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Ernie Els no longer distracted by Tiger

Ernie Els could replace Tiger Woods as world number one by winning this week's U.S. PGA Championship, but the big South African is determined not to be sidetracked at Whistling Straits.

"My real goal this week is to play as well as I can," three-times major winner Els told a news conference on Tuesday.

"If I can do that, take care of this week, then we'll see what happens after that.

"I was world number one in '97 for a week, I think, and in '98 for a little bit longer.

"So I've been there and it's a great feeling. But what's been happening the last four or five years, it would be really great to be up there again."

If world number two Els seals victory at Whistling Straits on Sunday, he would take over at the top of the global pecking order as long as Woods finishes no better than in a four-way tie for second.

Woods, who has equalled Greg Norman's record total of 331 weeks as world number one, would also lose top spot if he finished lower than joint 16th and Els placed second.

However, these scenarios are mere distractions for Els, who is far more concerned about maintaining his impressive challenge at this year's majors.

The smooth-swinging South African finished second behind Phil Mickelson at the U.S. Masters, tied for ninth at the U.S. Open and was edged out by American Todd Hamilton in a playoff for last month's British Open at Royal Troon.

"I felt really good in that playoff, really calm," said Els, who had birdied two of the last three holes in regulation play. "I just didn't hit a good shot on 17, the third playoff hole. I was trying to get too cute there.

"I feel very disappointed. You give so much and you don't really get a lot given back to you. But that's the game and I've got to live with that.

"I've just got to try and play better, make more putts and maybe I'll win another one," added the twice U.S. Open champion, who is popularly known as the 'Big Easy'.

"It hasn't taken away from my confidence, though. If you put yourself in that position (to win) so many times, you're doing something right. You've just got to finish it off a little bit better.

"This year, I've felt I've played really well. I've given myself my chances and I've played consistently."

Els took two weeks off after the British Open with his family in his native South Africa, having a good time and blowing "a little bit of steam off".

He returned to action last week in the PGA Tour's International at Castle Rock and is now ready for Whistling Straits.

"I feel good for this week," he said. "I think I've got most of the rust out of my game. I feel ready.

"I think this is a great opportunity. Nobody's really played this course in championship golf before, so everybody starts out fresh here. And everybody is going to have a different game plan."

Els, whose best U.S. PGA Championship finish was a tie for third at Riviera in 1995, is scheduled to tee off at 0750 local (1250 GMT) in Thursday's opening round in the company of American Jim Furyk and Padraig Harrington of Ireland.

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