Q & A WITH HONDA WINNER ERNIE ELS
Here is the full text of the Q & A session conducted by the media with Ernie Els after the big South African had won the Honda Classic in Florida on Sunday.
Here is the full text of the Q & A session conducted by the media with Ernie Els after the big South African had won the Honda Classic in Florida on Sunday. The PGA’s Doug Milne takes it away:
DOUG MILNE: We’d like to welcome the 2008 Honda Classic Champion, Ernie Els, to the media center. Thanks for joining us, great rounds today, 3-under par 67 with the wind. You picked up 4500 FedExCup points and I know it’s been a long time coming, four years, just a couple general opening comments on how you’re feeling.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I know, thank you. It’s still really settling in. I’m sure I’ll really feel it tomorrow, you know, probably I’ll be able to answer your questions better tomorrow.
But anyway, I really feel very grateful and happy. Obviously it’s been quite a ride, you know, especially over here. I’ve won tournaments around the world, scarce tournaments around the world here and there, but obviously to win over here, it’s been really my goal. So, it’s a great feeling. I was really trying not to mess up out there. You know, if my confidence was maybe a little high, maybe I could have really separated myself a little bit, because my game, I really felt good with my game from tee-to-green. But I took a bit of pace off my putts on the back nine. I felt the wind was really drying up the greens. The greens were getting really quick. So I missed probably four very makeable putts. But you know, I don’t want to look at the negative. You know, this has been a really wonderful week, never shooting over par on a very, very difficult golf course. So very pleased.
Q. You’ve taken some pretty good punches the last couple of tournaments, in light of that, does this make it more satisfying to win or how does it affect you?
ERNIE ELS: No, definitely. You’re very right, in Dubai, you know, I needed to play a really solid back nine and made a couple of mistakes and went for the green on 18 and losing there.
You know, even before that, in South Africa, when I really had the tournament won, and I made an eight, you know, to lose by one, that was tough. And even other tournaments, if I have to look back in the last three, four years, really even majors where I felt I may be could have done better.
But to come back to your question, yeah, it has to feel even sweeter, you know, losing so many tournaments and now, you know, actually one going my way. I didn’t want to watch on television, you know, what other guys were doing. The last time I saw it quite live was when Boo Weekley chipped in twice on 17 and 18 at Hilton Head last year to beat me. (Laughter) So I didn’t want to watch this time.
Q. Along those same lines, how can a guy who has won as many tournaments as you have goosebumps after you’ve won?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, you know, we play out here to win. You said it there. It’s not like this is my first tournament ever. You know, I’ve won quite a few times around the world.
But, you know, I guess we get addicted to that feeling, you know, and when you don’t get your rush, so to speak, you miss it. I definitely missed winning over here. The fans have been wonderful, really supportive wherever I’ve gone throughout the United States; and the e-mails I’ve received and the letters I’ve received from giving me golf tips to mental tips to diet tips to anything. You know, the fans have really been great, and this is really a win for them as much as it is for me.
Q. You came into the week saying that the confidence was a nine, got down to a seven, and you wanted to go to a nine again and you hoped to do it by the end of Florida; is it there now? Is one win enough to get you right in your own mind?
ERNIE ELS: I guess my Thursday, this tournament’s forgotten. You know, we get to Tampa, it’s a new event, new week, and a new battle begins.
So I’m committed to playing next week in Tampa, and let’s talk — I don’t know if you’re going up there next week, but I’ll definitely tell you by Wednesday or Tuesday next week how I’m feeling. Right now, I’m just happy.
Q. How does the nature of these finishing holes, there’s so much trouble, so much that can go wrong, how much more satisfying is it to hold on through that?
ERNIE ELS: Good question. I mean, I don’t think — hopefully we don’t have a tougher finish line than this anywhere we play, because this is hopefully as tough as it gets. You know, the 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, and 18th is such a wonderful par 5. So to play them pretty well — the putt on 17, I hit it a bit too soft, but at least I committed on my shot out of the bunker and in the wind. I’m not too bad over bunkers, and that was my focus. I think I’ve kept my focus really well on this golf course, especially today. Yesterday I was a little all over the place, and on the first, I was really good. So if I can keep this up, I want to take this further and see where it ends up.
Q. You made the front nine appear to play a lot easier the last two days; is that a fact or is that just a coincidence?
ERNIE ELS: No, I think you’ve got more opportunities on the front nine. I think especially the way the wind has been blowing, you know, the first hole is definitely a birdieable hole and the third is a par 5, the fourth is almost drivable and 5 is downwind with a good pin placement today. I really took good advantage of that and I missed a little one, a 3-footer on 3 for birdie.
So I really was pleased with that obviously and it really got me in the tournament. If I had a bogey on the first four, I don’t think I would be sitting here, because it’s a really tough way to come back on the back nine. There’s not too many birdie holes.
That was definitely on my mind to play a good front nine.
Q. You thanked Bob Rotella after your victory; is there something that he said to you maybe in the past few weeks that stuck with you in today’s round?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, definitely. I’ve been working with Bob on and off a little bit the last two years, not really intensively. But I saw him the other day. I played an early practice round on Monday and I saw him Monday afternoon. I just said to him now, “You know, it’s a good thing I saw you Monday.” (Smiling).
He’s just such a wonderful guy and he’s gotten to know me a little bit better now and he basically just wants me to be Ernie Els again, to be kind of like the “Big Easy” again. I’ve been a little bit uptight and a little grumpy, and, you know, basically because I’ve been trying to get better and win those tournaments.
But I mean, you have either bad luck or bad play or, you know, whatever happened to you, you start getting a little uptight. So he’s been trying to relax me a little bit more and be more myself, and that’s when I play my best is when I just go out there and play the golf course.
Q. Could you talk about the wind, and did I hear you say something to the effect that you were glad it was blowing?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, chasing, you need tough conditions,
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