Featured Golf News
Els Looks for Two in a Row
It's been a busy couple of days for Ernie Els ever since he overcame a six-shot deficit at the start of the final round to win the Open Championship on Sunday.
Els closed with a 3-under 67 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes to track down 54-hole leader Adam Scott and take home his second Claret Jug and the fourth major title in his 23-year Hall of Fame career.
On Tuesday, Els flew to Ancaster, Ontario, Canada from London for this week's Canadian Open, which he has never won. But if his 7-under performance in the British Open is any indication, the 42-year-old may be eradicating that omission from his sterling record in the $5.2 million PGA Tour stop, which starts Thursday at Hamilton Golf & Country Club.
On Wednesday, the popular player known as the "Big Easy" met with reporters and discussed his time in the U.K. and what he thinks his chances are at the classic H.S. Colt-designed golf course. Here's what Els had to say.
MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Ernie Els to the interview room. Thanks for joining us for a few minutes here at the 2012 RBC Canadian Open. It's been kind of an obviously crazy week for you. Congratulations on your second British Open title Sunday, Royal Lytham, St. Annes. Obviously it's been crazy since then. So why don't you just bring us up to speed on how things have been for you and then we'll turn it over and take some questions on being in Canada.
ERNIE ELS: I don't know if it's crazy. I've been trying to be just low-key about it. But I was going to come here on Sunday night. I went home Sunday night to London. We had a great party Sunday night, as you can imagine. I had Liezl there, my good friend Johann there, his wife; Thomas Aiken and his wife came down and a couple of other friends and really had a great evening. Slept quite late on Monday and spent the whole day with the kids, you know, either in the pool or just having lunch or just chilling. And had a good Monday evening with a bit of family, watched a little bit of the replay, not the whole thing. Just maybe the last hour of it. And then flew here Tuesday morning.
I had an obligation last night in town, the Right to Play Foundation which is wonderful. So I had to get here very early. Played a couple holes out here yesterday afternoon and then went into Toronto and spent the evening. And this morning I played with the boss at his golf club, at his country club, wonderful golf course, and actually feel quite refreshed.
MODERATOR: Okay. With that we know you're keeping it going, so we'll take some questions.
Q. First off, thanks for coming over and supporting the event. We interviewed you from the Scottish Open, and a couple of things that you said, you said, "basically I just need to put it together for 72 holes," and "I definitely got my belief back." And those are two pretty good foreshadowing quotes. Can you tell us about that feeling when that putt fell in the heart of the cup on 18 and you and Mr. Roberts looked at each other and what was going through your mind?
ERNIE ELS: I had to make birdies coming in, and eventually the one on 18 fell. On 16, you know, I left it short from only about six feet. It was really a tough flag. 17 left it a little bit and on 18 I had a really good look at it. So felt good about the putt and obviously made a good stroke, and for once it went right in the middle. We were really elated when the putt went in, but wasn't quite sure it was going to be enough. But at least we gave it a good shot, you know. So it was great having Ricci on 18 on the green there. It was great celebrating with him a little bit.
Q. I wonder if you could talk a little bit about, you know, if you do get a sense of how much your presence here means to this tournament? I mean take a look at the room here right now and the greeting you got as you were coming inside. And also, what does this tournament mean to you?
ERNIE ELS: Well, before last year I'd hadn't played the Canadian Open for quite some time. You know, we were talking about it this morning. And you know, I never played Glen Abbey when you guys had the tournament at Glen Abbey for so many years. And then I think since RBC has taken over the sponsorship they've started moving it around the country, which I think is a wonderful idea. But the date is always a problem.
After a major most of the guys want to maybe take a week off. You know, I signed a multi year sponsorship deal with RBC and obviously with that entitles me to play the Canadian Open. So it's just so happened that I won the Open championship that it made it difficult to get here on Monday, from my point of view. But this golf tournament goes back a long time, you know. And I'm familiar like with the Open Championship or the history of the Canadian Open. But I know it's an old national open, and it goes back many, many years, you know. And I remember in the 70s and 80s the top guys in the world used to play the Canadian open all the time, Trevino, Tom Watson, Gary Player, those type of players. So hopefully in time we'll get this thing kind of sealed going back golf club.
