What they said: Ernie Els

March 24, 2012
PGA TOUR staff

Courtesy ASAP Sports.

Arnold Palmer Invitational transcript archive Q. Much more pleasant circumstances with Ernie Els today, a 67, matches the low round of the day. How good is that number on the golf course on a day like today??

ERNIE ELS: That was the number I needed to shoot. I needed to get something in the 60s, I've been threatening to do that the first two rounds, and kind of shot myself in the foot somewhere in the round. Today I kept my foot on the accelerator so to speak. I did bogey 15, but birdieing 18 and making the par-saving putt on 17 is quite sweet.

Q. How much does this game test your patience??

ERNIE ELS: Well, I've been through the mill, believe me. Almost two years now, I've really been tested with the game. I guess when you get to my age, I had a pretty smooth career. The last 18 months has been really difficult. I have to really dig deep just to stay in the game, and now I'm really feeling like I'm coming around again. I feel like my game is coming around and hitting it nicely and starting to see some putts fall. So I've got some hope again.

Q. Speaking of hope, tomorrow you're going to be behind but you don't know how many strokes behind. Is this the kind of golf course where you can make a charge and see what happens, or are you at the mercy of who the leader is and what that leader does??

ERNIE ELS: Well, I think you're right, I think you've got to see what the leader does. There's a lot of trouble out there. Obviously the leader right now, he's won here six times, so he knows how to run and hide so to speak on this golf course.

There's a lot of trouble, No. 6 comes to mind immediately. Putting it there is like hitting it out-of-bounds. A lot of holes that you can make big numbers but you can also play safe here. I'm going to have to shoot something like today again tomorrow.

Q. How much fun was it to go around this layout today??

ERNIE ELS: When you shoot a score like that in the third round, with the wind up a little bit and knowing that I needed to have a good one feels very special. So gives me an outside chance for tomorrow. You know, I don't want to talk too badly about Tiger, but hope he makes a couple of bogeys and I have a bit of a chance tomorrow (chuckling). I'm really pleased with that round.

Q. I thought you showed great composure, the slight hiccup in the bunker at 15, and you almost laughed it off really. Take us through 18, where you ripped that drive.

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, 15, I drove it in the bunker in the right, and the ball kind of sunk into the sand a little bit. Although I didn't hit a good shot, it hit the lip and it came back into the bunker.

I had a better lie the second time around. Really hit a quality shot there; as you said, kept my composure and hit it in the middle of the green and came close to make the putt but bogeyed.

Then played nice coming back in, the last three holes, making two birdies, and obviously the drive on 18, to come in there with a wedge.

Q. How exciting is it to be in contention with 18 holes to play in front of Mr. Palmer??

ERNIE ELS: It's great. This is what I needed. I need to get back on that horse as quickly as possible. I'm back on it, working hard on my putting and my game. Feels like my game is right there. So I'm looking forward to tomorrow and come what may, I'm going to try hard.

Q. You're smarter than we are, can you figure out these golf ranking things? Can second be good enough?

ERNIE ELS: I haven't had a look to be honest. I know I've got to finish really almost winning, I've got to almost win or something like that.

But if I'm in, I'm in and if I'm not, I'm just glad my game is coming around. Whatever happens, I feel like I can have a good year now. I feel like the hard work is starting to pay off.

Q. You said you had to keep it on the accelerator today; how hard was that in the conditions with the wind coming up??

ERNIE ELS: Well, I had a nice rhythm going. Obviously when you play the front nine in 4 under, it helps. I had a couple of birdie opportunities on the back nine the first couple of holes where I missed some opportunities. But felt like I was in a nice rhythm today, especially on the greens. Felt really comfortable, and that's always a nice sign for me.

Q. Everybody wants to focus on winning the tournament, but is it nice to have a little extra focus for what it's worth??

ERNIE ELS: You know, I mean, obviously today was -- again, kind of take it day-to-day really. Today I was thinking about it a little bit again, but then I kind of laughed it off. I'm in a situation and when you try and take care of that, you're going to shoot yourself in the foot.

I've got to really take care of this tournament, trying to win this golf tournament, and as I said, I feel my game is there. Whether I play in Augusta or not, you know, I'm pretty happy where I am now. I've been through the mill, as I said to Steve, for the last 18 months in this game. And just to feel like it's coming around is really a gratifying feeling.

And whether or not I play Augusta or notdoesn't -- well, you know what, obviously the week if I'm not playing, but right now I really couldn't care less.

Q. If you do end up at Augusta in a couple of weeks, can you think of a time that you've been playing better than you are now??

ERNIE ELS: Well, two years ago maybe, 2010. I won Miami and I won here. Then I went to Houston where I shouldn't have gone and I ran out of steam just before Augusta.

But before that, no. At any time, no, I wasn't playing much better than this. Back in the day I used to play a lot in the Middle East so I used to come back over here and get recharged again quickly before Augusta.

But I'm playing good golf now. So it will be great if I'm there. If I'm not there, so be it.

Q. You mentioned running out of steam two years ago; if you get into Augusta this week, will you skip Houston next week??

ERNIE ELS: Maybe. Won't be good news for Houston fellas. I might get fined or whatever. But if I do get in, it's probably better not to play next week. But that's not a final decision either. I'll see. I mean, I love Houston. The way they set the course up, they do a great job. It would be unfair to them, but I'll have to make that decision when it comes.

Q. Have you thought about a special exemption and with that being the likelihood, you wouldn't lobby for it??

ERNIE ELS: No. Listen, you know, it's an invitational. So you can be invited, but we all know we have to qualify for it, and that's that. I'm certainly not going to be lobbying for it, and that's that. I haven't played well the last 18 months or so, and I am in the position where I am. That's fine. As I say, it's the invitation, it's their tournament, whatever they want.

Q. How big is it to bounce right back and get back on track and finish out the round??

ERNIE ELS: Well, exactly, it would have been a little -- it wouldn't have been great to be 6-under. 8-under, I feel like I have a chance. Even if I'm five, six behind, I still feel like I have an outside chance. There's quite a lot of trouble out there. I feel that I'm in pretty good position, so it was big to make those putts.

Q. With the rhythm that you had today, can it carry over into tomorrow??

ERNIE ELS: I feel good today. Yesterday I wasn't on. I watched a bit of television last night and I saw I was aiming way right and I was coming in from the inside and trying to sneak it back in. So that was good to see that. And this morning, I hit golf balls even at Lake Nona and got my alignment figured out and I felt great.

So I can even get it better for tomorrow, so I'll work on that and get it even more tuned in for tomorrow.