Augusta - South Africa's Ernie Els, who has won the British Open and the US Open twice each, is coming to terms with the fact that he might never win the Masters.
"I've had 23 goes, that's enough," said the "Big Easy" after wrestling with difficult conditions on Thursday at Augusta National.
He did better than most in the field of 93, posting a first-round level-par 72 on a chilly 7,435-yard Augusta National course whipped up by wicked winds.
Els, 47, was in a share of eighth place, seven shots behind leader Charley Hoffman but in a group along with Rory McIlroy, who is seeking a career grand slam with a victory at Augusta.
For Els, consolation came at the very first hole, which was the scene of the worst humiliation of his career last year. He shot a nine on the par-4 opener, needing six putts from three feet.
"I was really nervous on the tee, so it's nice to get that one in and kind of get going," he said. "Yeah, I feel like I exorcised a ghost. But then I bogeyed number two."
With his big hitting and sharp iron game, Els was always a strong Masters contender.
He was described by close friend and rival Phil Mickelson as one of the greatest players never to have won the Masters.
He may be ready to give it one more go if he fails here this year, the last Masters under his five-year exemption for winning the 2012 British Open.
"Well, yeah, I would like one more. But if it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen. I've had a great time," he said.
"The members, the people have been so kind to us. And as I say, if you can't win it in 23 tries, then maybe you should try something else."
Els has won four majors and 19 US PGA Tour titles and came closest to winning the Masters in 2000 and 2004, when he came second to Mickelson winning the first of his five major titles.
He was runner-up to Vijay Singh in 2000 and lost by one-shot to Mickelson, who birdied the 18th hole, in 2004. It was a defeat he found difficult to shake off.
"Phil's a good friend of mine and obviously was one of the guys who beat me down, you know," he said. "But, obviously, really it was just the start of his great run and it was almost like my run came to an end when he started.
"So it is what it is. One guy's ecstasy is another guy's, you know, whatever you call it. Agony."