RBC Heritage interview transcript: Ernie ElsApril 17, 2013
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JOHN BUSH: We'd like to welcome Ernie Els into the interview room here at the RBC Heritage. Ernie, welcome back to Harbour Town. Obviously a member of Team RBC, so I know this tournament means a lot to you because of that. If we can get your comments on your week ahead.
ERNIE ELS: Thank you. Yeah, it's great to be back. I've been coming here since 1994. I missed a couple here and there, but played most of them since then. And it's a wonderful place. And obviously with RBC taking over and the connection with Boeing, as well, it makes it even more sense for me to play.
But even if I wasn't with those companies, you know, I still regard this as one of my favorite events on Tour. So it’s just great. And the course is in very good shape. I played it for the first time this morning this week. And the greens are great. Yeah, it's all there. So hopefully we can have a good week.
Q. Just curious, Ernie, I know you've had a good relationship with Adam and that tie in with Lytham. And tell us your thoughts on what happened on Sunday.
ERNIE ELS: Really happy for him. I mean ever since Lytham, I've made a point of really getting on him a little bit, you know, and keeping him going forward. We played a lot of golf and talked quite a bit. He really was motivated for it.
Angel is another friend of mine. I've played a lot of Presidents Cups with Angel, both of them are friends of mine. Just for the fact of how things went down at Lytham, you know, and for Scotty to win like that is really something.
Q. Maybe confirm, I thought you played two practice rounds with him last week?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I played with him on Tuesday, Wednesday and played with Louis Oosthuizen, as well. So we had a couple of little money games going to keep interest. And I played with Adam two weeks before prior to the Masters. We played enough practice rounds around that place. Every time we played he played well. So he always thought he had a chance to win.
Q. Everyone always talks about this tournament in terms of being sort of decompression zone after the pressure and tensions that go on with the Masters. This week you've actually got a field, I think it's 14 of the top 29 in the world. Can you talk a little bit about the RBC influence, with not just you, but some of the other players with the RBC connection. And how do you think that will play out in terms of how the competition will be here this week?
ERNIE ELS: Well, I think a lot of these players that are members of this team RBC, these guys have come down here for many years, talking about Luke Donald and Jim Furyk, Brandt Snedeker, these guys have been coming down here, myself included. It's a tournament that just makes all the sense in the world to come and play. As you say, it's the week after Augusta. You've put so much work into Augusta prior to the Augusta week, and whether you've had a good week up there or not, coming down here is just a wonderful feeling. Getting onto the island, you just feel kind of the relief or the pressure leaves you a little bit. Most of the guys rent houses. We have our families here. It's just a great environment to be after the Masters.
I wish we had more of these kind of events after Majors, it would be very easy to play.
Q. In terms of the field this week, will that make it maybe a little more competitive or a little more interesting as far as the leaderboard goes?
ERNIE ELS: I think so. I think, as you just said, the guys in the group that are the team RBC, those are really world class players, and guys who have done well this year already.
These guys, all of us, you know, we're gunning for the FedExCup and all of that stuff, and this is a big week in that direction. We've got a good field for World Ranking points. Obviously a very good purse and a great golf course. It's all set for a very good week, competitive week.
Q. A couple different questions: One, have you talked to Scotty since the win on Sunday? And if so, maybe shed some light on that conversation.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, we had quite a few beers, both of us, when we spoke to each other. It was a happy conversation (laughter).
He's very delighted, I can promise you, that he got a green jacket and I was delighted for him. So it was quite a good conversation.
Q. What's maybe the first thing you said to him or one of the things you said to him?
ERNIE ELS: Well, I couldn't say that, not in proper English (laughter).
You can imagine what we said. It was just very we were very happy. I was very happy for him.
Q. Second of all, going back to the practice rounds up there, and then when you guys have gone up there a couple of weeks prior, did you get any sense of maybe playing with him just how well he was playing or if he felt like it was sort of going to be there?
ERNIE ELS: On Tuesday we, as I said, we had a couple of little money games, and Scotty won most of the money on Tuesday. And it was always myself and Louis playing against him, because he was making birdies on every consecutive hole. He took most of the money on Tuesday. But being the veteran I am, I made quite a bit of money the second day back from them. So we almost came out square.
But he definitely was striking the ball really well. He was in a very nice, loose, mood. He wasn't too tight. So I really felt he was going to play well. All three of us, Louis, as well, but Adam especially was playing really good.
Q. I asked you a little bit about this on Sunday, is the only reason that you're considering going back to the regulation length putter because of the potential ruling? And where are you with that process right now?
ERNIE ELS: Well, it's interesting, you know, I think I was No. 1 in putting being last week in Augusta. And I really worked with Sherylle, my putting lady. And she really got the message across what she wanted me to do and I really started feeling that. I was going to go with a shorter version this week. But I putted so nicely with it last week, I'm going to keep going with the belly.
But I'm really getting comfortable with both versions. Back in most of my career I played very well with the short putter. I feel I can do that again. But it's going so well with the belly, I don't want to stop until they ban it. We'll see what they do.
Q. Was the only reason you were considering going back to the shorter one because of the ruling or other factors?
ERNIE ELS: Not really, I thought I was going to make I could make more putts from 15 feet, 20 to 25 feet with the short putter. But since working with Sherylle now, again, I'm feeling very comfortable with the long putter.
But, yes, to answer your question, I was going to go back to the shorter version because I felt more comfortable on the longer putts.
Q. Talking about Adam again, I think there are a lot of fans out there who believe it's the winner and then it's everybody else. With what happened at the British, I mean I guess it's kind of hard to see a friend go through what Adam did, even as excited as you were about the championship. I mean, it's got to be a lot of human dynamics that people don't understand. So that's why it's got to be so exciting for you to see Adam win?
