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NORTHERN TRUST OPEN


February 13, 2013


Ernie Els


PACIFIC PALISADES, CALIFORNIA

CHRIS REIMER: We want to welcome Ernie Els here to the interview room, making your PGA TOUR debut for the season. If you don't mind, just some opening comments about starting this year out on TOUR.
ERNIE ELS: Well, it's a classic golf course to start with. It's always great to come to Riviera. They have really got the golf course in great shape the last couple of years. Greens get very fast and very tricky which we'll have this week. But you know, I'm excited to start. Played three events over on The European Tour and was very rusty. So I'd like to have a little bit of a better good here.

Q. What kind of memories do you have when you come back here, are they good or are they bad?
ERNIE ELS: They are mostly good. When you play the game as long as we have, you're going to have a couple of bad ones here and there, but they are mostly good here. I've had some good events here.
I still remember quite well when I won here back in '99, it was really fond memories. Myself and Liezl got married that December, and just my first win as a married man, you know here. It was definitely a good memory. So I've had other Top‑10s or so, but it's a great golf course.

Q. First year you played here would have been the PGA?
ERNIE ELS: '95, yeah. I played the PGA here, and that's not one of the better memories, thank you very much. I was leading after three rounds and shot 72 in the final round and missed out on a playoff I think by a shot or two.
So very different golf course, summer to winter.

Q. That wasn't my point of the question. You're the one that brought it up, not me, but I'm curious from the first time you played here up until now, has the way you played the 10th hole, has that changed at all?
ERNIE ELS: It has. Just because of the setup. I remember back in '99, I think I only went for the green once. The rest of the time I just laid it up. The greens were softer back then, so that little pitch shot, it's one of my favorite shots in the game is that 85‑ to 95‑yard pitch shot. I laid it up almost every day and I think I made birdies every day.
Now the green is firmer, it's a lot slicker. So that little shot is very tricky now. So you'll see a lot more guys go for the green and chip it up and try and make 4 and get out of there. It's one of the more difficult holes.

Q. Was there ever a time when you went to that hole thinking 3, and has that changed?
ERNIE ELS: Almost every time now. You could be 15 yards from the flag and you'll take 4. If you're in the wrong side now, the margin is so that you can hit a marginally good shot and it will go off the green.
So it's one of the tough holes on TOUR I think and it's one of the shorter holes obviously.

Q. Last year there was so much focus in the spring on you and 'will he make it to the Masters.' Can you can about the difference in the feeling this time?
ERNIE ELS: Well, I still want to play well. I had that goal last year to play good golf. I want to play good golf again this year. There's no difference there.
Obviously, yeah, I'm in the Masters as I sit here, and I think for the next four years, I'm in, so that's a nice feeling to have. But I just want to play good golf. Whether I'm playing here or at the Masters, you know, wherever I play, I want to try and perform well, so that's my No. 1 goal. And when you do that, as I said last year, the rest will take care of itself.
It is definitely a nice feeling to know that I'm playing all the majors for the foreseeable future.

Q. After the win at The Open Championship last year, did that cause you to re‑evaluate your goals or your expectations moving forward, not just for the rest of last year but for subsequent years?
ERNIE ELS: Well, yeah, I think so. I think as I say, you know that you're in the majors. You know that you've got quite a lot of experience, good and bad. But it helps to have experience in big events. So to know that you're in these tournaments is a big help.
Yeah, it does give you something to look forward to and put some goals up there. I'm running out of time and if I have my game in shape at the right venue, I think I can really perform. Like to squeeze out a couple more before we're done.

Q. When you look at playing all over the globe, how many places get your juices going, simply for the venue and is this one of those places?
ERNIE ELS: This is definitely one of them. This is why a lot of guys fly a long way to come here. I see Sergio has come here; a lot of the European guys have come. A lot of guys have flown across the country. This used to be kind of the start of a lot of guys's years. Now guys like to start earlier.
But it's a great start and it's a place that you have to play well to score well. Everything's been looked after. It's really one of the premiere events on the TOUR. I'm glad it's got that status, because the golf course needs that, because it's such a classical golf course.

Q. When you have played in so many places as you have, how many places do that to you? Is it a handful?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I think whenever you play in Jack Nicklaus's tournament, Arnold Palmer's tournament, the Byron Nelson, those guys have really made the game that we play today. So you like to honor those ones, and they have some good golf courses, also. And they like to make them very tough, so those ones are always special.
You know, I don't play Pebble Beach anymore, but I think that one gets your juices flowing. Just classical, really great golf courses, will always get the guys up.

