The South African, who will partner Sergio Garcia and Ross Fisher in the first two rounds of the BMW International Open, shared the lead with Graeme McDowell after a superb start to his final round at Pebble Beach, but slipped back to third.
"Obviously it's a long time since I won one of these things (the 2002 Open Championship was his last Major), but the memories are fresh in my mind," said Els on his website following the event.
"I knew what I had to do. I needed to play a good round of golf, make some birdies early on and then try to have a solid finish.
"The first part of that plan worked like a dream. The turning point was going into the back nine, where I'll be honest I hit a couple of loose shots.
"But there were also crucial moments where I hit good shots and just didn't get the breaks that I needed. You know, a couple of bounces here and there and it could have been a different story.
"I had some chances coming down the stretch, but I wasn't able to convert. I guess a handful of other players could say the same thing.
"That's Major Championship golf - it's always won or lost by the tiniest of margins."
He continued: "I'm disappointed because any time you have a chance to win a Major and don't it's obviously a huge letdown, but there were a lot of positives.
"I felt comfortable right there in the mix and if I look at where I am this year I'm happy.
"I'm feeling good again, feeling quite calm. I'm 40 years old and my game is right there.
"I've got three Majors already and I like to think I can add to that and win a couple more. Last week just reaffirms that I'm where I need to be.
"I just have to stay patient, keep working hard and more opportunities will come my way. I love this time of the year and right now I feel like I can win any time I tee it up."
Els revealed he was not surprised to see a European Tour one-two-three at Pebble Beach, with McDowell narrowly edging out Gregory Havret.
“I just think The European Tour is so strong at the moment,” he added. “The players are world class players now. They have won all around the world, and it's just the fact of the matter - The European Tour really is so strong.
“We have so many points that we play for on The European Tour, and guys who play well can really accumulate a lot of points, and I think that's why you get so many guys in the top ten, top 20, top 30.”
Els, whose last win in Europe was his record-breaking seventh World Match Play title at Wentworth three years ago, could achieve a unique double this year.
Following two wins in Florida in March, including one of the World Golf Championships series, he is the leading money-winner on the US PGA Tour and lies second to McDowell on The Race to Dubai.