Q. You mentioned about having Ricci there to celebrate. That must have been fantastic. But this week there's the Canadian connection with having Dan Quinn on the bag. I just wondered if you could speak to that. He ended up winning the American Classic down in Nevada at the same time you were winning overseas.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah. Dan was with me this morning and actually on the car ride over, a bit late for you guys, I'm sorry. But it was a long ride, and we actually spoke about it, you know. He started winning that tournament 20 years ago. He won there in '92, and he said to me he won in '02, and I won my Open championship in '02, and I win the Open this year and he wins the same tournament also in the same year. So it's funny how things come together. It's going to have great to have Dan back. Ricci has been caddying for a couple of months now, and you know, Dan's going to I think Deutsche Bank to caddie the bag, and it'll be great to listen to him and nice change of scenery, so to speak.
Q. After winning the Open championship you had got a lot of play here in Canada. Just wondering if you gave any serious thoughts to blowing this off.
ERNIE ELS: No, no, no. I was just trying to blow off the Monday. (Laughs). You know, we had a Monday morning with RBC, with some of their clients and guys, and you know, I should choose my words more carefully next time. But I was always coming and I was just trying to get out of that Monday, which I got out of, which I'm not thrilled about, but I've gotta pay them back because the Monday coming I'm going to do a day for them. Still going to do my duties, but it was nice to have a day off with the family. It's good to be back in Canada.
Q. Can you see what Mike Weir is going through recently, and I know you guys were talking last night on the stage there, giving each other pats on the back and you're good friends. Can you empathize with what he's going through and the struggles that he's had?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah. Mike's a good friend of mine and it's tough when you see a fair competitor going through a tough time in the game. We all go through that at some point in our career. Mike's been working very, very hard. People see that. I wish for him that the hard work will come through now and start showing on the golf course. But confidence is a first off thing. You know, when you lose your swing a little bit and you start working on different things to get confidence and to get it scored on the card is the biggest thing in our game. And that goes a little bit it gets really difficult. But Mike is a grinder, you know, and I know he's working hard, and I'd love for him to get back to we know how he can play. So hopefully it happens this week.
Q. Did an interview with you back in 1999 and that day we spoke at length about your grandfather. I'm curious about what you think your grandfather would think of this latest victory, number one. And to follow up with that just what Liezl and some of your friends and family are thinking about as well.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, my grandfather, you know, he basically started our family into the game of golf. My dad played started playing because of my grandfather, and my grandfather is my mom's father, not my dad's father. So he got my dad playing in the game and instilled the true rules of the game, the way he thought we needed to play the game. He instilled it in myself and my brother and even my father. He wasn't the greatest golfer in the world. He played about a 12 to 16 handicap most of his life, but he really played the game with the rules of the game. So that was great. And then obviously, you know, we spent a lot of time in our holidays at my grandfather's house. You know, he used to drive us to golf tournaments and really spent a lot of time with us. So he would be thrilled. You know, I know he's up there somewhere and he would have really loved it, especially not giving up. My last ten years wasn't that easy, and to keep grinding away, I think he would be proud to see that something good came out of it.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah. I mean they're everything to me. Liezl, we've been together almost 20 years now, and she's been there almost from the start of my career. Samantha and Ben came along, and two great kids, Samantha 13 years old now, teenager. She's playing a lot of sports. Not really much into golf, but I love the way she plays her sports. And then Ben is coming through unbelievable, too, now. So we couldn't be happier at the moment. We've had some tough times, but it eventually works itself out, so we're having a good time now.
