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Ernie Els sets sights on improving putting

Ernie Els has set his sights on an improved putting display at this week's WGC-NEC Invitational in Akron, Ohio after the disappointment of tying for fourth at the U.S. PGA Championship on Sunday.

Despite completing his fourth top-10 finish at this year's majors, South African Els three-putted from around 80 feet at the last to cost himself the chance of joining Vijay Singh, Justin Leonard and Chris DiMarco in a playoff for the title.

"I got myself into the mix again here at the weekend, but I just wasn't able to finish the job off," the world number three said on his official website. "It's very, very disappointing.

"I'll have to shrug off the disappointment of the PGA in a hurry and set my sights on the things that matter, like working on my putting and getting a bit more consistency on the greens.

"This is the part of my game that's letting me down at the moment -- not every day, but often enough to do some harm to my chances of winning.

"Last week was a tough week, mentally more than anything, but there's no time to recuperate.

"The NEC Invitational is one of the WGC events which count on both sides of the Atlantic and Firestone is one of those golf course that I enjoy playing a lot."

Els has been one of the form players at the 2004 majors.

He ran Phil Mickelson close at the U.S. Masters before finishing second and was in contention for the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills before ballooning to an 80 in brutal last-day conditions, ending up in a share of ninth.

In last month'sOpen at Royal Troon, he missed a birdie putt from eight feet on the 72nd hole before being edged out by American Todd Hamilton in a playoff.

"I've had to learn some tough lessons in major championships this year," added Els. "If you don't hole putts, you can't expect to win.

"All you can do is try to take the positives out of it and learn from your mistakes, then come back better and stronger next year."

Els paid tribute to Fiji's Singh, who held his nerve to win the U.S. PGA Championship in a three-way playoff on Sunday for the third major title of his career.

Singh carded a closing four-over-par 76 in tough final-round conditions at Whistling Straits before setting up his victory with a 10-foot birdie putt at the first extra hole.

"I want to congratulate Vijay on his second U.S. PGA Championship victory," said three-times major winner Els.

"It was one of those days where the golf wasn't always pretty, but he hung in there and, when he needed to, he played some great shots and made the crucial putts. That's what it takes to win majors.

"Vijay and I are level now, three career majors each. We'll have to get together and have a wager on who wins another one next!"

The WGC-NEC Invitational, the third WGC (World Golf Championships) event of the year, starts at Firestone Country Club on Thursday.

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