNIE ELS: I guess so. I have just been steadily working on my game, you know, over last six, seven months, and I guess it's steadily improving. I don't play as many tournaments as a lot of players over here, so I guess I haven't got as many opportunities to win as other players do over here. But still, I didn't win last year but I had a couple of opportunities, but it's not the end of the world.

Maybe I'll play one or two more tournaments on my schedule over here and just basically work on my game. I have always been a world player, I just feel when I tee it up now I have got a good chance to win now, wherever I play.

Q. You said yesterday that you may have pushed too hard to make something happen last year. Would that go back to maybe frustration that originated the previous year where you had so many close calls?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I think so. I think I commented on that yesterday. I think you got a point there. You play really well one year and Tiger was just better than anybody, you know. I do not think even Jack Nicklaus in his prime would have been with him that year. He just played unbelievably. That was a little frustrating and then maybe just went over into last year, so that could have been a factor, but probably couldn't have been a factor -- I haven't really put my finger on it but that could be a factor. Could have been a factor, I should say.

Q. Is it bothersome when people talk about your winless year last year and just completely overlook that you won in Australia and you won in South Africa?

ERNIE ELS: No, you know, it's the truth, isn't it? I haven't won last year, so you guys can bring it up. I don't know how long I can still talk about it, but my patience is still good.

Q. So far.

ERNIE ELS: (Laughs) but I am probably going through a lot more of these kind of questions, but it is one of those things. I will just try and do it this week and -- if not this week, then the next week. I just feel like, as I say, I am playing good enough to, win hopefully it's a matter of time.

Q. In your mind was last year a winless year?

ERNIE ELS: No. No. On this Tour, but no, I did win twice.

Q. When you wake up tomorrow, would you rather be in conditions like today or like yesterday?

ERNIE ELS: It is tough to say. I have got a two-shot lead now and a four-shot lead on third place, so I played pretty well in these kind of conditions today. Can I do it again? Hopefully I can. If it really calms down, you know, Mike Weir shot 62 last year and I think Greg Norman shot 62 in the past here, there has been a lot of low scoring and that has been in good conditions. So I guess it can go both ways, yeah, but the way I played today, you know, I won't mind if it's like this tomorrow again.

Q. How much work with Leadbetter have you been doing here? This is all fairly recently?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, we have been -- you know, I have really been with led since 2000 again. We took a little break there for two years or so, but I have been with Lead again and we have been talking on the telephone or via e-mail or when I am in Orlando I will see him basically everyday and it is just little, you know, little tuneup stuff, really worked on my aim the last couple of days. I was aiming a little cockeyed and got my aim a little better. Just working on little things. I am basically swinging quite nicely.

Q. When did you start working with Josh and why did you start working with him and what is the biggest thing you have taken out of it so far?

ERNIE ELS: I worked started working with Josh the second round of the British Open last year, and we have been together now, what is it now, seven, eight months, and what I have taken out of it, he's very different than anybody I have spoken to, which I like. He had had some great success with a great friend of mine, Retief, and in ways we're very similar. In other ways we're not. But he just takes every individual, you know, he works with quite a few players and I takes every individual separately obviously. But a lot of positive stuff, a lot of work that I have to put in that to make our little plan work. He's giving the information an I am kind of going with it.

Q. Nothing specific you want to share?

ERNIE ELS: No, not really.

Q. We just make that stuff up anyway?

ERNIE ELS: (Laughs).

Q. Do you know Briny Baird?

ERNIE ELS: No, I have see him in the locker room and on the range somewhere but we haven't played together. He's obviously a good player and he has been on Tour a couple of years, so it should be nice.

Q. Does it matter anymore if the guy doesn't really have a resume or isn't as accomplished, I mean --

ERNIE ELS: It's going to be tough for me to comment on that one. But if you look at guys like the major winners, it's a little different playing with them than guys just coming through right now. But in another way it's not. You got to just play your own game, just do your own things, so we probably won't have as many people watching us than if I was playing with Tiger or anybody but you still do your own thing out there.

Q. Go through your birdies.

ERNIE ELS: Birdied No. 8 good drive, hit 3-wood into the back bunker and hit a good one out there to about five feet, made that one.

10 I hit 3-iron into the green-side bunker again, got it out actually wasn't very good shot. Hit it out to about twelve feet, made that.

12, par 5, I hit a good drive, 3-wood just short of the green, basically hit very bad chip shot. You guys could have hit a better one there. Hit it through the green, had to chip back, chipped it in the hole from about 18 feet.

13, I hit a good 6-iron to about eight feet. Made that.

16, was a sand iron to about five feet, made that.

Then I parred on 18, hit it just through the green and made about an 8-footer there.

Q. 13 downwind?

ERNIE ELS: 13 was downwind, yeah. Straight downwind. I had 218 there or something.

Q. Who did you hit your second shot on 18?

ERNIE ELS: I had 160 out of the rough and I had a flier lie, hit a 9-iron through the green.

Q. Saw a guy with the flier lie hit the grandstand today?

ERNIE ELS: Not a bad play. (Laughs).

Q. Got a crazy bounce.

ERNIE ELS: Did he?

Q. Is a bogeyless 11-under any different to you than 11-under that has some bogeys tossed in?

ERNIE ELS: It's a nicer feeling, (laughs), you know, that you have worked pretty hard and got most out of your round so that is always a nice feeling. It's not so nice sometimes when you sit here and you are 10-under but you have made 4, 5 stupid bogeys. I saved pretty well. It is a nice feeling.

Q. Guess it's got to mean something about your ball striking?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, on the stats, you know, I heard down there that I have missed six greens each day but didn't feel like that. It felt like I hit it a little better than that. I think I just missed some of greens by a couple of inches.

Q. Sergio started the year by saying one of his goals was to win the money list on both sides of the Atlantic. As someone who has travelled the world probably more extensively than anybody, any thoughts on how feasible that might be?.

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I think obviously he had had a great start over here so he's right up there on the money list. Basically the European Tour is almost a World Tour, you know, all the majors count on the European money list all the World Tour events count on the European money list, so basically if you win a World Championship event and one other one like he's done already, he can win it easily. The World Championship event prize money is so big I mean, Fulke finished second last year. I think he was Top 5 on the money list over there. So it's not all that hard. You got to play really well, but it's not impossible.

Q. Harder than when you had a decent run at it a couple of years ago?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I have had a couple of good runs at it. Even last year I could have had a run at it over there and you guys say I didn't have a good year, so (laughs)...

Q. What is so much better about this new house down the street than the one you are in now, the one you are moving to?

ERNIE ELS: We got a little bit more space in the lot. We got a nice bigger pool and a bit more space. Kind of grew out of the other one.

Q. Yeah, you were there so much.

ERNIE ELS: Yeah exactly. I am there 110 days.


ERNIE ELS: All right, thanks.

End of FastScripts....

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