Seve Ballesteros believes the South African can do it.
Els won his seventh event of the year Sunday, taking a record-tying fifth World Match Play title on an unusually dry West Course at Wentworth.
In a final between two players who live at the luxurious club just west of London, Els defeated Denmark's Thomas Bjorn 4-and-3.
Els, who matched the five titles won by Gary Player and Ballesteros, picked up $1.67 million with solid play tee-to-green and spotty putting.
``I said a few months ago that Ernie has the ability and more talent than Tiger Woods,'' Ballesteros said as Els was awarded the trophy. ``And if he wants to be No. 1, he will be No. 1.''
``It's been a goal of mine,'' Els replied.
Ranked world No. 2, Els said Ballesteros has been giving him ``quiet advice on the side'' for several seasons.
``I listen to what he says a lot of times,'' Els said. ``I take in a lot of the stuff. He's said I've got to get tougher mentally. I think I'm on my way.''
Bjorn refused to take sides.
``He (Els) is definitely the only one who can threaten him (Woods),'' Bjorn said.
``It's a dangerous route for me to go down and offer an opinion. If I said that he (Els) could be better, I would have Tiger on my back. And if said he couldn't I'd have Ernie on my back.''
Els has been working with Belgian psychologist Jos Vanstiphout since finishing second to Woods a half-dozen times in 2000. Bjorn uses him, too.
``I had to find a cure,'' Els said.
``I feel a lot more comfortable with my game and I feel I can take it to a new level.''
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.