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March 15, 2002

Ernie Els


JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Thank you, Ernie for spending something time with us. You're at 7-under par for the tournament. Good day out there. No bogeys, pretty good conditions. Why don't you talk about your round, and then we'll go into questions.

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, it was perfect conditions out there, again, today. Even better than yesterday. Because we played in the morning, the greens were really very fresh, and just perfect pace.

Yeah, I played well. I think in all, I only missed two or three greens all day. I think that was the key to a good round for me today. Hit a lot, a lot of good putts that just hit the edges and missed out. I kind of left a couple out there, but I shouldn't complain. I shot 5-under par, drove it really nice and hit my iron shots really good. So it was a nice, solid round of golf.


Q. Two weeks in a row and you really don't look very complacent out there.

ERNIE ELS: Well, I mean, like I said before, I've been striking it quite well and playing quite nicely, so might as well continue trying to do that.

I got a nice little lesson from David this morning, you know, regarding my swing and stuff, and I just felt I was hitting it really nice today. You were out there and you saw me, and I probably could have -- I mean, you know especially on the back nine, I think I missed three or four really short birdie putts. Could have made a little difference, but, you know, I feel like I'm playing well, so I want to continue doing that.

Q. What did David say to you?

ERNIE ELS: It was just a little line up, a little tip he gave me, to square up my hips a little bit more. I just felt I was hitting through the line, a little coming over the top yesterday a little bit. Hit some off-line yesterday.

Q. Is this as well as you've ever played around the world, this last stretch?

ERNIE ELS: I've had stretches before, obviously. But, you know, to go around the world like I have been, I don't think I've done that before to go to Australia and then back here and back to Dubai, so that was pretty different. I always enjoy coming to Bay Hill. I feel like this golf course suits my game. I'm staying home; so that's a little better.

But, yeah, I'm on a nice stretch right now, so might as well stretch it out.

Q. The state of your game?

ERNIE ELS: The state of my game is quite solid at the moment, yes. I think all aspects of my game is almost -- I don't want to get too confident, but it's close to an A, B-minus. So that's pretty good. That's a positive in the right direction. When you've worked on most aspects of your game and it starts coming through, it's a nice feeling.

Q. When you're riding a streak when you know your game is at its best, do you ever tempt things and expect to do them that under some other circumstances you might not even expect to try?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, sometimes.

Q. What would be some of those?

ERNIE ELS: Well, for instance, on these par 5s, you know, sometimes, like on 16, there's water all the way out the green on the left -- and No. 6 is another one, where you've got to drive the ball, the further you go left, and the further you go let, the shorter second shot you have. So at times when you are not swinging that well, you might as well just go out to the right and make it a three-shot hole to the green. Same on 16.

So when you're swinging better, you take more of an aggressive line and you might hit a different shot.

Q. With Retief's success last year, did that put any more fire under your tail than usual?

ERNIE ELS: No, not really. We've been friends for a very long time. We grew up together playing golf. I know him very, very well. I was just happy for him, really. He came through there, through very tough circumstances and prevailed and won, and then he had a great year to cap it off. So I'm just happy for him. I'm sure he feels the same for me.

Q. Right about that time, right after that tournament, you said some things about, "I don't know what I want to do, I don't know where I want to go," he was flying high and you were kind of looking for an answer, I think. What is that, ten months ago?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, it goes like that sometimes. Some guys, hit their peak and other guys hit rock bottom. I was at rock bottom there. So, as I say, it's just the nature of the game. You don't always play the way I'm playing right now, and other times when you're low, you've got to get yourself back. So, you know, as I say, I was just happy for him and happy for myself now.

Q. Is having Ricci Roberts back on the bag -- in two U.S. Opens he was on the bag for both those wins; right? Is that stability, familiarity, all of the above?

ERNIE ELS: I changed for two years and I had Neil Wallace (ph) caddying for me; he was a great guy, very good caddie.

But I think the understanding between myself and Ricci is such that, you know, when you say things sometimes on the golf course, you know, you don't mean it personally and you don't sometimes mean it the way it comes out.

We've been very close for a long time, and I think our relationship, if you want to call it, is a little different than probably any other guys out there. So it gives me good yardages the name as Neil gave me, but it's just the chemistry has been a little different.

Q. He had been with Nick (Price) and you got him back -- most recently and you hired him back at what point? How long ago have you guys been back together?

ERNIE ELS: I got him back just before the U.S. Open last year. We started together -- in May last year.

Q. Of the different peaks and valleys that you've had in your career, are you saying that last summer is the lowest you've been as a professional?

ERNIE ELS: When you go through a bit of a slump, it feels like it's the worst time of your life. So I guess every slump I've been in has been pretty bad. So I couldn't say which one is the worst. Yeah, I'll leave it at that.

Q. What was root of the problem? Was it the way you were playing or what?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I think I was -- like I said to you the other day, I was doing a lot of practicing, but I was just doing mindless practicing. I was just beating balls because I thought the more balls I'll hit, the quicker I'll get out of it; things will just come right. But, you know, I was wrong. I probably should have just stood back and taken a couple of weeks off and come back fresh.

So it's kind of worked out that way. You know, I played the U.S. Open and I was on my way to the Buick Classic and I hurt my back, and I hurt it really bad. I went back to England, got some treatment, and I think I took four weeks off. When I came back at the British Open, you know, things, I just felt different about it, picked up with Jos, and from then on, I've just kind of got a new little method of playing.

Q. Ernie, do you think that you're as easygoing and laid back as everybody else thinks you are?

ERNIE ELS: No. (Laughter.) No.

Q. What is it we don't see?

ERNIE ELS: Oh, I'm not going to tell you. (Laughter.)

Q. Should we ask Ricci?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, ask Ricci. (Laughs).

JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Can we go through your birdies real quick.

ERNIE ELS: I started on 10, so that was my first hole. I parred 10, 11, 12. Parred 13, 14.

I hit a drive on 15 really good down there. I had 105 to the hole. Hit a sand iron in there to about eight feet. Holed that.

16, I hit a drive, 3-iron, just right of the hole in the rough. Pitched it up and tapped it in for birdie.

3, I hit a good drive down the fairway. I think I had about 95 to the hole. Hit it really close and tapped it in.

6 was a drive, 5-iron, pulled it slightly. I was on the green and 2-putted from about 40 feet and made birdie there.

8 was a 3-wood down into the fairway, 9-iron about 20 feet behind the hole and made it and saved par.

Q. What were the short putts you missed?

ERNIE ELS: The short ones, you know, my very first hole, I was about 10 feet.

But on the back nine, I missed a short one on 4, I missed six feet. And on 5 I missed from about five feet.

Q. When do you think you'll go to Augusta?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I've got two weeks off, I might go up there once. Two weeks, I don't have much to do.

Q. What do you do during those two weeks? How much do you get away and how much do you still tune?

ERNIE ELS: In those two weeks, I'll have to keep it tuned. I think I'll go down to the Bahamas for a couple of days. (Laughs) There's a golf course down there, so you can tune it. Probably go down there, and then the week before the Masters I'll really do a lot of work with Lead and so forth.

Q. You globe-hop so much, it's hard to keep track, but do you remember winning three in a row -- you're gunning for third start in a row here -- at any point along the line since turning pro?

ERNIE ELS: It would have to be back in South Africa, I would say in '92. I think back then I won six out of eight weeks, so probably then. I won three then.

JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Thank you, Ernie, for joining us.

End of FastScripts....

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