Els gets Masters invite, but not to play

While Ernie Els will be at Augusta National on the first week of April, he only hopes to be playing in the Masters.

The 48-year-old South African received a special invitation to attend the first major of the year from the Green Jackets at Augusta and posted this Twitter message on Christmas Eve: “Thank you for a Great Xmas present! @TheMasters Can’t wait!”

Several news outlets read the message and reported that the man they call “The Big Easy,” had received a special exemption to play in the Masters.

Els’ management team confirmed to Golfweek that he had been granted an invitation to play.

Els had to post another Tweet clarifying that what he received was only an invitation often granted to former major champions to be on hand that week for the dinners and other festivities throughout tournament week.

“Wanted to clarify my excitement getting an invite from @TheMasters. Work continues to qualify to compete!” Els, a four-time major champion, wrote two days later.

Els’ five-year Masters exemption for winning the 2012 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale ended this year. His best Masters results among five top-10 finishes were ties for second in 2000 (behind Vijay Singh) and 2004 (behind Phil Mickelson).

So Els still must play well enough early this year to qualify for the Masters, unless Augusta officials decide to actually give him that exemption.

The Masters has not granted a Special Exemption since 2013, when rising star Ryo Ishikawa of Japan received one.

Based on that, perhaps Masters officials should reconsider, considering Els’ contributions to the game—which include 71 victories around the world.

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