Ernie Els 2nd Round Interview
ERNIE ELS: No, not really. You know, when you kind of get it going, you just try and ride it, you know, you just try just do the same things over and over again, just go through your routine, go through your pre-shot routinne and stuff, think positive. On this golf course, like I said yesterday, I think it favors longer hitters. You can be aggressive on the longer holes, try and get the driver out there. Got some room there. You know, from that point of view, yeah. I don't go out there, you know, thinking I've got to be more aggressive than I've ever been. I just try and raise my game a little bit more.
Q. On the quality of the round, did you ever come close to making bogey? How many 12-foot and under birdie putts did you miss?
ERNIE ELS: I almost three-putted on No. 7, the par 4. I left my first putt from about 40 feet, left it ten feet short, and I made that putt for a par save. I must say, I probably missed three or four makable putts from inside ten feet. One on the 1st hole from about, you know, six feet. I would say one on 9 from about six feet again. One on 14. You know, a couple other ones (laughter).
Q. When Tiger finished, he sounded like we do, a 22 handicap or something, about ready to give UP the game. Have you ever had days where you just hate golf, where you get so frustrated you can't do anything?
ERNIE ELS: You're asking me (laughter)?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I've had many of those days. You should know that.
Q. Where you just say, 'I want to get away from the game,' then of course the next day you're out there.
ERNIE ELS: Oh, yeah, yeah, definitely. I've had many of those days. I've been a professional -- what's it been? -- 11 years. Probably 30% of that time (laughter).
Q. The Scots say it's a very humbling game.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah.
Q. Americans say it, too. You have a terrific record at this tournament in four appearances. Does winning this mean any more to you than any other regular TOUR event?
ERNIE ELS: No, not really. Although saying that, you know, a regular TOUR event, you've got to try and beat, you know, 53 guys, and Tiger. This week you've got to beat 32 guys and Tiger. I guess in a way, just looking at the size of the field, it's got to be a little easier. But the quality of the players here, they're all winners from last year. A lot of them have won major Championships, really a quality field. You know, this one and THE TOUR Championship must be 'your quality players.'
Q. Don't misconstrue this the wrong way. I'm seriously curious about this. When you were coming up 9, had to move off the left as Justin was hitting, you were looking at the score board for a couple of seconds, are you looking to see what kind of separation you have on everybody else, or if Tiger's name is up there?
ERNIE ELS: I think a little bit of both. Definitely I need to see, you know, what's going on with the leaders, the immediate leaders, kind of see who is doing well. I saw Vijay was doing great. I was actually walking off the second green, he was going to the 9th tee. I knew he was playing well. I was watching a lot of other players. Obviously, you need to know where Tiger is. You need to know what you have to do.
Q. Why do you need to know where Tiger is? Just because of what he's capable of? Are you curious? If you're playing well, should it matter?
ERNIE ELS: Sure, yeah. I mean, the score boards are there, you might as well use them. You kind of look at which players are hot on the golf course. You know, if it's Tiger or David Duval or Phil Mickelson, they're all capable of shooting really low scores. You know, you need to know what's going on, I think.
Q. What is it about the golf course? You mentioned sort of knowing a little bit about what the course is going to do, the wind, does that lead to a comfort level, turns into confidence?
ERNIE ELS: In a way, yes. I know how I played this golf course last year. I played it pretty well, you know. With the same breeze blowing again this year, it's very familiar to what we had last year. Although there's a lot of elevation changes on the golf course, you know, I can feel comfortable hitting a 9-iron 180 yards, you know. Guys who haven't played in these kind of conditions might not think they can get there with a 9-iron, you know what I mean? I feel comfortable hitting the shots that you have to play on the golf course.
Q. Lots of good vibrations from last year, too?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, yeah, definitely. The greens also you need to know how the grain is going, stuff like that. It was important to have played it pretty well before.
Q. A lot of golf to go, a lot of quality guys still close to you. Is it nice to look in the rearview and see that many strokes separating Tiger?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, yeah, definitely (laughter). You know, I've done pretty hard work up to now, you know. I've played pretty hard up to now. You know, I can reap a little bit of benefits right now. I've got a four-shot lead ahead of three guys. You know, I can go out there and play hard over the weekend and see what happens. As I've said to you guys, I feel comfortable on the course. If I can continue playing the way I have been, you know, it's going to be difficult for him to catch me.
Q. What is your plan for the weekend? Do you change anything?
ERNIE ELS: No, I don't want to change anything. I want to play sensible. I want to play within myself. It's all about putting, you know. I think a lot of guys are going to get the golf ball on the greens; it's making the putts. Putting is going to be quite important.
Q. What about playing with Vijay tomorrow?
ERNIE ELS: That's my partner, my 0-and-5 partner (laughter). Just thought I'd throw that in there. He's a good friend of mine, good mate of mine. I've known him a very long time. We'll have a good game tomorrow. Will be very competitive I'm sure.
Q. You didn't have a lot of confidence last year, you obviously played well. You have more confidence this year. That seems like it's going to add up to --?
