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January 10, 2003

Ernie Els


JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Thank you for joining us. Another great round, 65. 17 under, 129 is a record here at the Plantation Course. Why don't you just make a couple comments about your round today and we'll go into questions.

ERNIE ELS: Well, same weather conditions today. I just felt like I needed to be aggressive again today. You know, just go after my shots, play the way I know I can play. I know the course pretty well. I was a little bit more aggressive than I was yesterday, took a couple more holes on, some of the par 4s. I'm very happy with my round.

I'm really happy with the way I finished. I didn't hit a very good drive on 18, got it short of the green, pitched it up, made a nice putt for birdie. I was happy with the way I finished.

Also I'm happy with the way I played. I enjoyed playing with Jim today. Just got to try to keep it up.


Q. Why were you more aggressive today than yesterday?

ERNIE ELS: Well, I wouldn't say -- just a couple of the holes. No. 3 I went with a driver today. I hit it, you know, 50 yards short. I still made par. I hit iron there yesterday. You know, on 14 again, I said to Ricky yesterday, "We should just go with an iron." I felt like hitting 3-wood. I hit it flag high, but made another par.

Other than that, I was basically playing the same game. Just a couple holes, I went after.

Q. The expectations of your game increase when you're playing well?

ERNIE ELS: No, not really. You know, I felt like I was going to play well this week, come what may. I felt like I was striking the ball well in the practice rounds. I felt like I was going to have a good week. You know, I just needed to be patient. That's what I need to keep doing.

I don't think you're going to be shooting these numbers every day. I think the test for me now is just to be patient and play my shots and play my game.

Q. Is that hard for you to do?

ERNIE ELS: Sometimes it is (smiling). Let's see what happens tomorrow. I just want to go out there and play each shot as good as I can, try and really be focused on every shot. You know, we'll count them up, hopefully we'll count up to a nice number tomorrow again.

Q. How does your game change if the weather gets a little bit tougher here? Does your approach change at all?

ERNIE ELS: Well, yeah, your approach should stay the same. But, you know, days like we've had the past two days, you just have to try to free-wheel and make as many birdies as you can. Especially, you know, the first two days, you know, if you make a bit of a mess-up on a hole, you have two days to recover from it, like I did yesterday on 8.

When the wind starts blowing, the north wind is coming tomorrow I hear, I've never played in that wind. It will be a new challenge for me.

We'll just see what it brings. You know, you just got to try to stay focused and play the shots you have to play.

Q. Could you talk about the second shot on 18?

ERNIE ELS: 18, I hit that drive way too far right. I was 292 yards away from a hanging lie, I was trying to hit a 4-iron, I was hoping for a flyer, out. Out of this type of rough, this type of grass, sometimes you get lucky, you get a flyer. Didn't happen for me there. I was kind of fortunate that it carried to the second bit of the fairway. From there, pretty simple chip or pitch shot to the flag.

But I was trying to get a flyer out of the rough, run it into the green.

Q. Last couple years, you've had good success as a front-runner. I'm wondering if you consider yourself to be a good front-runner? Is that sometimes harder than it looks?

ERNIE ELS: Well, I used to be a great front-runner (laughter). I had a couple of mishaps. But then again, the last year or so, I became a good front-runner again, so...

It's tough, you know. Don't get me wrong, it's not the easiest thing to go to sleep on a lead every night. It's what we play for. You feel like you just want to keep going. I've got to really just kind of wind down tonight and start getting focused again tomorrow morning for tomorrow's round, you know, see what the weather's like tomorrow and so forth.

But really just try to wind down tonight and get going tomorrow again.

But it's pretty tough, you know. Don't get me wrong. It's nice, but it's also tough (laughter).

Q. You haven't played since Sun City, right?


Q. Didn't you have an outing or something, an Ernie Els Invitational, fifth major?

ERNIE ELS: There we go (smiling). We have a tournament going there. We've had it for the last seven years. Went great.

