They Said It: At The Open Championship - Page 2

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Els Is Hoping To Return To The Form He Showed Earlier In The Year

Q. You really seemed to have it going at the start of the year. Has it been more frustrating, the fact that you perhaps didn't follow up there, or is this the sort of week that might help you kick on again?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah. You know, I obviously played really good at the start of the year. My schedule, you know, I wasn't happy with my schedule. After the U.S. Open Championship I went to Germany. I had a lot of excuses there with jet lag and everything, but I wasn't quite enjoying it. And for some reason that last week, the second round, it wasn't that easy.

I guess I've just been looking forward to this week since the U.S. Open Championship, and now that I'm here, you know, I'm preparing well. Physically I feel really good. I'm hitting my driver good. So I feel my game is quite -- is really there, you know, it's just for me to really concentrate and be 100 per cent focused on what I'm going to do this week. So I feel I can do that.

But yeah, I've had a pretty good start. I'm still somehow leading the FedEx points list over there in the U.S., and I think I'm second on the Money List over here in Europe. Some really big tournaments coming up. I've got seven events in, I think, the next nine weeks, which is very, very important. So I know the importance of that, and I want to be ready.

I like my schedule a little bit better now than it maybe has been the last month or two.

Q. There's probably been a dozen or so players in the last 50 years who have won multiple majors. Do you think those who have won, whose list of majors include links golf, are looked at differently than those who haven't won an Open? Kind of a grass-clay thing in tennis analogy, if you will.

ERNIE ELS: Good question. I had a similar question a couple weeks ago. I just feel if you want to be a world-class player, I think you've got to do something on links golf. I mean, this is where the game started. This is the original way the game was played. Whether you like it or not, I think you need to be able to somehow master links golf somewhere in your career, and I think -- you know, I look to links golf very naturally somehow. I don't know why, because I grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa, where the closest thing to a links golf course is the M3 highway (laughter.) We didn't know anything about links golf. It was just basically American-style golf.
And when I came over here for some reason, maybe just watching it on television, I had a feeling of how to play links golf. The first time I felt hitting a ball off this kind of turf was just amazing, and I still love it.

Yeah, I think you've got something there. I think it's a different way of playing, but I think your imagination can really go on these type of golf courses.

Q. Obviously Tiger has won the last two Opens here. Is it a matter of the fact that he just played better than everyone else those weeks, or does he hold some kind of specific advantage here on the Old Course?

ERNIE ELS: Well, I mean, in 2000, what Tiger did in 2000 and 2001, he was just really unbeatable. I played quite a decent event that year in 2000 -- again, I don't know how many shots I was behind him. 2005 I didn't play that well here, but again, he beat the guys down the back stretch. I think he'll be a factor because of the width you have here. You've got room to play with. He knows how to play the course, obviously. And he knows the greens very well.

When you've won tournaments on certain courses, you can putt those greens, and he can putt these greens here. So I think he's going to have a very good week. He'll be a factor. But I think because of the European Tour playing here every year, you're going to have a huge European presence here this week. The guys know the course like the back of their hands now. This place used to be a special place to come to every couple years for the Open. We play a tournament here every year now, so the guys know the course well, so you're going to have a big group of guys on Sunday with a chance to win, I think.

Q. I'm sorry for asking another Tiger question, but you mentioned earlier on in about 2000, 2001, he was playing amazing golf. Did you ever go on a golf course thinking he was simply unbeatable? And do you still feel that same way now?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I think there were times -- I was quite public about it and was a little bit criticized for that, but I just felt in that time period, quite a few times we came up against each other and he came out on top. I think the time he beat me in Hawai'i was quite a big win for him because I played good golf there, and he basically beat me with big putts. It could have maybe had an effect on me, but the way he played in that time period was amazing, the way he putted and the way he was in control of his ball-striking was just amazing.

Now, you know, things have changed a little bit. He's really working hard on his game. I played with him at Pebble the first two rounds and could see a lot of positive stuff that day. But I think the game has moved on a little bit. A lot of players have moved on a little bit. On his day he's still the best player in the world, but I think there's guys a little closer to him now.

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