ERNIE ELS: You know, I won a good tournament in December. You know, I've been playing okay for the last couple of months. I enjoy the course. So, you know, see what happens.
Q. You won in December?
ERNIE ELS: What do you mean (laughter)?
Q. Need the birdies?
ERNIE ELS: 3 was a pitching wedge to about five feet, down the green. I made that. The par 5, today I got the right club. Hit a 6-iron on there, back of the green. 2-putted from about 40 feet. No. 8, I hit a 7-iron to about eight feet. 10 was a pitching wedge about a good 15, 18 feet there for birdie. 12, I hit a 3-wood off the tee, pitched it into the green to about 18 feet again, made a good one there. 15, the par 5, I hit it in the right rough. Hit a 3-wood on the green. 2-putted from about 45 feet. 18 was a drive, 2-iron. 2-putted from about 55 feet.
Q. How long was that last putt?
ERNIE ELS: That last one was five, six feet.
Q. Did you say you grew up on these kind of greens?
ERNIE ELS: Yes. Before we changed to a bentgrass, at my club we used to play on greens like this in Johannesburg.
Q. Were they this grainy?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, very grainy.
Murray fixes swing flaw, recovers momentum
SAN ANTONIO - Grayson Murray fixed a flaw in his swing and hit the ball well enough that blustery conditions weren't an issue for him Thursday in the Valero Texas Open.
Coming off a missed cut at Hilton Head last week, Murray made seven birdies for a 5-under 67 and a one-shot lead. His only mistake was a double bogey from a greenside bunker on the par-3 seventh hole.
''Just the fact I did give myself enough opportunities today for birdie, it took a lot of pressure off,'' Murray said.
Of the five players at 68, only Chesson Hadley played in the morning side of the draw, and he called it among his best rounds of the year because of gusts. The wind died in the afternoon and scoring improved slightly on the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio. Keegan Bradley, Ryan Moore, Billy Horschel and Matt Atkins each posted 68. Horschel and Moore played bogey-free.
''Struck the ball really well, something that we've been working hard on,'' Horschel said. ''Could have been better, yeah. I didn't really make anything out there today. But I'm happy with it.''
Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the course, played the Texas Open for the first time since 2010 and shot a 74. Adam Scott failed to make a birdie in his round of 75. Scott is at No. 59 in the world and needs to stay in the top 60 by May 21 to be exempt for the U.S. Open.
Harris English was in the group at 69, while two-time Texas Open champion Zach Johnson, Nick Watney and Brandt Snedeker were among those at 70. Johnson saved his round by going 5 under over his final five holes, starting with a 12-foot eagle putt on the par-5 14th hole. He birdied the last three.
Murray was coming off a pair of top 15s at Bay Hill and the Houston Open when his game got away from him last week in the RBC Heritage, and he shot 74-70 to miss the cut. He got that sorted out in the five days between teeing it up in San Antonio.
He said he was coming down too steep, which meant he would flip his hands and hit a sharp draw or pull out of it and hit it short and right.
''I was hitting each club 10 yards shorter than I normally do, and you can't play like that because your caddie is trying to give you a number and a club, and you keep hitting these bad shots or keep coming up short,'' Murray said. ''I got back to the basics with the setup and the takeaway, got my club in a better position at the top, which kind of frees my downswing. Then I can start going at it.''
Even so, Murray thought he wasted his good start - three birdies in his first six holes - when his bunker shot at No. 7 came out with no spin and rolled off the green into a deep swale. He hit his third short to about 7 feet, but missed the putt and took double bogey.
''I would have loved to limit that to a bogey because bogeys don't really kill you - doubles are the ones that now you've got to have an eagle or two birdies to come back with, and out here it's kind of tough to make birdies,'' Murray said. ''But I kept my head. My caddie keeps me very positive out there, that's why I think we could finish 4 under the last nine holes.''
Only 34 players in the 156-man field managed to break par.
Horschel missed four birdie chances inside 18 feet on the back nine. What pleased him the most was the way he struck the ball, particularly after his tie for fifth last week at the RBC Heritage. Horschel was one shot behind going into the last round and closed with a 72.
But he's all about momentum, and he can only hope this is the start of one of his runs. Horschel won the FedEx Cup in 2014 when he finished second and won the final two playoff events.
''I'm a big momentum player. I've got to get the train moving forward,'' he said. ''I've always been a guy who gets on a little roll, get that train moving and jump in that winner's circle.''
LPGA back in L.A.: Inbee Park leads by 1
LOS ANGELES - Inbee Park's flirtation with retirement is in the rear-view mirror.
Backed by a large contingent of South Korean fans, Park shot a 5-under 66 for a one-shot lead Thursday in the opening round of the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open in the LPGA's return to Los Angeles after a 13-year absence.
Showers ended shortly before Park's threesome, including second-ranked Lexi Thompson, teed off at windy Wilshire Country Club just south of Hollywood.
Using a new putter, Park birdied four consecutive holes on the back nine before a bogey on the par-4 17th. She quickly recovered and rolled in birdie putts on the second and fifth holes to finish off her round.