Q. This is your first competitive round since?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, since Sun City.

Q. What level would you say you're playing right now, being the first tournament of the year?

ERNIE ELS: I feel I'm right there. You know, the last two days, I played pretty well. Right where I want to be.

Q. Good season forward?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, yeah (smiling). You've got a long season ahead. I just want to take every tournament as it comes, if you know what I mean. I'm feeling good.

Q. Did equipment changes not make any difference to you?

ERNIE ELS: You know, I just feel excited about it. I spoke to Mark down there, he asked me the same question. I've got everything new on me. I just feel excited about playing new equipment, the new stuff. I'm in for the long haul with these companies I'm with now. I'm happy that the stuff we've been working on in a very short period of time seems to be working. Stevie from Titleist, he really did a good job with me working on the clubs. You know, the clothing and stuff. I feel comfortable. I feel excited about it.

The look of the club is nice. It's my third set in a very short period of time. It seems like -- I like the look of the set.

Q. You said yesterday that nothing in golf owes you anything. By the same token, do you feel that you're comfortable coming here?


Q. Such good success here, does that make up for whatever disappointments you've had?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah. I mean, listen, you're always going to have disappointments in this game. You have more disappointments than success in this game. The little bit of success I've had in this game has been pretty nice.

Like I said to you yesterday, the last two times I was here, I just got beat. The guys played better than I did. I've got to be watching out for them again the next couple of days. Low numbers to be made out there. These guys can do it. I'll be aware of them. But same token, I like playing this golf course. I enjoy coming here. I really feel like the season's right there for me. Might as well make a good start to it. It's a nice place to do it.

Q. Three eagles in the first two days. First part of the question, when was the last time you had three eagles in 36 holes? Is it key here to burn up the par 5s?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, yeah, it's a tough question. I don't know if I've done it. Maybe I've done it. But who cares anyways (laughter)?

The par 5s are key, yeah, especially the way it's been the last two days. I mean, with no wind, most of them downwind, I mean, you can hit short-irons into them. You have to really take advantage. That's what I've tried to do the last two days.

With the north wind coming tomorrow, it's going to make it a little bit more difficult, but you still got -- that's where you got to score. You know, you got to really try to make birdies or eagles there.

Q. With a three-shot lead, are you glad the weather is going to change and it's going to be more difficult? Do you think that benefits you?

ERNIE ELS: I think so, yeah. I never really -- I never really liked playing in the wind. I think from playing at the British Open, playing well there, I got to realize how to play in the wind. Around this place, this golf course is built for wind. You have to figure out the shot you want to play, not get too flustered with the breeze.

It will make it tougher for the guys to really shoot low. You've got to try and hang on. It's kind of a similar situation we had at Doral last year. The wind just kept blowing. It made it difficult for the guys. Tiger was the only guy to shoot low on that Sunday. It makes it tough for the guys to go low.

Q. What a surprise. You sure the wind is going to blow? He said yesterday we'd never see a day like that.

ERNIE ELS: Touch wood, maybe it won't.

JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Can we go through your card.

ERNIE ELS: No. 4, I hit a 9-iron to about 12 feet for birdie.

5, I hit a drive and 5-iron about 40 feet past the hole, 2-putted for birdie.

9, I hit a drive through the fairway, I hit a 7-iron up just short of the green, pitched it in for eagle.

10, I hit a 4-iron off the tee, and I hit a sand iron to about seven, eight feet, made that.

12, I hit a driver into the fairway bunker, 9-iron out to about six feet, made that.

15, I hit a drive and a 3-iron and 2-putted from about 40 feet.

18, right, hit it short, pitched it up.

Q. How far was that pitch?

ERNIE ELS: 60 yards.

Q. How long was the putt at 18?

ERNIE ELS: The putt was about seven, eight feet, seven feet, five. It was a big five (laughter).

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

ERNIE ELS: Thank you.

End of FastScripts....

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