PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Ernie Els had no complaints Sunday, not after witnessing Tiger Woods make so much history on his way to his first U.S. Open championship, an event Els won twice, in 1994 and '97.
Not even a horde of stampeding photographers dashing toward the 18th hole to get in position for Woods' final strokes and the trophy presentation could disturb his day, even if one of them stepped on his ball in the rough, causing him to ask for a ruling and a free lift to take his third shot into the green.
''I guess all the camera people wanted to get the perfect angle for Tiger,'' the man known on Tour as ''The Big Easy'' said with a shrug. ''I can understand it.''
Els made his par at the 18th, and when all was said and done, he had tied for second place with Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez at three-over 287, a record 15 strokes behind Woods. Els had a consolation check for $390,000, not to mention the best view on the premises of Woods' astounding triumph.
''It was awesome to watch, just a dominating performance,'' Els said. ''That's also an understatement. Whatever I say is going to be an understatement, so make up your own words, you're the journalists.
''He's near perfect, the way he played this week. Before he started out today, I think he had 17 birdies, and he made four birdies without a bogey today. If that's not perfect, I don't know what is.''
Els could take solace from his own play this weekend. After two rounds, he was tied with nine players for 36th place at five-over. Saturday, in difficult conditions of wind and hard greens, Els posted the best round of the day, a three-under 68 that vaulted him into sole possession of second place behind Woods, 10 shots off the pace.
Still, he admitted Sunday, ''I never felt like I had it this week. Saturday was a good round, but when I won my U.S. Opens, I felt like the way Tiger did today. Maybe I didn't shoot those numbers, but from Thursday morning on, I was in the tournament. This week, I just wasn't in the flow of things.''
Els was asked his theory on how Woods has avoided losing his grip on his game for most of the past two years.
''He didn't play the week before the Open, and it seems like he came out and he was focused and relaxed, and you kind of knew he was going to win,'' said Els. ''If I knew that formula, I'd probably do it myself. ...
''That hunger for winning a major championship, it's like 110 percent. To be honest with you, I don't feel like that every week when I'm playing. He's just different.''
Added Els: ''When you have a guy playing like that, you have no chance. I really enjoy playing with him. He's the best player in the world by far. I feel it pulls me along a little bit. If you want to watch a guy win the U.S. Open playing perfectly, you've just seen it this week.''
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