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Ernie Els looking for immediate improvement

World number five Ernie Els is not expecting to hit peak form at this week's Dunhill Championship, his second tournament since returning from knee surgery.

The South African played in the Nedbank Challenge at Sun City last week, finishing in ninth position on two-over-par on his return after 20 weeks of rehabilitation.

"I made a lot of very soft errors last week and I am not quite comfortable with the short game. But the long game feels good and I'm hoping for a much better week," Els told reporters on Wednesday after a practice round at the Leopard Creek Country Club near Malelane, which borders the Kruger National Park.

"The knee is still not a hundred percent and it will take a while.

"I did a lot of walking last week so I had to put a lot of ice on it. You can do as much gym training and physiotherapy as you like, but you still have to go out there and walk the course."

Els is one of eight golfers in the world's top 200 playing in the Dunhill, with fellow South African Trevor Immelman the next highest at 64.

Defending champion Charl Schwartzel, who won with a seven-under-par total of 281 last year, said success would be all about course management.

"It's not a very long course and there's hardly any rough, so I think the scores will be a lot lower. But it's a thinking man's course, you can't just get on the tee and hit it," he said.

Schwartzel has had his most successful season yet in 2005, finishing 52nd on the European Order of Merit, and is looking to once again use the Dunhill Championship, and next week's SAA Open at Fancourt, as a springboard to further success.

"My ultimate goal is to make the top 50 in the world rankings, so two good finishes in South Africa can set that up.

"I feel I'm close to the top of my game and I don't feel under pressure because I'm the defending champion. You've still just got to get the ball into the hole," the world number 160 said.

December 7, 2005

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