Masters quest motivates Els

2012-02-15 07:40
Ernie Els (AP)

Los Angeles - Ernie Els is on a quest to book his berth for the first major championship of 2012, and said the challenge of securing a Masters place is powerful early-season motivation.

"Obviously, the Masters is right around the corner," said the 42-year-old South African, who fell out of the top 70 in a 2011 season he has characterized as "dismal".

"I've never really been in that position where I had to try and qualify for it because I've been fortunate enough to basically glide through and get in there. So I've got to do some work, and I think it's good for me. It will keep me focused - get me trying. I think that's a good thing."

Els has moved back up to 65 in the world rankings, with the top 50 as of the week before the Masters - or winners of a US PGA Tour title this year - receiving invitations to Augusta National.

Els, owner of two US Open titles and a British Open crown, will tee it up on Thursday in the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club, where he lifted the trophy in 1999.

He's due to start the following week at the World Golf Championships-Match Play Championship in Arizona.

Although the field includes the top 64 in the world rankings, No 11 Phil Mickelson, who won last week at Pebble Beach, plans to play at Riviera then skip the Match Play, opening the door for Els.

"That's a nice break coming my way," said Els, who said he was "grateful" to be in the Match Play field.

"I'll buy Phil a steak dinner this week, maybe send him a good bottle of Bordeaux or something," he added with a laugh.

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