Ernie Els has one last chance at earning a spot in this year’s Masters by winning the Shell Houston Open.

Els maintains that his focus is on playing well in the Houston Open, and not on qualifying for the Masters.

"You can't go into a week putting pressure on yourself to win to get into another week," Els said. "I just want to have a good week. If I can win, obviously, that would be absolutely wonderful. But my goal here is not to get into the Masters, it's to play the Houston Open as good as I can.”

It is difficult to believe that a spot in the Augusta field won’t be playing on his mind, but he is remaining philosophical.

"If I get into the Masters, that's great. If I don't, then I've had many Masters that I can look back at, and I'll get back in there next year."

Els hasn’t missed the most exclusive Major in golf since his first appearance in 1994, and, as a South African golf fan, it is difficult to imagine the Masters without the Big Easy.

Ernie Els' form

The Big Easy has been in good form recently with top five finishes in both the Transitions Championship and the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

The 42-year-old has really struggled with his putting recently, which, although worrying, is testament to how good he really is. Imagine being able to finish in the top five of a PGA Tour event while struggling with your putter.

So if Ernie can sort out his flat stick, it is not beyond the realms of possibility to see him winning this one.

There is still the slight chance that officials at Augusta offer Els a special invitation to the Masters, but the Big Easy said he isn’t expecting anything.

"It is an invitational event," he said, "and they have their reasons to invite somebody or not, and that's the sad part. I'll probably miss it for the first time in 18 or 19 years. My streak will come to an end, unfortunately.

"I can't blame the Masters people for not inviting me. I've put myself in this position by not playing very well."

Players warm up for Masters in Shell Houston Open

As the event immediately preceding the Masters, the Shell Houston Open has been set up to mimic conditions at Augusta as closely as possible.

The result of which is a world-class field all hoping to get as much practice with light rough and ultra-fast greens as they can.

Reigning Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, world No 3 Lee Westwood, Major winners Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell, as well as defending champion Phil Mickelson will be headlining the impressive field.

Mickelson, though, isn’t convinced that Redstone Golf Club offers much in the way of preparation for Augusta, "You're either in the bunker, or in water. There are no chipping areas around the course to help you prepare for the Masters, so it's really not that great."

How do you think Els will fare in the Shell Houston Open?

Redstone Golf Club

Course Superintendent: Randy Samoff
Original architect: Rees Jones, with player consultant David Toms
Par value: 72
Number of PGA Tour events hosted: 7 (including 2012)
Course ranking: 29 (out of 51) in difficulty on the PGA Tour in 2011
Yardage: 6818 metres
Grass: Bermudagrass overseeded with perennial ryegrass (tees, fairways, rough); Bentgrass; bermudagrass; perennial ryegrass all overseeded with Poa trivialis; ryegrass (greens)
Sand bunkers: 60
Water hazards: 13
Course record: 63 – Adam Scott, 2008; Johnson Wagner, 2008; Phil Mickelson, 2011; Jimmy Walker 2011

Past winners

2011 – Phil Mickelson
2010 – Anthony Kim
2009 – Paul Casey
2008 – Johnson Wagner
2007 – Adam Scott
2006 – Stuart Appleby
2005 – Vijay Singh
2004 – Vijay Singh
2003 ¬– Fred Couples
2002 – Vijay Singh

  • Carl

    It just shows how good Ernie really is when he puts his mind to it! I hope he makes it, either way!

    • Diana

      So do I! He deserves it after his performance in the last two! Go Ernie!

  • Hennie

    Yes I agree and Ernie is realy playing well except for the putter so perhaps this is the week that it all comes together for him!!

  • Johnbott

    Ernie should get a sponcers invite before lots of other players
     and that will take the pressure off him so he can play golf

  • Ian

    unless ernie gets his putter to work he is not going to win.the rest of his game seems to be working well.he definatly should get a sponsers invite

  • Flange

    Ernie could have won the last two if he just had more confidence in his putter in the last rounds. I want him back on the old putter.  Phil