What they said: Ernie Els

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October 10, 2012
PGA TOUR staff

MORE INTERVIEWS: Frys.com Open transcripts archive

JOHN BUSH: We'd like to welcome Ernie Els into the interview room here at the Frys.com Open. He's making his second start at this tournament, including a T4 last year, great piece of property here at CordeValle.

Just talk about being back.

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, it's beautiful. I love coming here. Even before last year we did some outing out here for SAP, and I always enjoy coming out here. Obviously the golf tournament, I guess I'll play the second one.

Really enjoy it. It's great staying on the property here. With weather like this, I mean, you can't beat it. It's just a wonderful place to play golf. Obviously you would like to play well to make it an even nicer experience, but it's nice to be back and obviously looking forward to the week.

Golf course is playing a little differently. It's a little firmer. Scoring should be good, so I'm looking forward to it.

JOHN BUSH: Talk a little bit about the satisfaction you get putting your hands on this trophy once again, especially after some of the near misses in majors.

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I mean, I got quite fortunate obviously. You could see that I did make some nice putts and played a really wonderful back nine. Unfortunately for Scotty he made some mistakes coming in.

And as you say, we've all make those mistakes. I've done that in the past. Definitely lost more majors than I've won, so that's the way it goes in golf sometimes. You have to learn from a that, and I think Scotty would have learned from that experience.

Obviously at my age to get my hands on this has been really a bonus to my career, and definitely a boost for the next couple years. I'm in all the majors for the next five years, so a lot of golf. Especially next year. We've got great venues for next year's majors, so really nice.

Q. At this tournament last year you said you were trying to get your game into long-term shape so that you could win majors again. You said there were some people that found that idea laughable. Did you really feel that what happened this year was this close to happening??

ERNIE ELS: I mean, that was part of the reason why I played quite a lot of golf towards the end of the year last year, was really to get comfortable with that belly putter. The only way you can do that is under stress and tournament conditions.

You know, I did fairly well last year here, and that definitely gave me a bit of a boost obviously. Start of this season, you know, the way I finished second early on in South Africa and (indiscernible) there, and then I had a pretty good period in March in Florida.

You know, under pressure there I didn't quite deliver. What I meant was exactly what kind of happened. Not always does it happen that way, but that was my goal: to play a lot of golf and get myself into better positions on the weekends and see where my game is.

That's kind of what we did, and that's kind of what I want to start doing again now. I feel like since the Open, I haven't really been on form again, and I'm working myself back into better habits again on the greens and in some aspects of my long game.

Always nice to play these kind of events and see where you are and what you need to work on.

Q. How hard is it to come off the high of winning the British Open and get back to super competitive golf again? I think last year this was your only top 10. What did you find, and was it just getting comfortable with the belly putter? What did you find that you were able to carry over into this year?

ERNIE ELS: Well, after the Open, you know, I really felt like I needed a bit of a break. I never got that week off anyway.

I don't want to make any excuses, but I just kind of ran out of steam a little bit. You can't really miss an event. You got the Canadian Open after the Open Championship, you know, and RBC is one of my main sponsors.

Then we have the Bridgestone and the PGA, and then I finally had a week off and then the FedExCup race.

So for some reasonI know � � the only reason I can think of is I ran out of steam because I've tried hard and I've tried to play good golf, but I just wasn't quite there.

I've been through experiences like that before. When I look back, it's just the energy levels. So right now I feel a bit more rested, and I think it's because of the pressure. Even last week I played in Scotland, but it wasn't a (indiscernible) event. So I feel like I'm free� falling onto my game.

The second part of your question was, yeah, I mean, last year I went through some really difficult times on the greens. I was on the short putter, the long putter, short putter, long putter, and then I eventually converted to the long putter.

As I said earlier, I needed time in golf tournaments to see how this belly putter actually operates. You can hit as many putts as you want on the practice greens, but under stakes is when you find out where your game is.

I played well here last year. For some reason, just liked it here last year. I kept going, and I think that gave me a little bit of hope for this year. I keep holding on that.

