Published: Jan 18, 2012 5:58 PM EST
Updated: Jan 19, 2012 7:31 AM EST

GEORGE, South Africa (AP) - Playing in the same group in the opening round of the Volvo Golf Champions on Thursday isn't the only thing Ernie Els and Padraig Harrington have in common. They're both also desperate to atone for disappointing seasons in 2011.

The pair will join the exclusive field of 35 champions with 392 victories among them, including 14 majors, at The Links course.

Els' struggles on the greens last year even affected his ability to have fun on the course.

"I've kind of lost my sense of humor, you know. When you don't putt well your sense of humor doesn't work very well," the South African said. "I'd like to get my sense of humor back. My work ethic and determination, especially this year, is better than ever because I had such a dismal season last year.

"I would like to really turn things around this year and see if I can win some tournaments again."

Els has three majors among 68 career titles, but at No. 71 he is outside the top 50 in the world rankings and therefore doesn't qualify automatically for the Masters in April.

"I know where I stand and I know what I need to do," he said. "I have a couple of months to rectify that. I don't want to be asking for an invite there."

Ranked 89th and also a three-time major winner, Harrington finds himself in a similar position.

"I certainly had a peak year in 2007 and another peak in 2008. It's impossible to always have peak years," the Irishman said of the span that brought his two British Open titles and a PGA Championship victory.

"It doesn't worry me in the greater scheme of things, because I know you can't win them every year. You have to sit there and be patient and wait for your turn - and like 2007 and 2008, they all come at once."

The field also includes reigning Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, current British Open champion Darren Clarke and 2012 European Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal.