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Els Harrington looking to atone for poor 2011

GEORGE, South Africa (AP)—Playing in the same group in the opening roundof the Volvo Golf Champions on Thursday isn’t the only thing Ernie Els andPadraig Harrington have in common. They’re both also desperate to atone fordisappointing seasons in 2011.

The pair will join the exclusive field of 35 champions with 392 victoriesamong them, including 14 majors, at The Links course.

Els’ struggles on the greens last year even affected his ability to have funon the course.

“I’ve kind of lost my sense of humor, you know. When you don’t putt wellyour sense of humor doesn’t work very well,” the South African said. “I’d liketo get my sense of humor back. My work ethic and determination, especially thisyear, is better than ever because I had such a dismal season last year.

“I would like to really turn things around this year and see if I can winsome tournaments again.”

Els has three majors among 68 career titles, but at No. 71 he is outside thetop 50 in the world rankings and therefore doesn’t qualify automatically for theMasters in April.

“I know where I stand and I know what I need to do,” he said. “I have acouple of months to rectify that. I don’t want to be asking for an invitethere.”

Ranked 89th and also a three-time major winner, Harrington finds himself ina similar position.

“I certainly had a peak year in 2007 and another peak in 2008. It’simpossible to always have peak years,” the Irishman said of the span thatbrought his two British Open titles and a PGA Championship victory.

“It doesn’t worry me in the greater scheme of things, because I know youcan’t win them every year. You have to sit there and be patient and wait foryour turn—and like 2007 and 2008, they all come at once.”

The field also includes reigning Masters champion Charl Schwartzel , currentBritish Open champion Darren Clarke and 2012 European Ryder Cup captain JoseMaria Olazabal .