Tiger Woods has warned Ernie Els he will not give up his world number one position lightly as the South African continues his pursuit of the top spot at the Dubai Desert Classic this week.
Els last year outlined a three-year plan to surpass Woods in the world rankings by 2010 and gave a promising display in the final round of the Commercialbank Qatar Masters last week, finishing third.
It was all the more impressive considering it was ‘the Big Easy’s first tournament since winning the South African Open in December.
As well as the incentive of ranking points, Els will be looking to gain revenge on Woods after he lost out in a play-off to the 12-time major winner at the Emirates Golf Club last year.
But Woods kept his message for the world number four simple: “Keep improving because I am going to do the same.
“I feel good. I certainly feel good about where I am heading with the understanding I have of my game and the swing.
“I just feel very excited about the future of improving and getting better.
“It is great to be back here in Dubai. This has always been a fantastic event and the course is in perfect shape. There are going to be some pretty low scores out there considering how good the greens are.
“I am really looking forward to getting out there and competing.”
Woods arrives in Dubai in fine form after securing his seventh successive PGA Tour victory at the Buick Invitational on Sunday.
He recovered from a two-stroke deficit to win the San Diego event and has now not finished worse than second since the Western Open in July last year.
Only one other golfer has enjoyed a better run with Byron Nelson having won 11 consecutive tournaments in 1945.
Woods believes key to his amazing form is that he does not concern himself with anyone else until the final day of a tournament.
“I worry about myself first,” he added.
“I see where I stack up going into Sunday and then you start looking around at what is going on.
“But there are 72 holes and I have a lot of things to take care of before I start thinking about anybody else.”
Meanwhile, Els is relishing getting back out on the course he has enjoyed much success on over the years.
The 37-year-old has won the Desert Classic three times – in 1994, 2002 and 2005 - and he is keen to make up for last year’s disappointment with an unprecedented fourth victory.
“I just enjoy it,” he said.
“Some places and some golf courses just seem right. I have always felt comfortable here. It is at a time in the season where I feel like I want to play.
“I am fresh and feel like I want to have a good start to the year and maybe that is something to do with my performance so far.
“Hopefully my game is good enough where I can challenge guys like Tiger and the rest of the field by Sunday afternoon.
“Obviously last year I came very, very close to winning here. Going for second shot on the play-off maybe wasn’t the best decision but if it had come off it would have been fine.
“Tiger is coming with a lot of form and the way he has played over the last couple of years, every week he is the man to try and beat.
“But saying that we have got other players in the field. I think it is going to take a pretty good score. I think the weather is going to be good and the golf course is in great shape, so I think we will have to shoot good numbers to try and win the tournament.”