Mixed emotions: Els upset, encouraged after loss

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SAN FRANCISCO – After failing to qualify for the Masters earlier this year, Ernie Els got himself into major championship contention again this week at the U.S. Open. It didn’t end with victory, however, as the two-time U.S. Open winner faltered down the stretch.

“Well, I’m disappointed right now,” Els said after signing for a final-round 72, which gave him a ninth-place finish. “I felt I had a lot of chances, did what I needed to do. I wanted to try and get in the playoff, but again I didn't hit the shots coming in, basically.”

Els made bogey on the third hole, but rebounded with eagle on the par-4 seventh to jump into a share of the lead. But he gave that back with consecutive bogeys on Nos. 8 and 9. The roller coaster continued with a birdie on No. 12 but Els bogeyed 16 and 18.

Unfortunately for Els, the top-eight finishers qualify for the 2013 Masters. His final-hole bogey cost him a return trip to Augusta National.

But that doesn’t matter now; Els will have many more opportunities to qualify for the Masters next April. At the moment, he’s pleased to be in the hunt again.

“I thought I was a lot calmer,” Els said. “I felt in control so that’s a good sign. We got two majors left and I’m going to take a nice break now and try and regroup and come back.

“I feel that where I was last year and where I am now, it’s a huge change. I got the belief back.”