He couldn’t get an invitation to the Masters last year, so he went out and won the Open Championship and in doing so, Ernie Els ensured he’d have a shot at another major title for the next five years.
“Maybe last year was a good thing, because going in there, my game was coming around, I was playing good golf, but when I didn’t get in, I was actually glad I didn’t – especially late,” Els said in an interview published on the Masters website. “Hopefully I’ll go there with some game and have a good event. It’s always exciting to go there.”
Time might appear to be running out for the 43-year-old Els, who has two Open Championships and two US Opens to his credit, but there are some players who believe he still has a legitimate shot at the green jacket.
“If you had to take us back 15 years and ask him which major he thought he had the best chance at, he probably would say Augusta National,” 2008 Masters champion Trevor Immelman said. “I anticipate him in the last half of his career having a good shot to win there, I really do.
“Frankly, he was just beaten by an incredible shot or incredible putt right at the end. I would look for him to run really close and maybe snag one here toward the end of his career.
“The clock’s ticking for everybody,” Immelman added. “If he arrives at Augusta and is feeling good about everything, he definitely has the type of game that would be hard to beat around there.”
Els started his Masters career in 1994 with a share of eighth as Jose Maria Olazabal won his first green jacket. He reeled off a succession of five top-10 finishes from 2000 to 2004, with second-place finishes to Vijay Singh in 2000 and to Phil Mickelson in 2004.
That 2004 Masters was his best shot up until now for the title: Mickelson made a pressure putt on 18 to deny Els who was already on the practice putting green preparing for a play-off.
And while there was a degree of anger that he was unable to play at Augusta in 2012, Els has matured enough to let the hurt go and to get himself into a position that would get him driving down Magnolia Lane again.
“You get older,” Els said, “and start looking at the game – what it’s given you, and some opportunities you haven’t taken advantage of. But it’s still such a special thing, win or lose, to go back to places like that.
“We are not quite done yet. We will see where it goes.”