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September 20, 2002

Ernie Els


GORDON SIMPSON: Ernie, well played today. You're 9 under par. I think the last time you played in the American Express you lasted nine holes in Valderrama. It's nice to be in contention this time.

ERNIE ELS: Yes. In contention for now. It all depends on what Tiger does. It seems like he's starting to make some birdies now. My game, I played really well. I gave myself a lot of opportunities on the front nine and missed most of them at the turn 2 under and on the back nine I played pretty solid. There are a lot of low scores out there. If you can get going in the start of your round, you can get a low round going. I was looking at that at the start of the day and pushed too hard maybe like I did yesterday.

GORDON SIMPSON: Does it take a while to get your momentum going after the Open.

ERNIE ELS: I haven't played all that well since the Open. I've actually had quite a busy schedule. I would have loved to have taken more weeks off after the Open, but I had my schedule before the Open, and you have to stay with your commitments and it's tough pulling out of tournaments that I've committed for. That's the reason I've been busy.

I really feel like I'm hitting the ball better this week. My mind is a little better this week. I feel I can have a good weekend.

Q. Talk about low rounds, there's a bunch of good numbers out there, 65s and 67s, for a World Golf Championship. Do you think the course is set up a little too generous?

ERNIE ELS: Well, I think the golf course is designed a certain way, and I think that they're definitely playing that way. The USGA -- I don't want to knock them -- but definitely the way the U.S. Open golf course was designed, it wasn't designed for the setup the way they had it that week. I think most everybody will agree with that. To go out here, Jack Nicklaus designed in a certain way for hitting areas be a certain width in the fairways, and you know, the flags you can put them all over the place, but I think this is very fair. If the wind blows, we're lucky with the weather. Imagine if normally the weather, we have a bit of breeze and maybe a bit of rain and stuff like that, then it would have been a real pretty tough test, and I think they haven't gone over the line with making it too tough. I think it's fair. When you have weather like this, conditions on the course like we have this week, you're going to get low numbers. I don't think it's a bad thing.

Q. Do you know when you're turning up at the tournament, do you know if it's there or not?

ERNIE ELS: Sometimes when you're not trying to change it through the course of the week, but I haven't quite been there the last couple of weeks and I think my form has shown that. I finished in the top 25, though.

Q. At the start of this week, for instance, do you give yourself a talking to almost about "time to get going again"?

ERNIE ELS: I went home Sunday night from Germany, and I just sent my clubs straight here. I didn't want to touch a club for at least two days and just spend time with the family. I worked out for a couple of days again, and just tried to get excitement going again for this week. Yesterday, I felt more ready than I have been the last couple of weeks. I'm looking forward to the weekend. I feel my game is almost there now. I'm hitting my irons really crisply again, I made some putts today. We'll see.

Q. When you're on the green, do you necessarily putt better or do you actually look for other things to go wrong; do you think you ought to be putting well, these greens are perfect?

ERNIE ELS: I got it going to the green. I got a pretty good score. I was 4 under through 13 holes or so, and I hit it close from 14 coming in and I didn't make anything. Basically, I just tried to hit the perfect putt again, I didn't read the putt and hit it. I was trying too hard on the putt. We don't get greens like this too often. From five feet and in, if you misread a putt, it's your own fault. From 20 feet and in, if you miss the putt, you can misread it. But yesterday I was all over the place with my putter. Today I was better. So yeah, I would say there is a fine line when you have perfect greens, you feel you should make everything, even if you're 20 feet. So then after a while, when you miss some putts, it becomes a bit of a mental backup.

Q. It sounds like your recovery time after winning the Open was a lot longer than when you won the first two U.S. Opens; is that because kids and family and everything, or is it -- what would be the reason, do you think?

ERNIE ELS: I don't know. I just think this time I've really enjoyed it. (Laughter) Really, really enjoyed it. I haven't got a certain answer for that question. I think I just basically I'm still on cloud nine. I just really enjoyed it.

Q. There was a report in a U.S. magazine last night you'll be switching to Titleist. Can you speak to that?

ERNIE ELS: Which magazine.

Q. Golf World?

ERNIE ELS: Really? I don't think I should comment on that. I'll leave that to the guys in the offices. I think if I say anything now I'm bringing either TaylorMade or Titleist into a spin so I'm not going to say anything.

Q. When you opened your morning Times and read that Tiger would rather play and win here than next week, did you think to yourself, "right thing to say," or did it surprise you?

ERNIE ELS: I think he handled that question very well. It's a very good question, though. Which one is more important; this one or next week. Mine is very easy. I want to win this week, obviously. That's a good question. Next week is a team event. This week is for yourself. You guys seem to really enjoy writing about the Ryder Cup and make that very important, as if the players feel the same way. I don't necessarily think they think the same way as the press about the Ryder Cup.

We're all competitive. If I just look at the last one, at the end of the day you're going to do whatever you can to win. That singles day was some of the best golf you'll ever see, the way the American team came back. They were going to do whatever they could to win. I'm not saying using the crowd; they just got so excited out on the golf course. That's what happened. I think that's what makes it so great. That's why it's such a great event. That's why I watch it for three days solid, so see what the guys go through, I kind of know what they go through. It seems like most of the guys want to make the team and then when the week comes around, it's one of the hardest weeks of your career for some players. I think the more the players can downplay it, the easier the week will become.

Q. By in large the European team might disagree with Tiger, but it's clear now that most of his American colleagues agree with him?

ERNIE ELS: I think I would agree with you.

Q. When you're watching, who do you want to win?

ERNIE ELS: Golf (laughter).


End of FastScripts....

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