Close, but not close enough

Despite having 19 ways of qualifying for The Masters, Ernie Els fell short of the task and for the first time in 19 years will not grace Augusta’s fairways – and so we give insight into just how close he came.

“It is an invitational event,” he said, “and they have their reasons to invite somebody or not, and that’s the sad part. I’ll probably miss it for the first time in 18 or 19 years. My streak will come to an end, unfortunately. I can’t blame the Masters people for not inviting me. I’ve put myself in this position by not playing very well.

Yet Els took a real crack at making it to the season’s first major – this year alone he has made seven out of seven cuts and has five top 25 finishes, two of them top 10s.

Below is a table listing the possible ways The Big Easy could gain entry to Augusta:

2012 Masters Qualifications:

  1. Masters Tournament Champions (Lifetime). – Ernie has two second-place finishes
  2. U.S. Open Champions (Honorary, non-competing five years).
  3. British Open Champions (Honorary, non-competing after five years).
  4. PGA Champions (Honorary, non-competing after five years).
  5. Winners of the Players Championship (three years).
  6. The first 16 players, including ties, in the previous year’s Masters Tournament.
  7. The first eight players, including ties, in the previous year’s U.S. Open Championship.
  8. The first four players, including ties, in the previous year’s British Open Championship.
  9. The first four players, including ties, in the previous year’s PGA Championship.
  10. The 30 leaders on the Final Official PGA Tour Money List for the previous calendar year.
  11. Winners of PGA Tour events that award a full-point allocation for the season-ending Tour Championship, from previous Masters to current Masters.
  12. Those qualifying for the previous year’s season-ending Tour Championship.
  13. The 50 leaders on the Final Official World Golf Ranking for the previous calendar year.
  14. The 50 leaders on the Official World Golf Ranking published during the week prior to the current Masters Tournament.

Els, a three-time major champion, had a torrid time with his putter last season and struggled through all four majors. In fact, The Masters was the only one of the four in which he made the cut, finishing tied 47th, so no hope there for entry.

But then came the FedExCup’s Tour Championship – which Els narrowly missed out on after a dream run through the first three of the four events making up the PGA Tour’s season finale.

And what about the World Ranking – The top 50 at the end of last year and the top 50 a weekend before The Masters gain entry, yet Els held 56th at the close of 2011 and on Sunday sat in 58th, just shy of that lucky ticket.
Some may argue, however, that the closest he came was at the Transitions Championship three weeks ago, which he had all but won until bogeys at 17 and 18 saw him fall by the wayside.

There seem to be endless ways in which The Big Easy narrowly missed his chance. The table below shows the full list of how close he came.

2011 MC MC T47 MC MC
2010 MC 3 T18 T18 MC
2009 T8 MC MC T6 T45
2008 T7 T14 MC T31 N/A
2007 T4 T51 MC 3 N/A

Shell Houston Open T12    
Arnold Palmer Invitational T4    
Transitions Championship T5 Dropped shots at 17&18 on Sunday
Honda Classic T21    
Northern Trust Open T59 Final-round 78  
Farmers’ Insurance Open T52 Open T4    
BMW Championship T42 Missed Tour Champs with his knockout
Deutsche Bank Championship T16    
The Barclays T32    
Wyndham Championship T30    
RBC Canadian Open T17 74s on day two and three diluted final-round 66
The Memorial Tournament 61    
The Heritage MC    
IN 2012:  Els has made 7/7 cuts with five top 25s, two of them top 10s. He is currently 34th in the FedExCup standings

But a player of such renown does not wish to be gifted an invite, and the words to close his 19-year streak of Masters appearances went as follows: “To go through all of this and then get an invite, I wouldn’t take it. They can keep it. It’s not going to change my life either way. I’ve played many out there – it’s one of those things.”

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