Q. I talked with Ricci Roberts at Wentworth the day after the U. S. Open, and what really spit out was how optimistic he was about your chances at the Open championship just the day after such disappointment. Thinking back to that were you that optimistic then and what does it mean to you to have Ricci show such confidence in you?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah. We were both. We had a tough finish there. I pulled that 9 iron on the 16th hole and made bogey. And then I didn't birdie 17, and I bogeyed 18. So those last couple holes were not great. But what we took out of that Sunday was that the way I felt on the course, and I kept saying that throughout that Sunday to Ricci, I said you know, I actually felt like I belong here again. It wasn't an out of body experience anymore where anxiety got the best of me.
I felt more in control, more in control of my emotions and my game I felt could stand up to the pressure again. And that's all the work that we put in leading up to that point. So although I didn't quite finish the way I wanted to, I still felt calm, and that was good. So I think that's what Ricci was trying to maybe explain to you. And then I tried to keep my game and get my workouts good in the game, but even enough I played enough golf in my time off in London before the Open championship, and we had a nice run at the Scottish. I wasn't really in contention, but we worked through a lot of things that I felt was important for Lytham. And then we just felt comfortable at Lytham.
Q. Ernie, with maybe a bit of an unusual week here in terms of preparing for this tournament, do you expect it to be a bit of a mental struggle that you're going to be competing against?
ERNIE ELS: I don't think so. You know, I haven't prepared on the golf course the way maybe that I wanted to. But I feel very fresh, you know. The Monday after last week I have to get on a plane and play a nice Monday off. And obviously Tuesday, yesterday was pretty easy also, and then today was a nice little stroll with the boss. So I went through the yardage. I saw a couple holes yesterday. I'll be fresh and ready to go tomorrow, so I'll be competing at 100 percent tomorrow.
Q. About a year and a half ago maybe it was a year ago I remember somebody asking you a question about your process with autism and helping out. And you said the best way for me to get the message through was to play better and create more awareness. Do you think that helped you get to where you are now?
ERNIE ELS: You know, first of all, the decision was made by myself and Liezl. You know, we weren't public with it for quite some time. But we felt that if we talk about it because the way a lot of autistic families work, they work with other autistic families just to find out more information and stuff. And for us to be public we really felt that the whole community would get kind of a bulk of energy. And any time, you know, with us getting more awareness out there, you know, we could just get the word out basically. So yeah, I think we're playing better golf and we're still on our mission. And I think it can only benefit the autism community.
Q. How is the progress going on the center?
ERNIE ELS: It's coming along nicely. We've raised a lot of money now and we got a piece of land. I'm going down to Florida after this week for a couple of days and I'll find out more where the people are. So we're coming along nicely.
Q. You mentioned the fact that you haven't had a chance to play the course. Have you ever played it or is it going in essentially blind tomorrow and how much of a disadvantage is that?
ERNIE ELS: I don't know if it's such a big disadvantage, because a lot of times you play a course you don't know where the trouble is. So maybe that's a good thing. You get your yardage. You hit it to your spots and from there you go to your next spots. I did play a couple holes yesterday. I played five holes yesterday. So you know, I just want to be fresh mentally and physically. So I'll be okay.
Q. You mentioned fresh, being mentally and physically fresh, but you are in the midst of quite a schedule, the Scottish Open, British Open, Canadian Open, Bridgestone next week, PGA after that. How do you find the balance to keep yourself fresh as you say?
ERNIE ELS: I think obviously it's been a conscious decision, you know. I had all that time off after U. S. Open, and I took the Scottish Open just as a real warm up. And always coming to the Canadian and then the Bridgestone and PGA. So it's a nice run. And then I have another week off going into the FedEx Cup race and after that I've got a lot of time off. So it's a bit of work now for the next month or so and then we got a lot of time off after that. There's obviously a lot of prestige to play for and a lot of money to play for, so you want to be playing good at this time of the year, so I don't mind playing a lot of golf tournaments.
MODERATOR: Okay. Ernie, congratulations again. Thank you for your time.
ERNIE ELS: Thank you guys.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.