2012 PGA Championship Interview Transcript -- Ernie Els

KELLY ELBIN:  Fresh off his victory at Royal Lytham and St. Anne's, 2012 Open Champion and World Golf Hall of Fame member Ernie Els, joining us at the 94th PGA Championship here at The Ocean Course.  This will be Ernie's 20th PGA Championship.  He has five Top?10s over that time.

Welcome and thank you for being here.  Comments with being here with a major championship right under your belt as well as what you've seen from the golf course, please.

ERNIE ELS:  Obviously it's a great feeling coming in here after the Open.  I've got the Claret Jug with me at home.  It's traveling with me.  So it's really nice to be here as major champion again.  It's been quite a few years.  I played the golf course Monday and yesterday.  The course obviously getting a lot more wet now and a lot more soft.

But I think conditions are perfect.  You know, we'll just wait and see what every day is going to be like; if the wind blows, obviously it makes it a little bit more difficult.  But the course is in great shape, and you know, just ready to go tomorrow.

Q.  I asked you in the hallway about what you remember from playing the World Cup here, but can you talk about that?

ERNIE ELS:  Sure, I played with Wayne Westner back in 1997.  We defended our World Cup title.  We won it in South Africa in 1996.  We came here and obviously played the tournament, it was played I think in November, which is quite late in the year.  I remember the grass being different, it had bermudagrass, and luckily the wind didn't blow too much that week.  It was quite a chilly week.  But we just loved playing the course.  You know, obviously we watched The Ryder Cup in '91, so it was just a pleasure to play the course in '97, which wasn't too long after  '91.

So, yeah, just a demanding course.  Back then, and even now, it's a very demanding course, precise golf course where you've got to keep it in play, and you know, wait for your birdies.

Q.  How would you describe the way you felt, your emotions, whatever, playing the back nine at Olympic Club, and if it was calm, where did that come from?

ERNIE ELS:  I think just being more secure of what you're doing and basically my routine was really good.  You know, and I feel whenever you have a good routine, the pre?shot routine into your golf shots, and you're clear in your mind of what you want to do, there's not too many things flying around in your head.  I was just more secure of what I wanted to do.  And I think that obviously started at the U.S. Open, I felt that, and obviously it was a lot better at The Open.

Q.  How long had it been since you had felt that sense of kind of security about the way you were playing?

ERNIE ELS:  Well, I think since 2010 when I won the World Golf Championships event in Miami and the Bay Hill tournament, and through that U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, and that one quite upset me, because at Pebble Beach, I really felt I let one slip.  I really played well from tee?to?green and on the greens I started feeling very uneasy.  I think from that point on it was a different ballgame.

Q.  Obviously 16 majors, 16 different winners, has not happened in golf in 25 years.  What's your personal take on why you think we are having this parity in major championship golf, and do you think it's better for golf to have this than to have one guy dominate?

ERNIE ELS:  I'm not sure how to take that.  I think each and every generation, it seems like a generation comes through every ten years, which is not a very long period.  But in sport, it is, and in golf, you know, golf is a different kind of sport than other sport, but every ten years it seems like there's a new generation.  And within that ten?year span of a generation, you get certain players that pop up.  You know, in our generation, obviously Tiger Woods popped up and he won quite a few majors in his ten?year span.

Obviously the span continues, because I went almost, what, 18 years from my first one to the last one I won.  So you can have players who stretch their career to 20 years, but for the most part, a ten?year gap for majors, and I think we are on the brink to getting to the next kind of generation.

Who knows, you know, the Keegan Bradleys, Rickie Fowlers, Dustin Johnsons, Adam Scotts, they have not started winning a lot of majors, Keegan has won one and he can win a couple.  The next ten years, we could see similar guys win majors again I think.

Q.  Do you feel like the Open is far enough behind you now where you can focus and feel like you have a chance at contending here this week?

ERNIE ELS:  Yeah, I do, thanks.  After the Open, I went to the Canadian Open.  Obviously RBC is one of my main sponsors.  You know, we spoke about it, and the RBC guys feel that they need a different week, because it's also a big event.  But after the Open, I won there, I went to the Canadian, I wasn't quite ready to play golf.  But it's been two good weeks.

Obviously I would have loved to have been home instead, either in London or in Florida, but I had my schedule and I did my schedule, didn't play great golf, but over the weekend at Firestone, I started doing some really good work again, could feel my energy coming back, and really started setting my sights on this event.

I've had really good preparation here this week.  Got a house just down the beach with the family, and I feel things are kind of back to normal.

Q.  You talked a little bit about closing and how much better you feel in doing that.  Guys have had difficulty closing this year; can you talk about what can cause that and what goes through your mind when you have a lead and are trying to close?

