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March 6, 2005

Ernie Els


GORDON SIMPSON: Just another routine day at the office I think. It was a remarkable finish.

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, it was. I really didn't like my chances, especially when I played 17, the way 17 finished for me, I hit a perfect drive and went through the green there. Looked silly there, but it was a really tough shot. The grass was into me. You know, thankfully Miguel's put slipped by the hole. If he made that -- you know, the last hole, I hit a perfect drive again. For some reason this year, I've hit perfect drives there every time, and I had 178 yards to the hole and I hit a 6-iron and really perfect club. I missed a lot of putts on the back nine, but that putt on 18 was obviously the most important. For some reason, it was right in the middle.

GORDON SIMPSON: Can you remember the last time you made eagle to win a tournament?

ERNIE ELS: No, I can't remember. Basically, no, I don't know. You'll have to go back in the records yourself. I can't even think.

Q. Could you have less club at the 18th, or was it one of those things that instincts took over and you had to play the shot that you saw?

ERNIE ELS: It was the shot that I saw. The yardage suggests that it's a 7-iron, but the water makes it into a 6-iron quickly.

I had a very similar shot on Friday, or Thursday, and I hit a little 6-iron. The wind was a bit less this time, I had a bit more yardage to the hole but I played the same club. Definitely it was more of a feel shot than anything. I can hit a 6-iron 188, and I only had 177 or 178 to the hole. It was definitely a little made-up 6-iron.

Q. How long Ws the putt at the last?

ERNIE ELS: I don't know, it was 18, 20, 23 feet. It's got to be six, seven yards.

Q. How good is it now to get a victory and how good is it now to take this victory on to the States where there's some big tournaments coming up?

ERNIE ELS: Well, I mean, yeah, I think it's very important. This is the part of my run-up to April to the Masters. You know, I needed a win, I needed to play really well before the Masters, and to do it from a three-week break makes me really happy. I know what I've got to work on next week and really try and fine tune my game even more.

But really, this was a big win. I've had some near misses where it looked like I should have or could have won, but I didn't, and this one, I kind of pulled it out of a hat, you know, so it's a bit strange for me.

Again, Miguel, playing with him was great. He's a perfect gentleman and he never changed. His composure never changed in two days.

GORDON SIMPSON: I'm sure you can understand what he was going through, as well, after missing.

ERNIE ELS: I've been there many times and I've lost a lot of tournaments like that. I know what he's going through now and it's not nice. But we all try and win a golf tournament.

Q. There's been a fair bit of rain in the region which is unusual for this time of year or any year. How did the Medalist Course compare this time to previous occasions when you won?

ERNIE ELS: Well, it definitely dried up over the weekend. The greens today they are really releasing very fast. The fairways are very firm and fast today. So the whole golf course played -- I thought today was the toughest day. You know, when the golf course is firm and fast, you know, you've got to always be careful. But the golf course, I mean, the greenskeeper what he's done here is just unbelievable really. The course is in immaculate condition. And yeah, the first two rounds was maybe a little softer than we've seen in the past. I think the scores showed that.

Q. Just following on from that conversation about the course, can you kind of put into words the characteristics of this course and how you view it?

ERNIE ELS: Well, I think it's a golf course where you can get it in play. There's enough room down there. But it depends on where they put the flags and how the golf course plays. Today it was firmer. A lot of the par 3s were very difficult to get at of the it's a very well-designed golf course. You've got to shape it both ways, right-to-left and left-to-right. If you're on your game you can score well around here. But your iron shots, I felt, you know, it was difficult to get my iron shots close to the flag this week. I only hit one or two very close the whole week. It really tests your short-making ability.

Q. You very nearly double-bogeyed the first again. That was a huge putt for you, wasn't it?

ERNIE ELS: That was beautiful. That and 18 was probably the two biggest putts. You know, I was just about to strike the ball and a camera went on the first tee, so that wasn't nice. And then I found myself right behind a tree, chipped it out. Then I took a silly little dip into the bunker, didn't hit a great bunker shot but I made the putt.

Could have been a lot different, you know, again. Yesterday was a double, a bogey today. I said I don't like starting like that, but I won. Maybe that's a good lesson.

