The Masters and Augusta National are viewed through azalea-tinted lenses by the golf world, the entities synonymous with good feelings and flowery prose. But the sentiments are not necessarily shared by all, especially the players who have come out on the business end of the tournament a time or two. Case in point: Ernie Els. By the sounds of it, the “tradition unlike any other” has broken his spirit.
Speaking to the New York Post after missing the cut at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Els was blunt in his assessment of the first major.
“To be honest with you, I won’t miss the place,’’ Els told the Post. “I had enough of it—especially the last five years I played it terribly.’’
Els has made 23 career appearances at Augusta National, highlighted by two runner-ups (including a heartbreak at the hands of Phil Mickelson in 2004). However, the tournament was also the site of Els’ infamous six-putt on the first green, and last year the four-time major winner mistakenly thought he received an exemption into the 2018 field on Christmas.
At 49 years old, it’s highly unlikely Els will tee it up at the Masters again. Not that the South African is complaining.
“When a thing stings you it keeps stinging you,” Els said. “When it gives to you it keeps on giving. I’ve seen that with Gary Player. I’ve seen it with Jack [Nicklaus]. I’ve got a love-hate relationship with the place. It was always almost like a curse to me. It was not a romantic deal to me. It was a f***ing nightmare for the most part.
“Then, you start disliking the place when you shouldn’t. I try to keep my honor for the golf course and the people, because the members are great and the course is actually great. But it just doesn’t want to give me anything and then I was finally like, ‘You know what? That’s fine. Let’s move on.’
“It’s like, ‘S***, it’s not giving me anything. How many times do you want to run into a wall?’ That how I felt my last couple of years. I didn’t want to say it before, and I don’t have any bad feelings about it. It’s just the way it is. I had enough of it. Move on. It’s a unique place, but I’m done with it. It’s done with me.”
However, while Els’ résumé, as venerated as it is, feels incomplete without a green jacket, the Big Easy asserted he’s at peace with the matter.
“It was obviously a huge disappointment to me, but when I look back now, at least I can say that I was in the mix when the crowds were going nuts, I was hitting good shots and my opponents are hitting good shots.”
The 2019 Masters begins on April 11. Patrick Reed is the defending champ.