Els enters critical stretch in Masters run


Ernie Els is well aware that he is yet to qualify for the Masters. He has several avenues to get into the year’s first major – winning a PGA Tour event being the simplest – but the Big Easy can aim to get inside the top 50 in the world ranking to earn a 19th consecutive trip to Augusta National.

“I've never really been in that position where I had to try and qualify for [the Masters] because I've been fortunate enough to basically glide through and get in there. So I've got to do some work, and I think it's good for me. It will keep me focused –  believe me; get me trying.  And I think that's a good thing,” Els said Tuesday at the Northern Trust Open.

This week begins a critical stretch of up to five events that could propel Els to the Masters. Short of a win to lock up his spot, Els will need to start collecting world ranking points to improve at least 15 spots from his current position of 65th.

Projecting ahead to the Masters, Els needs approximately 47 points in the next six weeks to do just that. Shy of a win this week, Els can net about 37 points for finishing second at the Northern Trust Open.

No matter what, Els will earn points at the WGC-Accenture Match Play next week. On the outside looking into the field, Els has gained entry because Phil Mickelson has already announced he will not be playing.

“I'll buy Phil a steak dinner this week at some point, maybe send him a good bottle of Bordeaux or something,” Els said.

At a minimum, Els will get two points for just showing up at Dove Mountain. The points essentially double for each match Els wins. If he can get to the finals, he will be right at the magic number. Last year, Martin Kaymer took 45.6 ranking points for falling to Luke Donald.

Even if Els falls flat the next two weeks, he has a chance of scoring at the highly-rated Honda Classic and possibly the WGC-Cadillac Championship, if he qualifies.