Ernie Els threw the golf world a curveball. Or chalk this up as a brutal misinterpretation.
On Christmas Eve, the Big Easy tweeted that he had received a special gift courtesy of Augusta National: an exemption into the 2018 Masters.
Els' management confirmed the invite to Golfweek.
Last year's tournament, Els' 23rd at Augusta, was considered his last, as the five-year exemption from 2012's Open Championship victory had expired. It was a fate the 48-year-old seemed to acknowledge as well, renting two houses in town for family and friends to celebrate his final stroll through the Georgia pines.
"If it doesn’t happen again, I’m fine," Els said last spring. "I’ve had a great time.”
Unfortunately for Els, that future, at the moment, hasn't changed.
Els clarified his comments the day after Christmas, writing on Twitter that he continues to work to qualify for the 2018 Masters. The Associated Press broke the news that Els did not receive a special playing exemption, but rather the traditional honorary invite that's bestowed to all former major winners.
“The inclusion of Honorary Invitees has been a great tradition at the Masters Tournament for many years,” Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley said to the AP. “This coming year the list includes Ernie Els, and we are once again excited to welcome him and all of these distinguished guests to Augusta National in April.”
While honorary invitees had historically been allowed to play in practice rounds and the Par 3 Contest, that tradition ended in 2017.
The South African has finished runner-up twice at the Masters, most notably in 2004 after Phil Mickelson rolled in a birdie on the final hole to win by one stroke. Ryo Ishikawa (2013) is the last player to receive a special Masters exemption.
Els is currently ranked No. 592 in the world.