Winless on the PGA Tour this season, three-times major champion Ernie Els was once again left to rue erratic putting after he tied for fourth at the Open Sunday.

The smooth-swinging South African, who used a belly putter at CordeValle Golf Club this week after mainly struggling on the greens in recent years, briefly held a share of the lead early in Sunday's final round before slipping back.

I'm a little disappointed because I feel I played good enough to maybe be in the playoff, Els told reporters after totaling 29 putts and posting a 14-under total of 270, three shy of going into extra holes for the title.

I thought I hit some good putts. Nine was quite a crucial one, he said of his six-foot attempt for birdie which horseshoed out of the cup. I lipped out and then I missed another short one on 10.

I made a lot of good putts throughout the week, but I just feel if I want to get to that next level I want to get to, I gotta start making those putts when I need them. I did that when I won, so I know what to do.

An 18-times winner on the PGA Tour, Els has not triumphed on the U.S. circuit since the 2010 Arnold Palmer Invitational and he had struggled this season with a best finish of joint 15th in his previous 20 starts.

I have changed a lot of things and I feel that the work I've put in is starting to come through, said Els, who has reunited with his long-time caddie Ricci Roberts and also changed management companies.

I'm starting to feel comfortable on the things I've been working on. This week, I think we've made some progress, even though we've came up short. The wheels are starting to turn now.

Els, who decided to compete in this week's second-tier Fall Series event in a bid to regain to form and also to help out one of his corporate sponsors, only gave up on his title bid after the penultimate hole.

Even on 17, I thought I still had a chance, but then Briny (Baird) chipped it in for eagle, and that was that, the 41-year-old South African, popularly known as the 'Big Easy', said after closing with a three-under 68.

I thought maybe if I could sneak an eagle there and then birdie the 18th, I could get into a playoff. You kind of never give up until the end, but when he made eagle, it was done.

Baird ended up losing the playoff to fellow American Bryce Molder on the sixth extra hole.