Cape Town - Forget new clubs under the tree or a sleeve of balls in a stocking, the best Christmas present in golf came to the mailbox of Ernie Els.
Accoridng to the Golf Digest website, on Christmas eve, the "Big Easy" tweeted that he had received a special gift courtesy of Augusta National: an exemption into the 2018 Masters.
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.”
Now Els - who made the weekend at last year's Masters, US Open and Open Championship - will get at least two more rounds at Augusta National.
Els 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.
Els is the first player since Ryo Ishikawa (2013) to receive a special Masters exemption.
Els won the 1994 and 1997 US Open titles and the 2002 and 2012 Open Championships.
His best career finish at the Masters was runner-up in 2000 and 2004.
has six top-10 finishes at Augusta National and was 53rd at the 2017 Masters.