They're enjoying successful seasons, having combined for nine PGA and European Tour victories. They stand first and second, respectively, in the world golf rankings. And they're both faced with the same question -- why neither has won a major championship this year.
'It's been more of annoyance than anything, because I have to keep answering it,' Woods said, when the subject was, predictably, raised Tuesday. 'I've tried. It's not like I'm not trying out there.'
Perhaps, it's raised expectations, said Els, who's won five events, including three on the European Tour, and got off to a strong start by winning four of them by Feb. 16.
'You know, to win twice in a year on this Tour is pretty nice,' Els said of his victories at the Mercedes Championships and Sony Open in January. 'So I haven't played to the same standard that I set at the start of the year and, you know, we are where we are.'
They are at Oak Hill, where a long, tight and potentially meaty course -- along with 94 of the world's other top 100-ranked players -- stand in their way of winning the season's final major.
In a year that's featured three first-time major winners, and the reemergence of a hard-charging Davis Love III, plenty of eyes are on the formidable duo, which has combined for 11 major victories (Woods has eight), and is measured by how well they play at big events.
Woods' season serves as an example of how his performance is gauged differently than that of others.
He leads the Tour with four victories, and is coming off a tie for fourth at the British Open and a second-place finish at the Buick Open. And yet he's being asked whether the gap has closed between him and the rest of the field.
'I don't know,' Woods answered. 'I've never really looked at it that way, even then and even now. Only thing I can worry about is my own game, and not anyone else's game.'
Woods, who last month switched back to his old Titleist driver for comfort, will acknowledge that he has not enjoyed the same momentous stretches as before.
'If I look at the past majors this year, I really haven't got any positive momentum going for a sustained period of time,' Woods said. 'It's been maybe one round here or six holes here, nine holes there where I really get hot. I just need to get going.'
Evidence of that came at Royal St. George's, when Woods lost his ball and finished with a triple bogey on the first hole of the British Open.
Els' season has been just as successful, yet somewhat disappointing.
He's the European Tour money leader, despite only playing in 10 events. And of his 12 PGA Tour entries this season, Els has six top-10 finishes, and has placed 18th or better in eight straight events since finishing in a tie for 38th at the Bay Hill Invitational in March.
'I feel I've been quite consistent through the year, maybe not the fireworks I'd like to have at the moment,' Els said. 'But I feel I'm pretty close to that again.'
Curiously, Els fields more questions about Woods than most anyone else on the Tour.
'You're right,' Els said, laughing, before being asked whether Woods is anxious for a victory.
'When you set the standard like he did for himself, and then this not winning a major for maybe a year or two, he might feel a little bit disappointed,' Els said. 'He might as well join the queue. We would all like to go in there and win major championships, but it's not always going to work out for you.'
Woods appeared to approach a state of exasperation when asked if he's been satisfied with his season.
'It's hard to say it's been a bad year when I've won four times,' Woods said. 'Everyone's been on me for how bad I've played this year. Cripes, I've won four times.'
But not a major. He's had five chances since he claimed the U.S. Open at Bethpage.
'The mind-set has not changed,' Woods said. 'Whether it was in '99 trying to win one, or whether it was in 2000 trying to complete the grand slam, it's not something that you look at.
'You have to be focused on what you need to do to prepare and give yourself the best chance.'
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.