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July 31, 2002

Ernie Els


JOAN V.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you Ernie for joining us for a few minutes. Congratulations again on your victory over at the British Open. I know it was probably a long week last week, a lot of things going on. I am sure it's great to be back here in Colorado for The INTERNATIONAL. You had a chance to play the course today. Why don't you make a couple of comments about that; then we'll go into some questions.

ERNIE ELS: I played this morning and you can see the places is dry; even flying in yesterday you can see the surrounding areas it's very dry, but it seems like when the Tour comes around town we get some rain. I know we're going to get some rain this week. But the golf course is in good shape. The greens are running very, very fast. Probably the quickest I have seen them probably ever. Fairways are good. It's such a great course. Such a good golf course for this kind of format. A Nicklaus-designed golf course, as you know really (inaudible) -- if your shots come off you can shoot low scores around here. In the same breath if you are a little bit off by just a couple of yards you can make double-bogey. You can really go out there and go for it and have a good tournament if everything goes your way.

I have just really enjoyed myself here for a very long time now, and I stay on the golf course here with friends of mine on the 11th tee box, I am close to the golf course, and the family is here, so it just a nice week. It's kind of a relaxing week before the grind into the PGA, and the rest of the year.


Q. What is the whirlwind been like? What have you done since you won at Muirfield and when did you get in here? What were you doing here when --

ERNIE ELS: Well, after the Sunday we finished -- we had quite a lot to do, official stuff, and then Nick Price I was actually going to get out of there quite clean and I get back home quite early Sunday night, but Pricey, he was out in a bar there and as I walked in there they just hit me over with a Champagne and stuff. We spent a couple of hours there as you can imagine. We drank out of the jug, mostly just Champagne there, and then I got home and on Monday was another long day, I mean, just was celebrating with a lot of friends of mine, and around the area in London and basically after Monday I was kind of left alone. The telephone rang off the hook for a couple of days, but I didn't speak to anybody. My wife was the one to speak to the people, and I got a lot of emails from the office printed them all, emails they are this thick. It was really nice, all the support I got after the tournament and but basically just really stayed very low key. I actually went to watch some cricket in England, watched a couple of games, and didn't do much. Came over here to the States on Saturday morning, first thing we flew over to Orlando and spent the weekend in Orlando and actually started working on my game on Saturday afternoon, Sunday and then Monday also. Flew over here yesterday morning, played Cherry Hills yesterday afternoon with Tommy Vickers. He took some of my money, and then played here this morning. It's really been nice. It hasn't crazy.

Q. Talk about the difference how far you have come since you started in this tournament. I think you got your first paycheck in the U.S. in this tournament, in 91, does it seem like eleven years?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, it does (laughs). Yeah, I was 21 years old when I came here or 20 -- I was 21 years old when I came here and I was basically nowhere obviously. I only turned pro the year before, played in South Africa, got some spots in Europe in 1991 and actually went to the Tour school in 1991 also and then this was kind of my running to Tour School. They gave me a really nice invite here and I am not sure if I made a check here or not. You said I did. I think I made the cut but I didn't make -- there you go, I guess you are right. But since then I have really just enjoyed coming here. I really liked the format they have here for us this week, and the surrounding area, it's great. Remind me a lot of home. It's just -- it's a nice area to play golf in.

Q. With your win at Muirfield do you think your career took another step, reached another level because it is a different major?

ERNIE ELS: Well, sure. It was a hell of a week. I felt like I could win, you know, from the second day on, but I sure made it hard on myself on Sunday. But I am happy it's done with and I am obviously over the moon that I won the Claret Jug and I got my name on it. Might not have been the prettiest of wins but got it behind me. I think it was a major step. It has been a couple of years where I have been you know, trying to win another major and I have really been -- I felt that my game is there; that I could win another one but it has just been a little bit of confidence here and there, with Tiger obviously dominating - playing as good as he has been, and some other factors, but basically I have been feeling that my game has been coming around. You don't really know until you are there like I was on Sunday, and even then it was tough.

Q. Following up, in '99 and 2000 seemed like David Duval was the guy everybody pointed out to challenge Tiger, then it was Phil. It's probably going to be you now. Are you okay with that?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I don't know if it's just going to be me. I am just happy I won another one. I can't really be that much bothered about the rivalry you guys talk about all the time. Basically what I want to do, I want to try and obviously play as good as I can, and you know, hopefully things go my way like it did a couple of weeks ago. If Tiger played on the level that he normally plays I probably would have come second again. But I found myself there and I took my opportunity, let me put it that way.

I think that's what the guys have to try and do, when it comes your way, you have got it try and grab it. And that's what I am going to try and do. I am going to keep working on my game. I am obviously very happy at the moment, with everything in my life, and obviously on the golf course, so I am going to try and just take it forward from here. Who knows what is going to happen, but I am going to try hard.