Q. This isn't a major, but how much would it have hurt not to win?

ERNIE ELS: To be honest with you, the last three four years, I've won a lot of tournament and I've lost a lot of tournaments. You know, you just try your best. For a while there, it seemed like it wasn't going to be my week. 18 changed everything. On 17 I hit a perfect tee shot, I thought, and it goes through, tough lie. Almost made bogey there. Things like that have been happening to me quite a lot the last couple of weeks, but, you know, I changed it around today. If you don't win, you're disappointed, anyway.

Q. How important was it to send a message to Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh who are on the top of the leaderboard in America this week?

ERNIE ELS: You know, I watched them play a bit last night. They are playing at a very high level at the moment. Tiger seems like he's really striking the ball well again and so does Vijay; just seems like he's not making putts at the moment.

You know, I think it's a very exciting year. I think a lot of the guys, nobody wants to back off this year. I think a lot of guys are looking for big years and, you know, we'll get together in a couple of weeks and see where it goes.

I'm just happy that my game is almost where I want it and I can look forward to a good year now.

Q. I don't know if you're at all superstitious, but your previous two Dubai wins paved the way for a major victory later in the year. Thoughts on that?

ERNIE ELS: I like that. I like that. (Laughter.) I like that. Probably very coincidental, but hopefully it works again. I am superstitious, don't get me wrong. I'm a sportsman; we're all superstitious, but hope that works in my favor it year.

Q. What are you looking to fine tine the next few weeks building up to America, and is your schedule at start of this year been designed to peak in April for the Masters?

ERNIE ELS: Well, the first part of your question, I think there's a couple of things. My iron play, I know next week is going to be even more difficult to get the ball close to the flag because it's going to be very windy. But just got to keep the angle through the shot a little bit longer. I'm just standing up on it I feel, and I'm slipping on my irons. So I can work on that and my putting still, short game.

Second part of your question, the last couple of years I have taken some time off in February because I start off quite hectic the first couple of weeks of the year. Going home to South Africa, it's a good time to get back there. Unfortunately I was a bit busy with golf course design, but still, it's time away from the game.

Yeah, from now until April, it's going to be work, work, work to be ready for the Masters.

Q. How much break did the putt on the 18th have, and was it the best putt you've hold to win a tournament?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah it's got to be right up there. The putt just kept slipping by. It's quite a bit of a swing, probably six balls outside left. It was downhill quite fast. I left quite a few short, and I was a little tentative on a couple of putts today. And for that one, I felt good on for some reason. And I could see the line and got it on-line. It was a great feeling when it went in.

Q. Outside of the majors, you seem to be monopolizing a few events, Johnnie Walker, Heineken, Nedbank, a bunch of World Match-Play titles; how do you explain that?

ERNIE ELS: Just you like a place, you like going there, you like the golf course, you feel comfortable. I've been staying at the Jebel Ali Hotel for eight years, got the same room for eight years. It almost becomes a second home at some golf courses. I just feel comfortable. Royal Melbourne, great golf course and greens. I like playing on golf courses where the greens are good.

Q. Was there any specific line when you lined up the eagle putt on the 18th and what were your thoughts then, and did you think about the pressure that it would put on Miguel to birdie to tie?

ERNIE ELS: Well, the tee shot worked out. I thought I hit it a bit too far left to be honest with you. I haven't seen the tape but it had a little bounce and I was a little fortunate there. When I saw it on the fairway and he's got 3-wood from back there, I was quite surprised he went for the green. It's a huge shot for him, but he played a great shot on the green, left.

I just had an outside chance. I just felt like I had an outside chance to hit an iron shot in there and give myself a chance for eagle, maybe it works out and trying to get in a playoff.

Q. Any thoughts when you were standing on the putt, the final putt?

ERNIE ELS: Make it. I just felt I had the right line and just a matter of not -- following through, just be positive, as positive as you can be.

Q. What superstitions do you have?

ERNIE ELS: I'm not going to share it with you. (Laughter.)

Q. But many?

ERNIE ELS: I have a couple. It's not terrible. I give you one: I play with white tees always. What else? Always get up the left side of the bed. (Laughter.) Those are just two.

Q. What was the seat number on the plane?

ERNIE ELS: 32F. I was in 32F. F for ...

Q. Victory.

ERNIE ELS: Yeah. (Laughter.)

Q. Does this now mean that you'll fly economy to every tournament, is that a good superstition?

ERNIE ELS: You know what -- (Laughter.) You know what, I really enjoyed my flight there, but hopefully I can keep flying by other means.

GORDON SIMPSON: Well-played again today, Ernie, a great finish.

End of FastScripts.

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