Ernie Els Saturday Masters Press Conference Transcript
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.
Down seven pounds, Thomas can gain No. 1
AUSTIN, Texas – On March 7, Justin Thomas had his wisdom teeth removed, and just when he was recovering from that, he was slowed by a bout with the flu.
In total, he estimates he lost about seven pounds, and he admitted on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play that he wasn’t sure he’d be able to play the event.
“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” Thomas said. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off, if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”
Thomas went on to explain he was “50/50” whether he’d play the World Golf Championship, but decided to make the start and it’s turned out well for the world’s second-ranked player.
After going undefeated in pool play, Thomas cruised past Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5, in the round of 16 and secured himself a spot in the semifinals with a 2-and-1 victory over Kyle Stanley in the quarterfinals. If Thomas wins his semifinal match against Bubba Watson on Sunday, he’s assured enough points to overtake Dustin Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking.
“I don't care when it happens; I just hope it happens and it happens for a while,” Thomas said when asked about the possibility of becoming world No. 1. “I don't know what to say because I've never experienced it. I don't know what's going to come with it. But I just hope it happens tomorrow.”
Garnett's six-shot lead dwindles to two in Punta Cana
PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic - Brice Garnett took a six-stroke lead into the wind Saturday in the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship. He came out with a two-stroke advantage.
Garnett bogeyed three of the final six holes in the wind and rain for a 3-under 69 and a 16-under 200 total.
''Once we made the turn coming back, all those holes coming in toward the north, it was all we wanted and then some,'' Garnett said. ''I kind of took advantage of some holes going out, some holes downwind, some par 5s, and then we were just trying to leave it in the right spot those last four or five holes. Pars are pretty good scores on those holes.''
Canadian Corey Conners was second after a 67, and Tyler McCumber also had a 67 to get to 12 under. Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo dropped out Friday, finishing last in the 132-man field in his PGA Tour debut. He shot 77-82 playing as an amateur on a sponsor exemption.
A stroke ahead after each of the first two rounds, Garnett opened with a bogey, birdied Nos. 2, 4 and 6, eagled the par-5 seventh, and made two more birdies on the par-3 ninth and par-5 12th. He bogeyed the par-4 13th, par-5 15th and par-3 17th.
''I looked once and the lead was a little bigger than what it is now,'' Garnett said. ''The eagle was huge, kind of gave me that confidence that I can push it on out and stretch it a little bit more. That wind was tough and I'll take a two-shot lead into tomorrow.''
The 34-year-old Garnett is winless on the PGA Tour. He won twice last year on the Web.com Tour.
''You've got another 18 holes. So much can happen,'' Garnett said. ''Just going to try to keep the golf ball in front of me. I have that self-belief this week and that's what I had last year when I won, so I'll just keep my head down and just keep going.''
Conners had five birdies and a bogey on the front nine and added a birdie on No. 12.
''Really happy with the round,'' Conners said. ''I got off to a nice start, made a bunch of birdies on the front nine and kind of held it together on the back nine. It was playing really difficult. The wind was really blowing out there, made things challenging.''
McCumber, the son of 10-time PGA Tour winner Mark McCumber, has played his last 39 holes with a bogey.
''Second shots have been pretty solid,'' McCumber said. ''Putting pretty well, short game is pretty good. Just really being in the right areas and staying below the hole.''
Tom Lovelady was fourth at 11 under after a 68. Seamus Power (71), Denny McCarthy (71) and Seungsu Han (72) were 10 under.
Poulter incorrectly told he's in Masters before loss to Kisner
AUSTIN, Texas – Ian Poulter was not happy, and it was only partially because of his blowout loss to Kevin Kisner in Saturday’s quarterfinals at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
Following his morning victory in the round of 16 over Louis Oosthuizen, the Englishman was incorrectly informed that by making it to the Elite 8 at Austin Country Club he was assured enough Official World Golf Raking points to move into the top 50 and qualify for the Masters in two weeks.
“I should never listen to other people,” Poulter said following his 8-and-6 loss to Kevin Kisner in the quarterfinals. “When you finish a round of golf and the press and everybody is telling you you're in the Masters, and then you get a text message 10 minutes before you tee off to correct everybody, to say, ‘Oh, we've made a mistake, actually, no, that was wrong, you're not in. You need to go and win.’
“Not that that's an excuse in any form or factor, it's a little disappointing.”
Poulter actually needed to advance to the semifinal round to move into the top 50. Instead, his last chance to qualify for the Masters is to win next week’s Houston Open, although he was unsure if he’d play the event.
“I don't know yet, I haven't decided,” said Poulter when asked if he’d play next week. “I'm tired. It's been a long week. It's been a draining week. I'll wait until Monday night and if I have the energy then I will.”
Not DJ, not Poulter: Kisner most proud to take down Kuchar
AUSTIN, Texas – On his way to this week’s Final Four at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Kevin Kisner has beaten world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and the European match play ninja Ian Poulter. But neither match could compare to his duel with Matt Kuchar early Saturday.
“I was more jacked to beat [Kuchar], really. Kuch is such a good player and our games are so similar,” said Kisner, who defeated Kuchar in the round of 16, 1 up. “We both made eight birdies this morning and I barely snuck out of there. I thought it was a lot of fun.”
By comparison, his quarterfinal bout against Poulter wasn’t nearly as electric. Kisner won two of the first four holes when the Englishman made bogey (No. 3) and when he was conceded the fourth hole, hecruised to an 8-and-6 victory for the week’s most lopsided win.
“I don't know Ian that well, so I don't really have a history with him, other than watching him kill us in the Ryder Cup,” Kisner laughed.
Things won’t get any easier for Kisner on Sunday when he’ll play Alex Noren in the semifinals. The Swede has been dominant this week and is considered one of Europe’s top players heading into this year’s Ryder Cup.