One of the modern greats of the game, Ernie Els, has probably played his last Masters.
The 47-year-old, who was a runner-up at Augusta in 2000 and 2004, was playing his 23rd Masters this week but was far from his best and it showed on the leaderboard over the weekend.
Of the players that made the halfway cut, Els had weekend rounds of 83-78 to finish 20 over and in last place. It was, however, the first cut he had made in his past eight Tour starts.
Els' five-year exemption into the Masters field, after winning the 2012 Open Championship, expired when he putted out on the 18th green on Sunday afternoon.
"...having a chance to win it a couple of times was special and this tournament is just not for me. I've won a lot of events around the world, but this one just eluded me and that's fine." – Ernie Els
The amiable South African will now need to find some form and win on the PGA Tour again, or crack a spot in top-50 of the world ranking by year’s end, if he wants an invite back to the Masters.
As the first player out in the final round, he played alongside Augusta National member Jeff Knox, who was his marker. Els said he enjoyed playing with Knox and the reception he received from the gallery, but admitted his golf was “atrocious”.
“I, obviously, didn't play good again, but it's nice to go around again. And I don't really feel that emotional, I think, just because of my play,” he said. “But I had a good day.
“The negative is just that my play was atrocious and that's the hard part to take. But if I look back at the 23, 24 years here, it was, you know, how many professional golfers get the opportunity to play the Masters 23 times?
“And having a chance to win it a couple of times was special and this tournament is just not for me. I've won a lot of events around the world, but this one just eluded me and that's fine.”
When Els won the US Open in 1994, with his free-flowing easy swing and nerveless putting stroke, he was immediately singled out as a player who could win multiple Masters titles because his game was so well-suited to Augusta. He came agonisingly close but, like Greg Norman, before him he never got to slip the coveted green jacket over his shoulders. There are, however, some good memories from all his years at Augusta.
“I got to go back maybe a decade or more,” he smiled. “No, I think the very first time was very, very special in 1994. I had a couple of really great groupings, I played with Ben Crenshaw that year, I played with Jose Maria in the third round that year, he went on to win. So, that was a great time.
“And then, obviously, the times I came close. I think 2004 was really special Sunday for myself. And just being here, it's just a special feeling. The guys in the locker room are still the same guys and the members I've met here through the years are the same people and they run an amazing event. So it's just been a special, special time.
“As I say, to have been a part of it for 23, 24 years is special. It's a place where you dream to get to once or twice and to do it for so long was great.”