''I never played a tournament outside Korea having this much Korean supporters out,'' Park said. ''I almost feel like I'm playing back home. It's almost like a little Korea.''
That applies to the food, too, with nearby Koreatown's restaurants beckoning.
''Too many,'' Park said.
The third-ranked Park banished the blade-style putter she used in her Founders Cup victory last month in Phoenix, a playoff loss in the ANA Inspiration and a tie for third last week in Hawaii. She went back to one that feels more comfortable and has brought her success in the past.
''Last week was just an awkward week where I missed a lot of short ones and I just wasn't really comfortable with the putter,'' Park said, ''so I just wanted to have a different look.''
The 29-year-old Hall of Famer recently said she was 50-50 about retiring before returning to the tour in early March after a six-month break. Momentum has been going her way ever since.
Marina Alex was second. Thompson was one of seven players at 68 in partly sunny and unseasonable temperatures in the low 60s.
Alex tied Park with a birdie on No. 11. The American dropped a stroke with a bogey on the par-5 13th before rallying with a birdie on No. 14 to share the lead.
Alex found trouble on the par-4 17th. Her ball crossed over a winding creek, bounced and then rolled into the water, leaving Alex looking for it. Eventually, she salvaged a bogey to drop a shot behind Park. After a bad tee shot on 18, Alex managed a par to close at 67.
''I made a lot of the putts that I shouldn't, I wouldn't have expected to make,'' she said. ''I made two great saves on 17 and 18. Kind of got away with some not-so-solid golf shots in the beginning, and I capitalized on some great putts.''
Thompson returned from a two-week break after finishing tied for 20th at the ANA Inspiration, the year's first major.
She bogeyed her second hole, the par-4, 401-yard 11th, before settling down and birdieing four of the next eight holes, including the 14th, 15th and 16th.
''I changed a little thing that slipped my mind that I was working on earlier in the year,'' said Thompson, declining to share the change in her putting technique. ''I don't want to jinx it.''
ANA winner Pernilla Lundberg was among those in the logjam after a 68.
Natalie Gulbis was among five players tied for 10th at 69. Playing sparingly the last two years, Gulbis put together a round that included four birdies and two bogeys.
Top-ranked Shanshan Feng struggled to a 74 with five bogeys and two birdies.
The venerable course with views of the Hollywood sign and Griffith Observatory wasn't any kinder to eighth-ranked Cristie Kerr and Michelle Wie.
Both had up-and-down rounds that included three bogeys and a double-bogey on No. 10 for Kerr and five bogeys, including three in a row, for Wie. Wie, ranked 14th, had a few putts that lipped out.
Horschel (68) builds on momentum at Valero
Billy Horschel only ever needs to see a faint glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.
While some players require a slow ascent from missed cuts to contending on the weekend, Horschel's switches between the two can often be drastic. Last year he missed three straight cuts before defeating Jason Day in a playoff to win the AT&T Byron Nelson, a turnaround that Horschel said "still shocks me to this day."
The veteran is at it again, having missed five of six cuts prior to last week's RBC Heritage. But a few tweaks quickly produced results, as Horschel tied for fifth at Harbour Town. He wasted no time in building on that momentum with a bogey-free, 4-under 68 to open the Valero Texas Open that left him one shot behind Grayson Murray.
"I'm a big momentum player. I've got to get the train moving forward," Horschel told reporters Thursday. "I've always been a guy who gets on a little roll, get that train moving and jump into the winner's circle. So yeah, it would have been great to win last week, but it was just nice to play four really good rounds of golf."
Many big names tend to skip this week's stop at TPC San Antonio, but Horschel has managed to thrive on the difficult layout in recent years. He finished third in both 2013 and 2015, and tied for fourth in 2016.
With a return next week to the Zurich Classic of New Orleans where he notched his first career win in 2013 and a title defense in Dallas on the horizon, Horschel believes he's turning things around at just the right time.
"Gets the momentum going, carry it into this week, next week, which I've had a lot of success at," Horschel said. "Really the rest of the year, from here on in I have a lot of really good events I've played well in."
Three years later, PXG launches new iron
Three years is a long time between launches of club lines, but Bob Parsons, founder and CEO of PXG, says his company had a very good reason for waiting that long to introduce its second-generation irons.
“Three years ago, when we introduced our first generation 0311 iron, we made a commitment that we would not release a product unless it was significantly better than our existing product,” Parsons said. “:Our GEN2 irons are better than our GEN1 irons in every respect. We believe it’s the best iron ever made, and the second-best iron ever made is our GEN1 iron.”
PXG’s 0311 GEN2 irons, which officially went on sale today, feature what the company says is the world’s thinnest clubface. They have a forged 8620 soft carbon steel body and PXG’s signature weighting technology. The hollow clubheads are filled with a new polymer material that PXG says not only dampens vibration, but also produces higher ball speeds and thus more distance.
The irons come in four “collections” – Tour Performance, Players, Xtreme Forgiveness and Super Game Improvement.
Cost is $400 per iron, or $500 for PXG’s “Extreme Dark” finish. Price includes custom fitting. For more information, visit www.pxg.com.