2017 U.S. Open

This is cool

2017 U.S. Open

Ernie Els could still earn a spot in the Masters field this coming April, but at the moment he is not in for the year’s first major.

The South African tweeted Sunday that he’d gotten a “Great Xmas present” from the Masters, a social media post that caused many to believe that he had earned a rare special exemption into the tournament.

Els’ management confirmed to Golfweek that the Big Easy had indeed been given a Masters special exemption.

Unfortunately, that is not the case.

The Associated Press has reported that Els, a four-time major champion, instead received a letter welcoming him as a 2018 Masters honorary invitee.

That’s a massive distinction. Honorary invitees are given great access during the Masters, including two clubhouse badges, a $1,000 honorarium and a gift to commemorate them being there.

But an honorary invitee is a guest, not a member of the field. This invitation has often been extended to past major champions by Augusta National. On top of the above perks, honorary invitees were allowed to play practice rounds and compete in the Par 3 Tournament, but that practice ended last year.

Els, 48, chimed in Tuesday to clarify he got an invite (the honorary invitee honor) from the Masters but still needs to earn a spot in the field.

The South African, who’s competed at the year’s first major 23 times, is no longer qualified for a Masters spot, as his five-year exemption into the field courtesy of his 2012 Open Championship victory ended in 2017. That meant many felt last year could’ve been Els’ final Masters.

The news of his supposed special exemption put hope into Els indeed gaining entry into the 2018 field, but that is not to be for now.

An honorary invitee slot is certainly nothing to sniff at, though, as Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley pointed out.

“The inclusion of Honorary Invitees has been a great tradition at the Masters Tournament for many years,” Ridley said, per the Associated Press. “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.”

Despite this change on the special exemption news, Els could still qualify for a spot in the 2018 Masters field.

A victory in a PGA Tour tournament offering full FedEx Cup points between now and the Masters would grant him a place, as would jumping into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking by March 25.

Of course, either of those will be tough to achieve. That’s especially the case with the latter, considering Els is currently No. 592 in the OWGR.

This news is certainly a disappointment for those who saw Els’ original tweet and got excited about him competing in the Masters. But at the very least, Els should still be at Augusta National during the 2018 Masters.

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