An Outpouring of Support Helped Ernie Els Through a Difficult 2004

The best and worst part about my job is traveling. The best is when you're here and you see the views from these beautiful places. The worst is when you first get there. Jet lag is a bummer.

Between what happened at Augusta and Troon last year, I got a whole stack full of e-mails and letters. The encouragement was amazing. It ranged from 14-year-old kids to 84-year-old grandmothers. I was blown away–I didn't think I had as many fans and friends in the world of golf.

My definition of success is to be yourself. Vijay, me–we come from other parts of the world, and we came up through the ranks by hard work and resilience. You've got to do it your own way. Success is in your own mind, not what people tell you.

If I were Sergio Garcia's age, I would kick his ass in tennis. Absolutely. I've seen him play and he's got a pretty good game. At the moment, he's a bit more athletic than I am. So he might outlast me.

The Shawshank Redemption is my all-time favorite movie. I've watched it four or five times. I like how the main guy lost everything and gets his life back.

I still love the Rolling Stones, especially "Start Me Up." When I get into my airplane, the pilot always puts on the Stones to get the mood going.

My happiest moment on the course came way back before I started making it, in 1992. I shot a 65 in the first round of the South African Open. I'd had a bit of a rough start in my professional career, and a lot of people were writing me off already–at age 22! You have this great amateur career and then you do nothing for two years, and they say, "He's got a wrist problem, he's crashing cars, he's drinking too much," and all this crap. That round was the start of the early comeback in my career.

We'll still have a couple of beers on Sunday nights. I'm not like I used to be in my 20s–not with a family and the kids wanting to jump on you at six in the morning. But I let my hair down, especially when we go back to South Africa. We've got a house on the beach and lots of friends, and we'll have a barbeque all the way up the beach and back. When we have long flights, I'll have a few, especially when it's me and my caddie, Ricci, and maybe one other person. We might let it go a bit then. You've got to pass the time.

The Hole Truth
If Ernie Els wants to don the green jacket this year, he'll first need to overcome the 180-yard par-3 sixth–his Augusta National nightmare. Here's Els by the numbers at the Masters.
11 – Number of Masters appearances, with only one missed cut (1995)
18 – Strokes under par on his best hole, the par-5 13th
14 – Strokes over par on his worst hole, the par-3 sixth
8 – Strokes over par on his second-worst hole, the par-4 fifth
5 – Strokes under par on the par-4 seventh, his best non par-5

My older brother, Dirk, is my best pal. If there's a total disaster, he'll be the first one I call. We had our battles when we were growing up, but we've really been close the last 10 years.

Nelson Mandela is my hero, without a doubt. When I've done something good he still calls me. We talk three or four times a year. He doesn't take himself that seriously. South Africa could have been a bloodbath if it wasn't for him. He saved the whole deal and made that transformation what it was. He's just an amazing man. He also knows a lot about sports, although I don't think he's ever played golf.

The dumbest question a reporter ever asked me? "What do you do when you're not playing golf–what's your other job?"