Woods played on his home course at Isleworth about 10 minutes down the road from the Bay Hill Invitational. Els decided to practice at Lake Nona, where he has a house along the 15th fairway.
Vijay Singh, who seems to have a home on the range, was the only player among the ``Big Three'' who worked on his game at Bay Hill on the eve of what was shaping up as a supreme battle.
Then again, it seems be a heavyweight bout every week on the PGA Tour.
Singh birdied the final hole at the Sony Open to beat Els by one shot. Woods capped off a dramatic rally with two clutch putts to beat Phil Mickelson by one shot at Doral.
But what makes Bay Hill so compelling is that the top three players in the world ranking are in the same tournament for the first time since the Buick Invitational in January. Better yet, the No. 1 ranking is up for grabs. Woods returned to the top spot two weeks ago, but Els and Singh can take it away with a victory at Bay Hill.
``A lot of the top players are winning,'' Woods said. ``It would be nice if we played together more often, but it's usually just two or three of us in the same field. It's pretty exciting when we all get together.''
Getting them together in one tournament is tantalizing enough.
Packing even more of a punch is Woods, Els and U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen, ranked No. 5 in the world, playing in the same group the first two days.
``Hopefully, we can play some decent golf,'' Els said.
They aren't the only ones at Bay Hill, even though it seems that way. The 118-man field includes nine of the top 12 in the world ranking. The defending champion is Chad Campbell, who made up a four-shot deficit against Stuart Appleby.
One player not in the field is tournament host Arnold Palmer, who is not expected to play a PGA Tour event for the first time since 1953.
Palmer can appreciate a good rivalry. He was part of the ``Big Three'' that first was marketed by IMG in the 1960s when Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player took turns winning the majors.
``I don't think there's any question that we have some marquee players that are doing a lot in the game,'' Palmer said. ``That's the kind of thing you want to see more and more of to get attention. We're getting it.''
Woods won Bay Hill four straight years until he finished last year with three straight rounds over par and wound up in a tie for 46th, the start of a slump as he changed his swing. The new version is coming together, the best evidence being his two victories in five starts this year.
Two weeks ago in Miami, Woods closed with a 63-66 on the weekend to beat Mickelson.
``I was struggling last year to find my game,'' Woods said. ``This year, I just have to do a couple of touchups, just like you do every day.''
Els is comfortable with his game, too, especially after the last two weeks.
He was poised to at least force a playoff in the season-opening Mercedes Championships until hitting his tee shot out of bounds on the par-5 18th at Kapalua. He had a chance at the Sony Open despite shaky putting. He had good chances at Torrey Pines and Royal Melbourne.
But during his global sojourn, Els made an 18-foot eagle on the last hole to win in Dubai, then rallied from five shots down in the Qatar Masters to win his second straight even on the European tour.
They didn't have the strongest fields in the Middle East, but winning does wonders anywhere in the world.
``It was really important to get back in the winner's circle, especially after the first four weeks; I felt I had a chances in all four weeks to win and I didn't finish it off,'' Els said. ``So to come from the outside and win those two was quite important.''
Els had taken three weeks off to enjoy the life on the beach at his home along the Indian Ocean in South Africa, although he does have a satellite dish and paid attention to the statements being made by the top players -- Woods winning twice, Mickelson winning twice.
``It was good for me to see that the guys are playing well, and probably motivated me a little bit to come back, to play and get into the mix of things,'' Els said. ``The guys are really tearing it up. Those top players that we talk about week in and week out, they are definitely doing the business now.
``It should be one of the more exciting years in golf.''
It might get started this week at the Bay Hill, where there could be a new No. 1 on Sunday. And then they all get together, Mickelson included, at The Players Championship, then the Masters.
Bay Hill might simply be Round One.