MORE INTERVIEWS: RBC Canadian Open interviews archive
THE MODERATOR: Please welcome Ernie Els to the Shaw Media Center. Ernie, it's your third straight RBC Canadian Open as an RBC Ambassador, but your first at Glen Abbey since 1998. Maybe can you tell us what it's like to be back here and we'll open it up to some questions.
ERNIE ELS: It's great to be back. As we said, with RBC coming in as the title sponsor basing in Canada and really showcasing the tournament and also the country I think was a wonderful idea.
Coming back to the old stomping ground here, I last played here in 1997, you said 1998, so it was 15 years ago. It's nice to see the course again, and it's in great shape, so I think it's going to be a great tournament.
Q. Welcome back to the RBC Canadian Open. I want to ask you, Gary Player always set the example for South Africans traveling the world to play the game and you continue to do that. Why don't you just take the easy route and park yourself over here in North America, play the PGA TOUR, save yourself all the travel? What drives you to continue to travel the world and play this game?
ERNIE ELS: I think if you ask Gary or myself, we've always been doing that. It's just the natural way we've been playing the game all over the world. I love it. I try to play a bit more over in North America on the U.S. Tour, but I keep finding myself wanting to play overseas, you know?
Once you go to a certain place, the Scottish Open, the Open Championship, whether it's in Dubai or Australia, whatever, you find that you keep going back there. You make friends and you have good tournaments and you feel like you want to go back there.
As it turns out, I've been having a 23‑year career now, and I've been doing it a long time. As you say, sometimes I really don't think I ever thought I wanted to play one particular place. I've always wanted to play around the world, so that's just the way it is.
Q. I know you have a love affair with Muirfield. But what does it feel like to come back to a place where there is green grass and more comfortable North American style that you're used to playing on the PGA TOUR?
ERNIE ELS: I must say they got Muirfield very firm. I played quite a few practice rounds at Muirfield before the Open Championship, and every time I went there it was just getting firmer and firmer and firmer. By tournament time, it was as firm as I've ever played anywhere. So they actually tried to slow it down a little bit over the weekend especially Sunday I felt the greens were a little bit low slower, but it was a great tournament.
But I was very happy to be back on green grass where the ball actually stops. I like the distance that John went. Some of those 400 drives that he hit, I miss that, but it's nice to be playing more original golf.
Q. In your travels, obviously, you play a lot of National Opens, how special are those to you? You mentioned the Scottish Open and a lot of people say you're an RBC guy for this. But the Scottish Open, the British Open, South Africa, I'm sure there are a lot of them, how special is that? I'm wondering with 19 Canadians in the field this week, is this kind of a unique one?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, it's always great to play a national open. If you don't play in a major, your own national open feels like the next major. Like if we play in South Africa in the South African Open, it's regarded really highly. But in any particular national open, you know, there is some kind of national pride from the spectator point of view, from the people actually running the tournament and so forth, so you respect that. You try and respect the way they look at their tournament, you know, and then you try to compete.
It's always great. These national opens always bring out a nice story. You'll see this week, one of the Canadian guys maybe the mainstream media hasn't heard from will probably play well and he'll probably be right there until Sunday. Those are the nice stories that normally come out of these national opens events that we play around the world, and all of them are like that. You play the Italian Open or the Scottish, some kind of nice story comes out of it.
Q. Ernie, I know you played on Saturday with Graham DaLaet. Can you give us an assessment of his game and would you like to see him on the Presidents Cup team?
ERNIE ELS: Absolutely. I think Graham has come a long way. Obviously, links golf is still very new to him. But he's got all the power that these modern players have nowadays. He hits it very long. He's very much more in control of his game, and I just sense that he's got more belief in himself out there. He's come close a couple of times or so this year already, and I think he's just growing into really a steady player. So he'll be a great asset to our team.
The length he has, and the nice, positive attitude he has towards life and golf, I think that's going to help him.
Q. Luke was in here talking about the demanding schedule, especially this time of the year, and playing right after the British. Is it safe to say your RBC affiliation is probably the tipping point between you taking a week off and being here this week?
ERNIE ELS: You know, it would be unfair to RBC. I mean, they've done such a great job in coming into golf. Really, saving the Heritage tournament in South Carolina and what they've done here with the Canadian Open is just phenomenal. They've really brought it back on the map, and brought it back to the days of Trevino and Nicklaus and Player, and those guys that played in this tournament because it deserves a really good field.
So they've put in a lot of money into golf, and obviously it's helped things to the event. In a perfect world, yeah. We'd love one of their events not to be straight after a major, but the schedule is so difficult, that this is the choice that they have.
Yes, there is quite a bit of golf to be played, but I take it as a positive, you know? I'm so far away in the FedExCup race. I'm 90th in the FedEx, so I need to play a lot of tournaments. So quality events like this really helps my cause.
Yes, there is a bit of jet lag involved and so forth, but so be it. It's a great tournament, and I believe that I should be playing in it.
Q. I want to touch on playing in a national open, and a guy that gets a ton of attention here is Mike Weir. You guys are about the same age. How do you come into a national open dealing with all eyes on you or that pressure that comes with it?
ERNIE ELS: It's got a bit of extra pressure. When I get to South Africa, I don't play there a lot anymore. So when I do go there, you know, you want to show people you can still play a little bit so to speak. And they want to cheer you on but they also want you to play well. That's not always a negative. It can be a really good positive. If you get into the running, you can have a crowd on your side, so there can be a little on‑court advantage.
There can be a little pressure, and a little of this section here and there, seeing a lot of people that you know. But I've always taken it as a positive.
Q. Does it change as you get older?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, it does. You know, some people think you know you've played your best golf. You want to prove that you're still relative. So it depends on how your year is going. If you've had a pretty good year you kind of just flow into it. When you have had a bit of a tough year, there are a couple of things that you almost feel like you need to prove to people, so that can add pressure. So, yeah, but it's always positive in playing a national open.
Q. You mentioned the jet lag part of it earlier. And I'm just wondering if you could comment on what it's like physically right now compared to what it was a year ago when you were coming in after winning the British Open?
ERNIE ELS: A little different. You know, obviously we had quite a big night on that Sunday there. You know, we only flew out here on a Tuesday morning, got to Hamilton Tuesday afternoon and played a couple of holes. Then I had to go to a dinner that night, and the next day there were quite a few other things to do. So I never really saw the golf course before Thursday. So it was quite a whirlwind trip.
So I'm a little bit better prepared this year, unfortunately so. But got in last night with my family, and I spent a bit more time resting in London and played a nice Pro‑Am this morning, and I feel a lot more rested and ready to go tomorrow. So hopefully it will show in my performance.