Els Still Searching For Masters Berth
ORLANDO, FLORIDA |
Before his first
tried to replicate the
slick speed of Augusta National’s greens
by stroking putts atop a pool table. He
has tried hitting eight-footers all day,
sometimes with his eyes closed. Els,
who has played in every Masters since
1994, wants desperately to have another
chance at Augusta, where he twice has
finished runner-up. But he may not get
one unless he can win the Shell Houston
Open, or a last-minute special invitation
from Augusta National chairman
arrives better later than never.
For a second straight week, Els
squandered a golden opportunity to
earn a spot in The Masters. Entering
the week at No. 62 in the Official World
Golf Rankings, Els knew before he teed
off that he had to finish no worse than
third to crack the top 50, and earn a
spot in the field.
A week ago, Els missed two crucial
short putts on the back nine that kept
him from winning the Transitions Cham-
pionship in Tampa. That was in the past,
Els said after the first round at Bay Hill.
“You keep going on as if I killed
somebody,” he said. “I’m over it.”
That looked to be the case on Satur-
day when he needed only 26 putts and
climbed into contention with six birdies
in a round of 67 that left him only three
But Sunday proved a different story.
This time his putting demons struck
early. A testy three-foot par putt
rimmed out for Els on the first hole.
His shoulders sagged with disappoint-
ment. After holing out, Els stared at
the green in disbelief, then stalked off
head down. The bogey proved a bad
omen. He took 32 putts, including his
first three-putt of the tournament at
the eighth hole, and missed another
three-foot par putt on No. 11.
“I was awful,” he said of his putting.
Els posted a final-round 75 and
finished in a seven-way tie
for fourth. Now, only a
victory will secure him
an invite to The Mas-
ters. That may be a
longshot for a golfer
who has been fighting
a stubborn slump that
dates to his last victory at
the 2010 Arnold Palmer Bay
“The last 18 months has been
really difficult,” Els confessed.
was the fourth day of what was sched-
uled to be eight days of golf in a row.
That stretch included a Sunday trip
to Augusta National. This is the same
Woods who had to withdraw with Achil-
les problems from the WGC event at
Doral earlier this month.
“It’s one of those things where you
just continue training, continue prepar-
ing,” Woods said. “I just have to moni-
tor things more than I used to because
I used to be able to just play through it.”
Woods birdied four straight holes
(Nos. 4-7) on his way to a second-
round, bogey-free, 7-under 65.
The last time Woods made four
consecutive birdies was in the
second round of the 2011 Farm-
ers Insurance Open (Nos. 3-6),
where he finished T44.
It was a rarity on pro-am
day when Woods admitted
to the media that he had
experienced tightness in
his chronically swollen
Achilles tendon during
the round. The pro-am
The day before the
Dufner Fires And
Falls Back – Again
ORLANDO, FLORIDA |
Dufners of professional golf are
supposed to go away. They get their
15 minutes, or 15 seconds, or 15
holes of major championship fame
and they disappear into a Warho-
lian vortex never to be spotted on a
prominent leaderboard again.
Ever heard of
have not. The list of players with
cameo roles at majors is long and
In the final round of last year’s
PGA Championship Dufner had the
season’s final major all bottled up.
As late as the back nine he was four
shots clear of the field. Then he bo-
geyed 15, 16 and 17 to spill his lead
like ink on a white tuxedo.
By the time Dufner had lost in
the subsequent three-hole playoff
already had been consigned to the
netherworld where journeyman
pros go to lick their mental wounds
and wonder if they ever belonged on
the Big Stage at all.
Except Dufner didn’t get the
When the Tour arrived at the
Arnold Palmer Invitational last
week at Bay Hill, Dufner had posted
three top 10s in seven starts. His
world ranking had quietly climbed
to No. 37 and he had jumped all the
way up to 12th on the U.S. Ryder
Cup points list just six months be-
fore the Euros arrive at Medinah.
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