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Ernie Els Saturday Masters Press Conference Transcript

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ERNIE ELS: I must be pleased my round today. I actually did what I wanted to do and shoot something under 70. You know, I got off to a pretty decent start. The front nine, I made -- I made two birdies and a bogey, and I really just played solid golf. The back nine, I obviously made a good eagle on 13 and a birdie on 17. All in all, not spectacular stuff, but consistent and it was a bit of a workman-like 68 today. Yesterday I felt like I could have shot a little better, but it was nice to walk off the 18th knowing I got the most out of my round, for a change.
 
Q. Is nine where you need to be or do you think when everybody is done playing, the numbers are going to be lower coming back to you? How do you feel about sleeping with a 9-under?
 
ERNIE ELS: Well, obviously, I was trying to get to 10, but, you know, 9-under is pretty good. I don't know what's going to happen. Hopefully, I'll be in with maybe three or four behind going into tomorrow, which is not bad. It all happens on the back nine anyway tomorrow, so even going into the back nine 4 behind tomorrow, I'll still be in with a chance. I've just got to try and plug on, plug away, just take what I get and try and stay focused and positive. Maybe it will come my way this time.
 
Q. You were 2-over on Thursday when you got to 10 and you pulled off kind of a miracle par and since then you have been 11-under. How much of an effect did that have?
 
ERNIE ELS: That was probably the most important shot of the tournament -- the shot that kept me in the tournament, actually, I should say. I had mud on my ball, in the fairway. I pulled a 5-iron and it just shot straight left off the club face, and I found myself under a tree. I was just about to take an unplayable drop, a penalty drop, and I kind of thought, no, I'll go in there and play it. I actually played it off my knees left-handed and I got it up-and-down. It's a pity that it wasn't on tape somewhere, but that was definitely my best up-and-down ever.
 
Q. How close did you hit it?
 
ERNIE ELS: I only hit it -- if you saw it, it was so unplayable, I just advanced it to the edge of the green and I was about 15 feet away and I made that for a par. I'm actually glad you asked me that question, because that definitely kept me in the tournament.
 
Q. What club did you use there?
 
ERNIE ELS: I just kind of gripped down on a sand iron, what do you call it, backwards, and got it out there and made a good putt.
 
Q. What are the conditions like today compared to the first two days?
 
ERNIE ELS: It's still perfect, really. You know, I've been coming here since 1994, and I tell you, this year, I think the course is -- it's hard to compare it each year. I mean, it's so good every year. But definitely, this year, the greens are unbelievable. They have got a great surface. There's a little bit of moisture in them, still, which is great, otherwise, they would really be tough. It's just wonderful. Just wonderful to play on these kind of greens.
 
Q. You mentioned out there that you worked hard on your game, maybe too hard in March. Can you expand on that?
 
ERNIE ELS: Obviously, you try to time your game, try to get your game just in shape for this week. You know, I played really well at the start of the year and kind of started making some silly errors in my swing and got into bad habits. I really had to work hard to get out of those habits. Going into THE PLAYERS Championship, I wasn't anywhere near my game. My confidence was pretty low, and decided to play last week and really worked hard last week even. So it really has not been going my way for the last month, but it can all change right here this week.
 
Q. Can you describe the eagle on 13?
 
ERNIE ELS: I hit a good drive. I took a drive around the corner, perfect line around the corner there. I had 164 to the front and the flag is only five on, so I hit an 8-iron as good as I could and kept it left of the hole, about 25 feet and made a good 1-down the hill there.
 
Q. After the eagle, you had an interesting 14th hole, especially your first putt. Did you think it would come to a stop ? Could you go through what you saw?
 
ERNIE ELS: Obviously you saw that hole. I hit a poor drive way right and I hit a pretty decent second shot but you don't want to leave it short on that green, especially where the flag is today. Obviously I was getting a little bit cute on that third shot and barely got it over the hill. Almost stopped on the hill there and started trickling down. That was another good break. You know, it rolled down to about six feet and I made that one for par.
 
Q. From what I saw on television, on the first nine, there seemed to be a couple of good birdie chances you had. Do you think you left anything out there on the course?
 
ERNIE ELS: Well, it's hard to say. Always, you know, you can always say you missed some here and there, but I made some good ones, too. So I'm pleased with the round I've got out there today, and, you know, I can't be too unhappy with a 68 around Augusta National.
 
Q. What's the personality or character of this tournament, compared or contrasted to the Open and the PGA?
 
ERNIE ELS: You know, all four are great events, obviously, to win. To win a major championship, any of the four, are great. Obviously, I think definitely this tournament has got a special appeal to it. It's definitely got a different feel to it. It's run a little bit different than the others. You know, there's different criteria getting into the event. And the golf course is so special. So, there's definitely a different feeling about this place than the others. But to win a major, you know, you'll take any of the four.
 
Q. You had mentioned you had played with Cabrera in the European Tour. What about his temperament and how have you seen him react in situations like this?
 
ERNIE ELS: He's kind of a late bloomer. I played with him on the European Tour when I was over there. You know, he came up pretty plate. He's 31 years old now. I think he only came up when he was 26. He's a pretty late bloomer. Hell of a ball striker. Hits the ball very solid when he is on. Hits the ball as long as anybody out here. Obviously, he's on his game and he's going into the par 4's with short irons, and he's got a beautiful touch around the greens. So he's a very dangerous player.
 
Q. Did rules officials say anything to you at the 11th?
 
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, they were timing the group in front of us and they just kind of mentioned it to us not to fall behind.
 
Q. Did they want you to hustle up, too?
 
ERNIE ELS: Well, they just said that they were timing the group in front of us. They didn't tell us to play any faster. They just warned us.
 
Q. Has this been a particularly difficult stretch coming into this, from a distraction standpoint? You mentioned something out there about your father, out in the interview --
 
ERNIE ELS: I worked on my game with my dad and with David Leadbetter. My dad came over two weeks ago, so there's definitely no distraction there.
 
Q. Is that unusual for him to come over?
 
ERNIE ELS: No, he normally comes at this time of the year. Him and my mom, they always come over for THE PLAYERS Championship and Bay Hill and stay over for about a month. You know, always nice to see them.
 
Q. Did he have anything special to say this year about getting you out of the slump?
 
ERNIE ELS: Yeah. Quite a few things. He watches my game on television from home, so any -- you know, we talk almost daily, so -- but it was good for him I think to see me in person and start working on my game. So it was nice to have him around.
 
Q. So much is made of experience here. You finished second here last year, Tiger has won, and DiMarco and Cabrera who have not had much experience. Will there be a difference as to how you and Tiger handle it as compared to the other guys?
 
ERNIE ELS: When you have experience around a golf course like this in the final round, it does help you because you know where the flags might be and what you might expect, how your mental approach might have to be. You know, it definitely helps a little bit. But anybody on this leaderboard, you know, we've all got a fair chance tomorrow. So, experience might fly out of the window tomorrow, you know, you might just get a rookie, and, you know if he gets off to a great start and keeps his composure, anybody can win this thing. But obviously, Tiger, he's Tiger, and he's not going to back down. So he's obviously the danger man out there. But there's a lot of talent on that leaderboard.

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