Q. The comment period for the anchoring ban is about to wrap up, and I'm wondering if anybody from the USGA and R&A reached out to discuss it with you, and if you have any input at this point as the days are about to wrap up on the comment period.
ERNIE ELS: Well, as you know, you know, I was against it about ten, 12 years ago when my good friend, Trevor, played with it. I kind of say‑‑ I said it in jest but I have to stick with what I said back then. Then ten, 12 years later, I'm using it. So kind of contradicted myself a little bit if you want to take it like that.
But I've putted great with the short putter. I wouldn't say that I'm putting exceptionally great now with the long putter. But I'm starting to feel comfortable. I've been on it now for the whole year and obviously won a major with it. It's helped me from short range a lot. But still, it's not like it's automatic. You're not just going to stick it in your belly and make every putt you look at it. It takes a lot of time and a lot of effort to learn that way of putting.
So I'll be, as I said before, they are going to make their decision; whether the TOUR goes along with it, whether they don't, we'll see. But hopefully they don't ban it, because I don't think‑‑ I really don't think that it's that big of a deal to really look at the data, there's no data that really confirms that they have to ban it.
If there were 90 percent of the guys using it or if the guys using it were top of the putting ranks, guys making more putts from 20 feet, more putts from four feet; give me something to go by to really make me believe that you have to ban it; then ban it. But I can't see them having a really great way of explaining to me why they would want to ban it.

Q. Are you still using the belly now?
ERNIE ELS: I am using the belly, yeah.

Q. Do you think we are having this discussion if you don't win The Open?
ERNIE ELS: That's a good question. Because in all honesty, you know, before Webb Simpson won, you guys correct me if I'm wrong here, but I saw a quote of Mike Davis saying that they don't see the great benefit, or there's a line that he used; that they don't see that there's any importance of banning the putter.
And then Webb wins and I win, and then the next thing is, you know, they want to ban the putter. So in all honesty, I'm not too sure what their whole reason is behind this whole thing, because as I say, there's a handful of guys using it. It's helped some careers. Some guys cannot putt another way, so there's some stuff that you have to follow through.
But I truly believe, I think because of those last two majors, going with Webb and going with myself, I think that had a huge influence in their decision.

Q. Did either Mike or Peter ever talk to you or call you?
ERNIE ELS: Yes, I spoke to Peter Dawson in November. I was actually on my way to a rugby game in England and I spoke to him. I gave him my views. He gave me his views. Don't think I spoke to Mike. I haven't spoken to Mike Davis or the USGA guys. But I obviously read what you guys write and what the guys say, so I'm kind of up‑to‑date.
I spoke to Tim Clark yesterday and played golf with Keegan over the weekend, so we kind of keep each other up‑to‑date (smiling).

Q. How do you measure whatever satisfaction you take out of Louis's progress, and then the emergence of Branden Grace?
ERNIE ELS: Well, a lot obviously. Obviously whatever we have done has kind of worked. Kept them in the loop so to speak and giving them an opportunity to play and the hard work that people have done down in South Africa with the great programs that we have down there and the great golf tournaments that they have to play in; I think it's all contributed to their success.
So it's not our foundation, but a lot of other parts. So it's great to see the guys come through. You know, I think you guys‑‑ well I know that you guys are going to see more of these guys coming through, because there's a big talent pool down there in South Africa waiting to come through.
Q. Do you look forward to next week?
ERNIE ELS: Well, I'm in now. Last year Paul (Casey) withdrew and got me in.
Yes, I am. I'm actually looking forward to the next four weeks. I'm playing this week, next week, I'm playing Honda and Doral. So I'm looking forward to‑‑ hopefully I hit the jackpot in one of the next three weeks, four weeks.

Q. Specific to next week, it could be the most miserable week of the year or it could be find of fun if you get to the weekend. How do you approach it?
ERNIE ELS: Well, if I get through‑‑ I just look at the first round. My record's not great in that tournament. I might have made the third round once in that tournament. So and as not a bad match player‑‑ well, in 36‑hole match matches, I'm okay. My record has been pretty miserable there, I'm still looking forward to it for some reason (laughs). I'm optimistic, I guess.
CHRIS REIMER: You beat No. 1 last year.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I got through the first round last year beating Luke. Got through there and then I got pounded the next round.

Q. How do I feel do you think it will be to adjust to going back to the shorter putter if you have to?
ERNIE ELS: You know, I think I'll be okay. I like using this quote, won 69 events and 68 of them with the short putter, so my event is not bad. I went through a pretty rough spell there in 2011 where I really had some problems on the greens.
But I think with the work I've done with the belly and so forth, I think I'll be fine. I'll take back the memories from when I putted with that PING Anser putter winning those majors with making clutch putts. I've done it before and there's no reason why I can't do it again.
So I'm just thinking, you know, about the long‑term deal of this thing. If they ban it now, they take a way of putting out of the game where guys would love to play the game in a fun way. You take a way of playing the game out of their hands, you know, it's kind of unfair when it's been part of the game now for a long time. And to take it away now, it seems a little unfair.

Q. Do you hear from a lot of regular golfers that started using it because of you?
ERNIE ELS: No, I haven't actually. I can't comment on that. I mean, fans watch television. They watch us play. They see the manufacturer's stuff that we play with. They want to copy that. They want to copy Keegan putting the way he does; the way I putt. Fans watch us play, so they want to emulate what we do, especially youngsters. You saw this youngster winning in China putting with a belly putter‑‑ you take that away, so it's kind of evolved with the game now.
It's gone a long way now to go all the way back, so it's going to be interesting.
CHRIS REIMER: Good luck this week, Ernie. Thanks for coming by.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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