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March 8, 2003

Ernie Els


GORDON SIMPSON: Very nice playing on the back nine except for one exception, but you put yourself back at the top of the leader board with the last three birdies at the end.

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I played good today. I made a couple of mistakes on the front nine. I felt that the golf course was playing a lot different today than it did the first two days. The wind picked up a little bit there for a while and some of the flag positions out there looked a little crazy. But, you know, the greens are very, very firm and it's very tough getting to some of the flag positions.

So, I was patient. Although I made some mistakes, the back nine I started playing a little better, especially the last four or five holes.

Yesterday on 18 I hit a bad 4-iron, so I deserve what I got today. I felt I hit a good... I had a 6-iron today and I had 195 to the front. I took a chance again, but I felt the ball was going to come out flying a little bit. It came out a little bit soft but just a yard short. It was a very difficult flag to get to. I just felt with my yardage that I had to the hole I could get it up quite close and maybe putt for eagle. I still messed it up. It wasn't all that difficult a third shot, but I don't think I've ever had to play a shot like that, off the rocks there. I wanted to get it out there and I hit it a little bit too hard and then my fourth shot was very, very tough.

Yeah, I haven't played the 18th all that well, but I've got a chance tomorrow. Alastair, he played very well today. Yeah, just got to keep doing what I'm doing.

GORDON SIMPSON: Have you played with Alastair before?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, we've played quite a few times before. We've played in tournaments before. He's a very steady player. He's a good putter and, you know, he just seems like his short game is very sharp this week.

You've just going to go out there and play. David Lynn is right there. There's a lot of other guys still there. It's not only the three of us.

Q. What was your thought process playing the shot of the wall at the 18th?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, because it was on the wall there and the wall has a couple of rocks there and the ball is kind of lying in there. It wasn't lying on top. So I had to find a shot just to get the ball out -- the ball was into the bank and might not get out. I've played that putter shot before out of the long rough before in the States and it works out quite nicely. I hit it a little hard, the blade shot with a sand iron. It hit the wall and had a lot of topspin and went through the green. I wasn't all that worried about it, but my fourth shot was just straight down. Just a couple of bad mistakes.

Q. How much quicker were the greens?

ERNIE ELS: Oh, they had to be at least two feet quicker. I don't think they watered them at all yesterday. Just the breeze we had when we started out the round, it was very tough, but I like it like that. Just takes a while to get used to that. It would be nice if they could warn us before we go out. You play two rounds on the greens that are soft and the ball is almost spinning back, and now you get to the golf course and it's totally different.

The practice greens were like they were today. Yesterday the practice greens were twice as fast as the greens on the golf course. It is a lot different. I don't know how the other players found it. I like it like that, but as I say, it would be nice if they told us. (Laughing).

Q. Are you still playing with as much confidence?

ERNIE ELS: I feel I'm swinging it well. I feel like mentally I'm pretty good. Yesterday I made some mistakes. Today I was pretty good mentally. My swing was very nice today. As I say, you know, if the golf course is the same as yesterday. I think I would have had some more birdie opportunities but with the flags stuffed very tight, it was tough getting to some of the flags. Shooting under par today was a pretty good score.

Q. Any aspect of your game you're not comfortable with?

ERNIE ELS: Not really. I feel comfortable. Maybe I'm playing a little overly aggressive here and there. I've made some mistakes being a little too aggressive, especially on the par 5s today. I didn't play the par 5s very well today. I think I was only even par today. I think I can get better there.

Q. Do you have an intimidation factor over the younger players?

ERNIE ELS: I don't think so. You know, I treat them pretty nice, the younger guys. I think I try and treat them the way I want to be treated. I don't think I'm playing any gamesmanship or anything like that. I think with my form, I think they know that they have got to play well to beat me. I haven't really given it much thought.

Q. Maybe Tiger does?

ERNIE ELS: Well, Tiger has more majors than me. (Laughing).

Q. Have you encountered gamesmanship?

ERNIE ELS: Not really. But the guys are tough. I think Nick and Greg (Norman) and Nick Price, those guys in their era they were quite tough but nice to play with, but they were pretty tough.

Q. Pleased with the drive on 17?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, today there was a little breeze today but I've hit it on the green before with the equipment.

Q. Could you do it before the equipment change?

ERNIE ELS: No. I mean, you know, there's probably a couple of guys who can drive it on the green - Darren Clarke. There's a couple of guys who hit it as long as I do, so you just have to get accurate on that hole.

I hit a nice one. I must say, it was one of my nicer ones of the day.

Q. The second?

ERNIE ELS: The second was a little wayward there, a little left. I wanted to hit it left of the green to have a good angle, but I hit it way too far left and I had no shot almost, second shot.

Q. What would it mean to defend this title?

ERNIE ELS: It would mean a lot. You just want to keep going. I'm trying to improve as a player and my golf, I just want to get better. I want to take every day as it comes, and as I said to you guys before, every tournament as it comes. I like the golf course, I like this tournament and it will mean a lot. Obviously if you win, that's what we're here for.

Q. Especially in the climate of being unsure about coming.

ERNIE ELS: Where are you going with this? (Laughter.)

As I say, I'm just playing. I was fresh coming in here and I just felt that my swing was good, so there's no reason why I shouldn't play when I want to play.

Q. Have you given thought to the fact that after both your wins here you've won a major?

ERNIE ELS: Well, no. Obviously you guys have got all of the stats and you guys go through all of the stats. That is a new one. I haven't thought about that.

Already, even if I don't win tomorrow, I felt like I've got a good chance of winning a major this year. I'm just going to keep getting better. I'm going to play as well as I can tomorrow, and if it works out, great. I just want to give it my best shot. That's what I want to do at all of the major, also. I just want to try to keep improving, until the first one comes, anyway.

End of FastScripts....

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