Forget new clubs under the tree or a sleeve of balls in a stocking. The best Christmas present in golf came to the mailbox of Ernie Els.
On Christmas Eve, the Big Easy tweeted that he had received a special gift courtesy of Augusta National: an exemption into the 2018 Masters:
Thank you for a Great Xmas present! @TheMasters Can't wait!
— Ernie Els (@TheBig_Easy) December 24, 2017
Last year’s tournament, Els’ 23rd at Augusta, was considered his last, as the five-year exemption from 2012’s Open Championship victory had expired. It was a fate the 48-year-old seemed to acknowledge as well, renting two houses in town for family and friends to celebrate his final stroll through the Georgia pines.
“If it doesn’t happen again, I’m fine,” Els said. “I’ve had a great time.”
Now Els – who made the weekend at last year’s Masters, US Open and Open Championship – will get at least two more rounds at Augusta National.
The South African has finished runner-up twice at the Masters, most notably in 2004 after Phil Mickelson rolled in a birdie on the final hole to win by one stroke. Els is the first player since Ryo Ishikawa (2013) to receive a special Masters exemption.