What they said: Ernie Els

July 21, 2011
PGA TOUR staff

MORE INTERVIEWS: RBC Canadian Open transcript archive

THE MODERATOR: Ernie, thanks for joining us for a few minutes after a successful 2-under round today. Obviously with 2-under, the course is definitely testing you guys. A great par save there at 18. Just a few comments on the round, how the course is playing, and how Shaughnessy sets up for you?

ERNIE ELS: I'm obviously very pleased with that. This is a very, very tough golf course. Played the Pro-Am yesterday. Played nine holes Tuesday afternoon, so I was trying to get a bit of a game plan but I was really struggling with my back yesterday, so I couldn't really go at the ball.

So today was kind of my first real round. Really just trying to keep it in play like most of the players would tell you, which I did. Felt like my second shots were good today. My iron shots were pretty crisp. Had a few good chances for birdie, but I just tried to keep it in play.

Then I made some good par saves here and there. So, all in all, just a solid round of golf, so good start for my tournament.

Q. Was your approach today very much like a U.S. Open where par was your friend and just don't beat yourself??

ERNIE ELS: Exactly, yeah, exactly. I mean, that first hole, the start on the first hole, that's a beauty there. Hit a good 3-wood down the fairway, and hit a 5-iron into the middle of the green. That was the start I needed, two good swings.

And then the golf course gave me a birdie on the second, and I didn't drive it very well. Got away with a good break. Made a good par save on 3 and had a good start, 1-under through three holes. I just tried to keep it there.

But this golf course if you've played many U.S. Opens, this is very much like a U.S. Open.

Q. Do you have any previous visits to Vancouver? Did you ever play here as an amateur or anything?

ERNIE ELS: Unfortunately not, no. The closest visit I've had here was up to Whistler about 10 or 12 years ago. Played up there in a Shell match which was great. It was beautiful. I've obviously flown in here many times, but I've never been into the city. So it's nice to play in a beautiful place.

Q. Sorry, there was some criticism yesterday of the rough. That the rough was too high, maybe too thick. What are your thoughts after playing the round today??

ERNIE ELS: I agree (laughing). It is what it is. You know, it's Canada's National Open, and I've played many a national open and Scottish Opens, British Opens, South African Opens. You know, this is the way a national open should be played. It should be played as tough as possible on a very stern test, and that's what you've got here.

Q. Can you talk just a little about your involvement with Team RBC and that sort of thing this year and how that's gone for you so far??

ERNIE ELS: Well, I'd like to give them some better golf. I haven't played my best golf this year. But they're a great bunch of guys. I played with Dan Quinn yesterday. You know, the RBC guys are golf fanatics. You know, they've taken over this tournament now. They've taken over the Hilton Head. So they're coming in on a big scale into golf.

They're sponsoring quite a few really good players around the world. I'm just glad to be part of Team RBC. There is really some good talent there, so I'd like to give them something back. They've been really good to me, and I'd love to play good golf here, especially this week.

Nice to have good energy, you know, behind you as a sponsor. We'll see where we go this week.

Q. Can you talk about your relationship with Dan Quinn? Did you ever think he might be the biggest celebrity here?

ERNIE ELS: I think he had 12 guys around him, and 1 player around me. He's a hockey player in this country. He's a good friend of mine, a good player as you know.

We're basically neighbors down in Florida. I've known him for quite a long time now. He caddied for me full-time last year, and the way this week's going, maybe he might be back again.

I like his energy. He's a competitive guy, obviously, playing hockey. So he understands professional sports, and I appreciate that. He's not a bad green reader. He's okay. Gets lucky every now and again.

Q. He said he had turned you into a hockey fan during the Olympics. Can you talk about your hockey knowledge??

ERNIE ELS: Well, it's not really great. But I wasn't cheering for Canada (laughing). Sorry.

But, yeah, I watch hockey like any other fan. I listen to the stories and some of the stuff that the greatest fights on YouTube, you know. We've watched those many times after a couple of beers. Haven't quite seen him in any of those fights. But he's teaching me, put it that way.

I'm from South Africa and I'm a rugby fan, and he reckons hockey players are tougher than rugby players, so we have big arguments. You know, he's a lot of fun.

Q. Ernie, you've changed the long putter this year. Can you give us a sense of what the change in the putting is? For a long, long time you're known as one of the best putters on TOUR, and you seem to be shuffling back and forth between different putters and trying to find some level of comfort. Are you finding that now? Are you comfortable with this?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, it's -- you're right. For most of my career I was really one of the better putters. But last year I started feeling my path of my stroke was screwed up, and I was cutting across the ball. I kind of got to that age, you know, playing under the gun for such a long time that you're going to feel uncomfortable on some of the shorter putts.

I was kind of playing with the long putter in practice and then my putts were a lot better with it. I tried to go back to the shorter putter, and I found that I was again cutting the ball a bit. So I just figured, you know, I'll really try it in competition.

So from the U.S. Open I've been playing with this longer putter, and it's starting to feel really good, so feeling good. I could have made a couple more today but feeling a lot more solid over the ball.

Q. How much has the game itself changed from when you first came out on TOUR? Is it a different challenge for you now to compete? Are there things you have to do differently now than when you were younger to compete?

ERNIE ELS: Well, when I started we still played with wooden clubs. That's how long ago I started playing professional golf. So obviously technology has changed a lot. Driving has become an art form, how to drive, how to putt. Driving, a lot of these young guys it's like a duck to water. The guys just pick up a driver and hit it 320.

So I feel that the art form of driving has gone out the window. Technology has taken over so much. And the guys are longer, you know. I think they're just going to keep happening.

I remember when I was in my 20s, Nick Price was almost where I'm sitting now, and he was moaning about the length of the young guys. I guess I'm saying the same thing now. Some of these guys are hitting their 3-woods as long as I hit my driver, and that's just the way the game goes. That is just the cycle.

Other than that, you've still got to get it on the fairway and make your putts. The game hasn't changed that much.

Q. You spent a long part of your career with Ricky on the bag. Tiger and Steven just parted ways. Is there a time in everybody's career where you've got to change if things get stale? How do you do that?

ERNIE ELS: I can't comment on why they split up. I have no idea why they split up. But Ricky and myself also split up around about the 12-year mark. I guess it's the 12-year itch.

Ricky's like a brother to me. We still speak. We're life-long friends. It's just something just doesn't fit anymore. Where the relationship kind of -- you know with me we took a break, and then he came back. He came back two times after that. I think he might still have a chance of coming back again.

So we're like brothers, but the working relationship kind of goes sour, and then you have to move on.

Q. (Indiscernible)?(Indiscernible)?

ERNIE ELS: Well, it's all about results, really. It's the way you get there: If you're happy to grind it out for four months, six months to get to that end result and you're both happy to go through that process, great. If you're not happy to go down that line, then you've got to call it a day. So that's what happened to us.

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