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Ernie Els caps a great year

A maiden World Golf Championship victory at the WGC-American Express Championship on Sunday proved to Ernie Els that he is firmly on track after a disappointing year.

The big-hitting South African has dedicated himself to refining his career goals after contending at all four majors this season but coming away with none of them.

"It's been a good summer but a tough summer and this really caps it off for me," said Els, who beat playing partner Thomas Bjorn by a stroke with a final-round 69 at Mount Juliet.

"I had a lot of pressure on me, and I think I showed that I didn't want to lose today. I had to win it or lose it, while Thomas was not supposed to win, he is making a comeback."

Denmark's Bjorn, who closed with a 68, produced his best golf of the year after several months of painful struggle and dismal form.

Rejuvenated after a two-week break, Els arrived in Ireland determined not to look back at his major frustrations in 2004.

He ran Phil Mickelson close at the U.S. Masters in April before finishing second and was edged out by American Todd Hamilton in a playoff for the British Open in July.

At Whistling Straits in August, he three-putted from around 80 feet at the final hole to cost himself the chance of joining a playoff for the title, a closing 73 tying him for fourth.

"I really wanted to draw a line and make the switch," added Els. "I needed to make the switch, and I did that over the last two weeks.

"I've had the support from close family people and (wife) Liesl, she's been great. I want to go forward in my career, I want to win tournaments and I want to get my goals. You can't keep looking back."

With his fourth victory of the year and the 51st of his career, Els replaced Tiger Woods as world number two.

"It's nice but I'm still number two," he said. "I've been chasing Tiger for the last five or six years and now it seems like I've got to chase Vijay (Singh).

"I think the game is on, well and truly. Vijay has won eight times, I've won four times. I'm really in a much better frame of mind right now.

Fijian Singh ended Woods's five-year reign as the game's top-ranked player just under a month ago.

While Els is determined to have a tilt at Singh's place at the summit, he is wary of being distracted from the more immediate goals of trying to win tournaments.

"I have definitely tried to downplay it, because another aspect of my summer was that the number one spot was up there," he said. "I think if I won the British Open, I would have got in there.

"I was also very close at the PGA (Championship). But my main concern was to try and win a tournament, to try and get my mindset away from number one, things that can harm you more than help your concentration.

"I still say the more you win, the easier it will come."

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