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2 BRILLIANT OPENING ROUNDS GIVE ELS TOURNAMENT TITLE

SHARE 2 BRILLIANT OPENING ROUNDS GIVE ELS TOURNAMENT TITLE

Two brilliant opening rounds were enough for Ernie Els, who won the Johnnie Walker World Championship Sunday with a routine 2-under-par 69 that gave him a six-shot triumph.

Els started the season-ending tournament with a pair of 64s. He had a seven-shot lead going into the final round and never led by fewer than five strokes in winning $550,000 and yet another "world" title. Els finished with a 72-hole total of 16-under 268.In addition to the U.S. Open, the South African won the World Match Play in October and the Gene Sarazen World Open two weeks later at Atlanta.

Mark McCumber and Nick Faldo each shot 67 to finish at 274. Ian Woosnam and Paul Azinger were another shot back after final-round 68s, tied with Brad Faxon, who fired a 64 to finish at 275.

A 64 might have been enough to put a scare into Els, but it would have had to come from someone like Nick Price, who started the final round closest to Els.

Price, the world's No. 1 player who won two majors this year, made up only one shot over the first nine holes with a 4-foot birdie at No. 8. He dropped off the leaderboard with a double bogey at the par-3 13th. Price finished with a 72 for 278.

"It's not that easy," Els said. "I don't like those seven-shot leads."

For a tall man with a fluid, powerful swing and a sweet touch around the greens, Els made it look that way.

From the first two holes, it was clear he would not be caught. After driving under a coconut tree on the first hole, he hit his approach left and the ball began trickling down a rocky cart path. It took a favorable hop to the right, landing in short, level grass instead of deep bermuda rough. He got up and down for par.

On the next hole, he hit an approach from a sidehill lie in the rough into a bunker, then nearly holed out and saved par again.

That was his last trouble until reaching the back nine, which he had dominated throughout the tournament. His drive missed going out of bounds by 6 feet at the 10th, and a tree blocked his approach. Instead of laying up short of a ditch, Els played a risky shot left of the green and saved par again.

He made birdies at both par 5s on the back nine.

"You're not going to overcome a lead like that," said England's David Gilford, who finished at 276. "That's asking a lot. Sometimes, Ernie Els is the best player in the world."

Els' 268 was two strokes short of the 266 Larry Mize shot last year in another runaway victory.

Els moved up to No. 6 in the world rankings, after starting the year ranked 20th. He has won nearly $2.9 million this year, winning five tournaments and finishing in the top five 16 times in 35 tournaments.

"I don't know if next year can be better than this one," Els said.