Q. Your wife was quoted as saying that you were too preoccupied with Tiger for a while. Have you learned a lesson or --

ERNIE ELS: I think we all get caught up in that, don't we? I mean, come what may, the next major Tiger is going to play and he's going to be up there and it is how you are going to deal with it. It is how you deal with how he plays and how you play with your own game and the rest of the field. So I have said before, at times you can beat the field and you might not win because he's such and exceptional talent. But who knows, who knows. I mean, he's won eight in just a couple of years it seems like, and there's a lot of talent out there. David Toms, Phil Mickelson ,David Duval I can go on and on, Sergio, all these really great players, and we just have to wait and see. But he's going to be out there. Tiger will be there.

Q. Do you feel like with the work you have done with Josh that you learned to deemphasize Tiger a little bit? Was that something you had to train yourself to do also?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah exactly. That's where Josh really helped me a lot. He really helped me focusing on what I have to do. I have got to hit my shots. I have got play my game. I have got to hit the ball from A to B., And I have got to do it to the best of my ability, give that 100%, and I won't say what Josh tells me (laughs) but that's what I have got to do. You can only control that, and if you can do that, you know, more often and with more positive energy, you know, you are going to hit more better shots in a way. So that's what he was trying to do with me and we weren't even talking about Tiger ever, or any other player for that matter. He was just trying to get me and brain wash me and get me to go from A to B. And that's all I must concern myself about. And the rest must do what I do. That's one thing Josh saying to me, but it's another thing me doing it. It's one thing on paper, but out on the golf course you can't help yourself but watch the leaderboard and stuff like that. That's basically what we're trying to do.

Q. Going back to the first time you came through here. What did you know about Colorado before you got here and when you came, what was kind of your mindset back then, as a 21 year old playing on a bigger stage?

ERNIE ELS: I was just in awe of the whole Tour really, just in awe of the setup of the golf courses; the way this golf course especially looked like to my eye, and just the beauty of it. Then obviously the clubhouse and the courtesy cars, well I never -- they never gave me a courtesy car back in those days. I used to get the shuttle rides from the hotel and back, and I basically just spent most of my time with the caddies, to be honest.

I can tell you a lot of the drinks we used to have at Bennigans down there down the road spent a lot of my time down there, and worked hard and practiced hard, but had some fun along the way too. Totally a different world for me back then. I was just trying to find my feet on the professional circuit. It was just a huge bonus for me to come and play here.

Q. Do you consider this kind of your start?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I think even before this one I played the tournament down in Georgia, played the Southern Open, and I can't really remember if this was the first one or just -- I went to Georgia, but I played there but I missed the cut there. But yeah you can say this was the start of it.

Q. Have you run into Elk or Stewy since you got here?

ERNIE ELS: No, I haven't. I really got here this morning to this golf course, and saw some of the guys this morning and in the locker room and you know, everybody has been congratulating me so it has been really nice. Kind of a special feeling to come back and play after a major. So the guys have been great. But I haven't seen Stewy or Elk yet, but I am sure they are playing here.

Q. Looked at the TV replay of the final round, have you had time?

ERNIE ELS: No, I haven't even done that either. I have got next week off so might look at it. I might not want to look at it. (Laughter). But I will probably look at it, look at some of the swings, especially those shots that I missed and see where I can improve.

Q. With Tiger not here, and your victory do you think people might start recognizing these non-Tiger events for what you guys have been talking about for years, that other people can play and this is really a deep field this year?

ERNIE ELS: Let's face it, it always a huge benefit to any tournament when Tiger plays. Probably have to double this press area, stuff like that, but I mean, I am not sure why Tiger doesn't play, it's perfect for him, yeah, but it doesn't fit into his schedule, and most of the really the top players on Tour are here - the rest of the field is here, the Tour is here, so you should have a very quality champion again and you should have quality golf. But obviously when you have Tiger here it's a bit more interesting for the community also but I am just happy to be here. I am looking forward to my week.

Q. You were happy to see the tournament is going to be back in it natural rotation the week before the PGA, more international players have and opportunity to play here?

ERNIE ELS: Hopefully it's the week after the PGA. I think that was the original week they used to have. I think that's perfect. You grind so hard on a major and most of the time I like to take some weeks off after the majors, but it seems like this year, I haven't done it. But normally I take a week off, but you know, whenever this tournament is I will try and play it unless they just move it into September or April or something, but where it is right now, is fine with me too. But I think the week after the PGA most of the guys would agree with me and I think that it's the best week for this event. It's not a normal stroke-play event. The format, the setup and everything is a lot different from week-in and week-out that we play. So it's kind of a nice event to have after a major.

End of FastScripts....

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