AUGUSTA, Georgia – If this is to be the last twirl at the Masters for the veteran Ernie Els, then thankfully it will all end for him on Sunday rather than with a missed halfway cut.
Twelve months on from that yip-filled six-putt on the opening hole that suggested his career was about to be brutally cut short, the mighty South African showed his reserves of character with rounds of 72 and 75 to make it comfortably to the weekend.
Now 47, Els has handled the prospect of making his farewell here at Augusta with typical grace.
“This is my 23rd Masters and if you don’t win it after that many attempts, then maybe it is time to try something else,” he said, smiling.
How Els never won at least one Green Jacket is one of those Masters mysteries to place alongside a similar gap in Greg Norman’s wardrobe.
He had everything, from length off the tee to the requisite gossamer touch around the greens, and can perhaps count himself unlucky that his prime years coincided with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson’s domination of the leading prize.
In 2004, Els was three shots off the lead going into the final round, and delivered a wonderful 67, featuring two eagle threes.
Nine times out of 10 it would have been good enough to win, but that was the year Mickelson decided he’d had enough of near misses and holed a 20-foot putt on the final green to win by one.
“I have no regrets,” said Els, who can earn himself another trip down Magnolia Lane with a top-12 finish tomorrow. “I’ve got so many great memories here and the people at Augusta have only treated me and my family with kindness.”
You can be sure it will continue tomorrow, and an emotional walk up that steep 18th hole.