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Els returns to form and aims for No. 1

"It's a three-year deal. I knew it's not going to happen overnight," he said. "... Some things just take a little bit more time, and I just want to still believe that I can become No. 1 and I can play the way I want to play."

Days like Sunday will certainly help.

Els said Saturday that as a fan he'd be "putting my house" on Woods, who is now 13-0 when he takes at least a share of the lead into the final round of a major. As a competitor, though, Els said he wasn't about to give up.

He opened with three birdies in his first eight holes, two coming on 20-footers. He looked like he was going to make it four on the front nine when he got within 6 feet. That's a gimme in most instances.

Not this time.

He got the stroke back with a birdie on 10, and had a chance to pull within two of Woods with another 6-footer on No. 11. But after hitting that putt on No. 9 too soft, he hit this one too hard.

He wound up with par, but missed opportunities have a way of costing players when Woods is involved.

"Guess it's a bit of a reaction still," Els said. "I really went at the flag and hit such a good shot, and then to have such a tough putt, it's one of those things."

Worse was the bogey on 16. Woods had bogeyed No. 9, and birdies on 13 and 14 had gotten Els within two. But he was left off the 16th tee - into-the-gallery left - and his only option was to hack back onto the fairway.

He had about 100 yards to the green, but he wound up on the back edge. His 40-foot putt for par ran about 2 feet past, and Els' day was pretty much done.

"Those three shots probably cost me," he said. "But, you know, still played a pretty good round."

And there will be more in the future, Els promised.

"I do believe that I'm working on the right stuff and I've made strides," he said. "I need to start winning some tournaments, and that will create more confidence. And winning becomes almost a habit. Look at Tiger.

"I had a couple of years where I won a lot of tournaments, and you start feeling a lot more comfortable on Sundays and Saturdays and weekends," he said. "So that's what I'm working on."

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