ERNIE ELS: Well, exactly. I think when you play the game long enough, you will go through all the emotions there is. Adam has been around a while now; he's been around 10, 12 years. And he started contending in Majors. Not until you have a close call like he had do you really understand the dynamics of what goes into winning a Major. Some guys get it easier than others. And he's always gone through the harder.
So that's why we were really working towards getting him keeping him on the road. Because a lot of times guys kind of lose it a bit, where they feel the game is not giving them enough. But Adam kept up his work right and his attention, and he got the rewards for it.
Q. I think that's the great thing golf teaches, especially the kids. He came so close on a lot of putts and could have gotten frustrated over that. And then the ones that really counted fell. And also the team work and camaraderie that he had with Angel, because they've been teammates, the respect they showed for each other on the playoff was inspiring.
ERNIE ELS: Exactly. You know, that's another thing. The way the guys went at it was really great for the game of golf. You've got Angel and Scotty and Angel, obviously he's won some Majors, but Scotty going for his first one. But just the way they were attacking the golf course and playing really aggressively, but, you know, in a great manner. And I think that's great for the game of golf and for young kids watching that, it's not all about cut throat. It is, but it's not. We play golf in a different fashion than other sport.
Q. Could you talk about some of the work you've been doing off the course, partnering with the tournament, asking people on Friday to wear blue for awareness in autism, and promoting the need to early detection.
ERNIE ELS: Exactly. We partnered this week because obviously Augusta it's kind of tough to get these kinds of things done; it's a Major. But this week is a really wonderful week. It's a family week. And our family has been affected by it, as we well know. There's a lot of other families around the world, around the country that's been affected by it.
We've come up with our blue logo, the girls in the office came up with this design, there. I think it's quite nice. It's blue. Autism, we chose a blue color. Autism Speaks, and Els for Autism, so we both went with blue. And April is autism month. So we really wanted to take this opportunity through the tournament and through the help of RBC and Boeing and the Heritage Tournament to just bring out the awareness.
We've made a little pamphlet, and everybody that buys this what do you call this this little pin, and with the pin you'll get a pamphlet that explains everything about autism. So people who know something about autism, it will ring a bell. And people that don't know anything about it will be made more aware of what autism is and what it's like, how we treat it, what the symptoms are, and all of that stuff. It's very interesting stuff.
So I think people will have a really clear idea of what autism is about and what we're trying to achieve.
Q. I was wondering if you could talk about some of the challenges you and your wife have had with your son's diagnosis and treatment, and maybe some of the assistance you're hoping to provide for other families.
ERNIE ELS: Well, it's well documented. We're fine. Our son is going to be 11 this month. He's quite severely affected by it, but he has a great school he goes to down in Palm Beach. And we went to the Center for Autism, Center of Excellence, where we can have 300 kids where we can treat these kids, past the age of 14. Because when they turn 14, they have to get back into normal society. And a lot of these kids are not well equipped to do that.
So we have a center that goes well beyond that, like the age of 21. And basically try and actually cope give them something to cope with through that period, as well. Give them jobs. Give them something where they give their attention to.
So it's something we want to do. It will keep finding its legs as we go along. But it's going to be a research and a school. We're going to get it started at the end of the year, and it should be two years after that and it should be open.
Q. Adam winning last week will obviously revive the anchored putting debate. Do you think with so many players winning Majors, I think it's three of the last four anchoring, if that will somehow protect it from being banned? Because there's so much history of golf tied to the long putter.
ERNIE ELS: That's a good way of looking at it. Maybe you can explain that to the commissioners. They're going through their process at the moment. So get that one out on the wires (laughter).
I think it's a good point, you know. The 14 year old kid last week, he putted with a belly putter. He won the tournament, a life changing experience for him with a belly putter. If he didn't use a belly, he wouldn't have gone through that great experience he had last week.
There's a lot of positives on this thing. So we'll wait and see. I'm not sure what they're going to do now. I see that another committee didn't make a stand on it. They're waiting for the USGA.
So we have to wait it out. We have to see what they come up with. You're absolutely right, you know, it's starting to find some history of its own. Keegan started it. And Adam won the last one now, and who knows where it's going to go.
But we'll wait and see.
Q. On that, is it fair to say that your view has changed, because early on you were saying, I'm going to use it as long as they let me keep cheating, essentially.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah.
Q. Now it seems like you're more in favor of, “this isn't cheating, it's part of the game”?
ERNIE ELS: It seems like it. I probably used the wrong word there, in using the word "cheating". But it's become part of the game. Especially the last 10, 12 years, younger guys are using it. It's not just guys who have putting problems. It's guys who find they can actually putt with it, repeat the stroke, whatever they think it is. But in another sense it's not like the whole world is using it, either. If it was cheating, as I mentioned, 95 percent of the guys would be using it, and they're not.
As I explained to you earlier, I had a problem making 15 to 25 footers with a long putter. I was better with the short putter. It's got its pros and cons. We'll have to see.
Q. Is it fair to say you are now an advocate of keeping it?
ERNIE ELS: I think I have to support it. I've been using it, and it definitely helped my game. You know, I can go either way now. I can go with short or the long putter. But I have been using the long putter and it's helped my game. And I want to support that way of putting, because I feel it's become part of the game. Young people are using it, pros, amateurs, and so forth, and it's not really taken over the game, as we've said. You know, the fear of this putting method has not taken over. It's not happened. We'll see. I'm not sure where they're going to go with this thing, now.
JOHN BUSH: Ernie, we appreciate your time. Have a great week.