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WGC ACCENTURE MATCH PLAY CHAMPIONSHIP


February 22, 2014


Ernie Els


MARANA, ARIZONA

DOUG MILNE:  We'd like to welcome Ernie Els.  Ernie, congratulations on the convincing 4 and 2 win on day 4 over Jordan Spieth at the Accenture Match Play Championship.
With that said, I'll turn it over to you for comments on the day.
ERNIE ELS:¬† Thanks.¬† I'm obviously elated to be going through.¬† It's been a wonderful week up to now.¬† At times I haven't played my best, as you guys have well documented and know.¬† But it is match play.¬† It's a match play event.¬† I've just been‑‑ I've just done enough to get through.
Today I felt like I played a little bit more solid, but still not quite to my expectations.¬† But the course played quite tricky.¬† You know, they had quite a few flags in corners.¬† I missed it‑‑ it was almost a game of misses today, where you miss it where you can get it up and down and I did that most of the day.¬† I think that was the difference between myself and Jordan.¬† He obviously didn't play as good as he did yesterday, thank goodness.¬† And I was just a bit more solid.

Q.  Would you think it's taken you 13 years to get back to the semifinals after Metropolitan?
ERNIE ELS:  Well, yeah, I almost forget about that.  That was back in Melbourne, great golf course down in Melbourne.  I remember just arriving the Tuesday night, didn't even play a practice round.  But, yeah, it's taken a long time to get back.  I don't know, you know, I really had a love/hate relationship with this event, as you guys well know.  I was lucky enough to get in the field a couple of years ago and beat Luke Donald in the first round.  But most of the time, I lost in the first round here either on the 18th or 19th hole.  It's been a frustrating time in this event.

Q.  I'm sure you get asked this a lot as you grow a little older.  You continually play with young guys.  Here you're playing with a guy who figuratively could be your son.  Do you think about that at all or do you just go out and play?
ERNIE ELS:  It's amazing.  There's quite a few guys like that on Tour.
Louis Oosthuizen comes to mind.  I've known him since he was a child, coming through our foundation in South Africa.
Even Tiger.  I knew Tiger when he was 15 years old.
It's funny, now we've got to compete against each other on a level playing field.  And that's the fantastic thing about golf.  At 44, you know, you're out of most professional sports by 15 years.  Here I am still playing and competing against the youngsters, so it's quite amazing.  It's a nice job to have sometimes.

Q.  Along those lines, when you do play these guys that are 15, 20 years younger than you, do you notice that your experience is a big factor or how would you say your game still compares?  You are still hitting it a long way or maybe what isn't as good as it used to be?
ERNIE ELS:  Well, I think as you get older obviously your nerves are not as good as it is in your 20s, but that's something I'm working on obviously on the greens and with other people.  But you're right, I feel I've still got length.  The new technology has really benefited my game.  I've still got a bit of swing speed in my swing, so I get the ball out there.  Not as far as Dustin or Bubba or those guys, but I can hit it with Jordan and these type of players.
And experience definitely helped, all my rounds this week.¬† I played young guys the whole week.¬† And I feel‑‑ I could almost feel their frustration.¬† I could almost sense the frustration in Jordan today that he wasn't quite playing the way he did yesterday.¬† And I was kind of playing on that a little bit, just making sure‑‑ if I was missing a shot, that I made sure that I got it up and down to keep kind of him at bay or keep him frustrated.

Q.  Sort of following on that question and that comment, it's very unusual for Spieth to not play well under the gun like that.  How much do you think you had to do with that, your presence, the fact that it was you?
ERNIE ELS:¬† I don't think much.¬† We've played at Presidents Cups against each other.¬† He was with Steve Stricker.¬† They beat us 1‑up in alternate shots that day.
I played with him in a tournament last year in China, as I said, the last round there.  So I don't think he's intimidated by me at all.
He's got a higher World Ranking than me.  And he's almost been put through the mold of how to act.  Through college, he went through a very good college, and I'm sure they taught him how to front up.  And he does it very well.  So I don't think he shows any weakness there.  I just feel that my experience definitely helped on this day.

Q.  You talked about your love/hate relationship with this event.  Is it different losing in 19 holes and been so close over the years?  Has the difference this year been the putter?
ERNIE ELS:¬† Yeah, I think so.¬† Those clutch putts I made all week on 18, 17, 16 against Stephen Gallacher and the putts we made in the playoffs.¬† Yeah, I'd like to say the short putter‑‑ the relatively short putter is working.¬† I think Steph can still put it in his belly, it's about 37 inches, but it's a short putter for me.

Q.  I've seen you working overtime on the practice greens here certainly in the evening, late into the night, and it's obviously been something you've been working on a lot.  Have you been working as well with the EyeGym?  I know you did a lot of work with Dr. Sherylle Calder which led to the victory in Lytham a couple of years ago.  Is that still going on?
ERNIE ELS:  Yeah, she's still with me.  She's still on the team.  I just decided to do the drills on my own instead of flying her around the world.  We speak on a daily basis.  I do the EyeGym in the evenings and the mornings.  I'm still on the program.
You guys will see her maybe around the Masters.  She's never been to the Masters.  I might bring her out there.  It's been a process to get to the shorter putter.  She wanted me to get into it last year already, but mentally I wasn't quite ready for it.  So we made the change this year.

Q.  I'd imagine you would have taken a Sunday morning tee time when you showed up here at the start of the week.  What are your expectations like now?  Is there any satisfaction or does it become even more greater?
ERNIE ELS:¬† I'm just very glad to be on Sunday.¬† I'll take tomorrow's match as it is and try not to think about‑‑ you know, ahead of a final.¬† I'm going to try to play tomorrow morning as good as I can.¬† It's going to be the first time I've had an early time, so hopefully I'll make it (laughter).
I've had midday times all week.  It's been unbelievable.  I've slept in every day.  I'm just fortunate to be here and hopefully it goes good tomorrow.  I still feel I've got a really good one in me.  Hopefully I can play some really good stuff tomorrow.

Q.  Any parallels to a tournament in which you didn't play really good golf the first couple of days, just like a tournament you're going to have a stinker of a round or two, to have possibly gotten that out of the way early?
ERNIE ELS:¬† Yeah, in the world match play event in London one year, I was down 6 or 7 down to Steve Stricker through 18 holes and beat him 1‑up.¬† I've scrambled through many, many times in that event and won it seven times.¬† I've played mediocre stuff even in Majors, first couple of rounds and then have good weekends where I have one good round.
Congressional comes to mind when I almost messed it up on the third round and we had a rain delay and I came back.¬† And I think I birdied the par‑5 and birdied 17 and parred 18 to get myself back into the tournament.¬† Yeah, I've had those experiences many times.

Q.  You mentioned it was kind of a day that whoever could miss the best would win.  How much does course knowledge have to do with that, especially since it's Jordan's first week here?
ERNIE ELS:  Yeah, I think so.  I think he was a little off.  When he was off, he got frustrated.  When you start pushing on this type of course, and this is a Nicklaus course, which is playing very firm, you're just off on the angles and you're dead.
I was lucky on 8, I even hit it right of the green, through the green in the desert, and I was in better shape than Jordan was pin‑high left of the green.¬† And I chipped it out of the desert stuff to about ten feet.¬† He had no chance.¬† He hit it down to 25 feet.¬† I made birdie, he doesn't.
I think those kind of things really can work on you.  And it definitely worked on me in the past.  You're just off, and if you're on the wrong side, you're dead.  And it happened many times with him.
DOUG MILNE:  Ernie, congratulations.  Best of luck.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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