ERNIE ELS:  You know, I've won a few events, and a lot of times, I've had the lead from day one, and going into Sunday.  Some of them have been one?shot leads.  Some of them have been four?, five?, six?, even up to eight?shot leads.  It's one of those, you know, those big leads, where more nerve?wracking than, say, just a one?shot lead.  With a one?shot lead, on paper, it's a lead but it's not really a lead, because after one hole, you know, one guy can birdie and you lose your lead.

But when it's a five? or six?shot lead, it's really nerve?wracking because then you feel the pressure that if you lose now, you've given it up.  That's a different taste that's left in your mouth.  Then, you know, losing a one?shot lead is not as bad.  But I'm not sure why guys have given up leads this year.  You're right, I've also noticed that a little bit.  We've had some great closers in the past in Mickelson and Woods ?? I'm talking about my generation of players.

But I think guys are maybe learning how to win still, and you know, it's a cruel way of learning.  But they are basically learning.

Q.  I believe it was said before you came here, the decision to play this course without bunkers, I believe your words were, "it's ridiculous."  I wonder what your take is now that you've seen the unique sort of setup of the course?

ERNIE ELS:  Yeah, I got asked that question, and now that I've played it, because I haven't played it for quite some time, I did remember when I was asked that question, I remember that there were actual kind of pot bunkers, and I remember 17 clearly and some of the fairway bunkers.  So I was a little bit worried about that, because I wasn't sure if we were able to rake them.

But after getting here this week and getting all the facts, I'm happy with the way things are panning out, and I think it's all fine.  I think we are allowed to rake where we've been in.  And there's a lot of sand out there.  So it's probably better to have it as non?bunkers, because for the maintenance crews and everybody else, and especially with the weather coming in, it would be almost impossible to actually maintain them as bunkers throughout the event.

So I'll take my words back and say it's not ridiculous, and I think it's par for the course, and I think it was a good decision.

Q.  Obviously 17 could play a big role on Sunday.  Do you have any sense of the best way to approach it at this point?

ERNIE ELS:  Well, depends on where the flag is, depends on where the tee box is situated, and depends on where the wind is coming from.

Yesterday evening I played it and I had to hit a 3?iron in there.  And that's a difficult hole.  So those two bunkers, those two pot bunkers on the left might get a lot of play.

The wind switches here as you guys have noticed quite a bit throughout the day; when it's coming into you, you're going to have a very difficult shot, so 17 will be a pivotal hole.  That one, and 14.  14, the Rodin green, they have lengthened that hole from the last time I was here, and yesterday I couldn't even get there with a 3?iron.  Those two par 3s will play a big part in this tournament.

Q.  Do you feel you have had and will have the level of credit for winning The Open this year, or do you think what happened with Adam could become a dominant story in some ways, and that would be unfortunate?

ERNIE ELS:  I think you're going to remember what Adam did.  There's no two ways about it.  And then hopefully people remember the putts that I made, because I still shot 32 on the back nine to give Adam something to think about.

You know, I think for the short term, probably they are going to think about Adam's mistakes that he made, and I think long term, eventually my name is going to stay on the Jug (chuckling).

Q.  Along those lines, I know you spoke with Adam Sunday at Lytham; have you spoken at all with him since then?

ERNIE ELS:  Yes, we have.  We've spoken.  We stayed in the same hotel last week and saw him a couple of times.  I'm actually playing nine holes with him this afternoon.  So as I say, I've known Adam since he's come out here ten years ago, and we have got a pretty good, close relationship.  He's a good friend of the family and of mine.  You know, if he needs any help to win a major, I'll definitely give it to him; if he needs any encouragement, I'll give it to him.  He's a great friend.

Q.  What's your caddie situation going forward?  Is it just Ricci now?

ERNIE ELS:  I got Ricci back last week.  We all had a bit of a chat last week and we decided to bring Ricci back here for the PGA and probably through the FedEx.  I think Dan is going to take over when I go to Asia and play Fry's and so forth.  I think Ricci earned his spot here for the PGA this week.

Q.  With the way that the rain has soaked the course, there's already a premium on driving it accurately, not getting into the sandy areas.  Now, it's all about distance, because the ball is not going to roll.  Does anybody who cannot hit the ball 300 not have a chance in this thing because of the softness in the fairways?

ERNIE ELS:  Yeah, I mean, everybody's got a chance in the field, but I think it definitely helps the super?long bombers, Bubba, Dustin, Tiger, the real long guys that can fly it 320.  Those guys can reach all four par 5s now, where I can hit it 300, but I can't fly it 320.  So I'm probably going to lay up on all of the par 5s.  Doesn't take me out of the tournament, but you know, it definitely gives those real super?long bombers a great advantage around this golf course now.  There's no run out there.  It's just plugging where it is.

I think if weather plays a part, I think you can make some birdies out there now.

KELLY ELBIN:  Open Champion, Ernie Els.


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