Already in this short 2004 campaign, Els has played on Maui and Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands, traveled to Thailand for a title defense at the Johnnie Walker Classic and now heads south for yet another chance of defending his crown.
This time, though, he will be looking to accomplish a feat he has only done once in his career - win an event three straight years. He won the World Match Play Championship at Wentworth Club in England from 1994 through 1996 and now has a chance to attain another three-peat at the Heineken Classic after victories in 2002 and 2003.
So far in his amazing string of title defenses, the travel seems not to have slowed the world's No. 3-ranked player. He finished in a tie for 21st at the Mercedes Championship, had a repeat victory at the Sony Open and a top 10 last week at the Johnnie Walker Classic.
Last year Els defeated Nick Faldo and Peter Lonard by a stroke for one of his seven titles of the year. Faldo will undoubtably return to Melbourne with some heightened confidence after his runner-up finish in 2003. His last victory on the European Tour was back in the 1994 Alfred Dunhill Open.
Lonard will not be in the field this week after suffering a broken rib while training in Florida in the early part of January. His return to golf is scheduled for sometime in late February.
Michael Campbell, who won back-to-back titles in this event before Els went on his streak, is also set to tee it up as are young guns Trevor Immelman, Paul Casey and Australian Adam Scott.
This is the third year the event is being played at Royal Melbourne after six years at The Vines Resort in Perth.
The purse is $1,524,000 with a first-place check of $289,000.