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Els isn't about to count him out.
"No, you can't," Els said. "A guy that's won 14 majors, he's got a lot of game. I think he's very close. I haven't played with him in about a year. I think his ball-striking was pretty good the last two days. His short game is pretty sharp. He just didn't make enough putts.
"I think it's only a matter of time before he starts getting in his stride."
He's running out of time at this U.S. Open.
Woods ended 23 consecutive holes without a birdie at Pebble Beach in the U.S. Open when he came up well short of the 11th green and pitched in for birdie from about 20 yards short of the green.
He followed that with a growl when his tee shot on the 12th plugged in the left corner of a bunker, and he did well to make bogey. Woods hit a flawless wedge on the frightening par-5 14th to 6 feet for birdie. Three holes later, he was buried in the rough behind a bunker on the 17th and couldn't get close enough to save par.
If there was an indication of where his game is, it came at the par-5 18th in the middle of his round. He laid back with a 3-wood, and had another 3-wood toward the green, with the ocean on the left. Woods left it far out to the right, and faced a difficult chip. He wound up missing a 7-foot birdie putt.
Still, his optimism was running as high as his score.
Asked if he liked his position, Woods replied, "Absolutely."
"I'm right there in the championship," he said. "I just need to make a few more birdies, a few more putts on the weekend, and I'll be right there."
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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