Q. I wanted to stay on the belly putter for a moment. Have you checked your putting stats? Where has it benefited you the most once you committed and made the switch?

ERNIE ELS: Well, without looking at stats, I would say from five feet and in I would say I've been a lot better. I'm working on the longer ones now. Working from 12 feet and out. Those putts, if you start making those, you start turning your rounds around. You can save a round by making the longer putts.

So feel like I'm a lot more consistent.

Q. When you first started to play with it, how long did you feel like it took until you were completely comfortable with it??

ERNIE ELS: Well, I would say I really started using it I would say after the PGA last year. In the FedExCup last year I started using it full on.

I would say through March I was still tinkering and getting my eyes right over the ball and getting my rhythm. So it's taken quite a while. It takes a lot of practice to actually get comfortable and get that style of putting under the belt.

It's not just getting up and holing putts. You got to work on it.

Q. I agree. Since the Open Championship, can you talk a little bit about how maybe fans have reacted to you and if there has been maybe a change in how they perceive you in your career at this point??

ERNIE ELS: So much support. It's amazing when you struggle and you don't really feel the love as much. Then you win a major -- and I've been around for almost 20 years on this tour -- and all of a sudden, you know, it's like a revival in interest and energy from the fans.

It just makes you feel so special. It's a real special feeling that you have so many fans, and people really want to show their encouragement when you win. It's hard when the player is down the way I was last year. It would be difficult for me to root for a guy that's down all the time, you know.

So when I won now, the people have written me letters and the support I've had has just been unbelievable. Just been really great.

Q. (No microphone.)

ERNIE ELS: No, I don't want get into it too much, but a lot of fans, you know, some of them said they thought I was ready to retire and now they're happy to see me around for another couple of years with an opportunity to win some more.

So it's really been kind of a revival from both ends, from my end and the fan's point of view.

Q. You take that thing with you everywhere? (Laughter.)

ERNIE ELS: That's the holy grail, man. People have been searching for this their whole lives and don't get their hands on it, so I like to take it around. Obviously with my connection here with CordeValle and the owner, they asked me to do it, and they're going to have some people come in and take pictures.

Hopefully the don't drop it, because it's quite an old jug.

Q. Since winning, are you just more happy and positive? Has it changed everything about life?

ERNIE ELS: Absolutely. You know, even when I'm playing bad, you know it's all good. I wouldn't put it that way, but it's been a big change. It's taken a lot of weight off my shoulders, so to speak.

From where I was last year and where I am now, it's � � I'm starting to get (indiscernible) on my game again and I know where am and where I want to go. I'm really looking forward to majors again.

It's a really terrible feeling competing out here and knowing in the back of your mind you don't know if you could handle it. Now I feel like I can really go out and enjoy my game again.

Q. You mentioned the revival. What do you see now in terms of reviving a game at your age??

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I think it's just stay committed. Even when you're down, you got to keep grinding. It's a grind. You get beat up in this game. The older you get, the tougher it is to turn it around and face the music again.

I was fortunate. With a bit of talent -- and I always believe that talent never goes away completely. Confidence comes and goes, but, you know, I just kind of found something, and that's really been the change.

The older you get, the more you appreciate it also. I remember when I was in my 20s. Now I'm 43 and I got a family and a lot of things going on in your life. So you appreciate these wins more than you used to.

Q. After all the adjustments it's taken you to get used to the belly putter, what are your concerns that you will now not be able to use it in the long� term future??

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, it's a funny one, you know. As I say, I was against it. Now that I've used it for the best part of a year full on, I see that the work you still have to put in with the belly, with the long putter.

I do believe that it does help in certain circumstances. It helps me with shorter putts. Other cases probably maybe different than other players.

Other players, okay, like Tim Clark, he was born in a certain way. You can't move his wrist. I don't think he can putt with a short putter.

So there is going to be some complications coming. They'll have to look at it pretty carefully. We'll see. If they ban it and I have to go back to a short putter, I'll work on that.

But I'm just worried for other guys. You know, guys use it for different reasons.

JOHN BUSH: Ernie knee, we appreciate your time.

ERNIE ELS: All right. Thank you.

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