Quartet fail to secure Masters spots
Notable names fail to take chance to secure Masters berth
By Dave Tindall. Last Updated: 19/03/12 9:23am
Ernie Els: Has played in every Masters since his debut in 1994.
Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Robert Rock and Matteo Manassero are all still set to miss out on The Masters after coming up short in their respective Tour events at the weekend.
All put themselves in position to secure a last-gasp spot in the year's opening major, with Els suffering the biggest heartbreak after leading the Transitions Championship at Innisbrook with two holes to play.
A victory would have given Els an automatic spot but, after missing a short putt on 16 to extend his lead to two, the South African bogeyed 17 and then failed to convert a five footer for par on 18 to miss out on a four-man play-off.
"Played good golf," said Els, who has played in the last 18 Masters, finishing runner-up twice. "I just hit one bad shot. That was on 17. It was a bit of a wait there and lost my rhythm and hit a bad shot there. Then missed a short putt on 18.
"If I take stock, I think I'm playing good golf, and I've got to head into the next couple of weeks trying to get a win."
Els' first chance is this week's Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill - a tournament he won in 1998 and 2010 - while he has one final opportunity at the Shell Houston Open the week before the Masters.
Inside the world's top 50
The other way of securing a Masters invite is to be inside the world's top 50 following this week's Hassan Trophy on the European Tour or the Bay Hill event in Florida.
Els is 62nd in the new rankings topped by Luke Donald again after the Englishman's victory in the Transitions.
Fellow South African major winner Goosen is 53rd and the door now appears to have closed on him.
Goosen was the 54-hole leader at Innisbrook but slid all the way to tied 20th after a closing four-over 75. He was hampered by a long-term back injury on Sunday and has already pulled out of this week's Arnold Palmer Invitational because of the ailment.
Because his back treatment is expected to last two weeks, he won't make it to Houston either unless he alters his plans.
A top 10 finish in the Transitions would have put Goosen into the top 50.
Rock, despite conquering Tiger Woods in Abu Dhabi in January, will probably have to win in Morocco this week to book his Masters debut.
Unlike most PGA Tour tournaments, that prestigious European Tour event didn't carry an automatic invite to Augusta.
Rock, currently at world number 57, was just two back at the halfway mark of the Open de Andalucia but finished tied 17th.
Manassero was in an even stronger position in Andalucia after heading into Sunday's final round just one off the pace. A final round 68 could easily have been enough but he had to settle for second place after finishing two shots behind fast-finishing Frenchman Julien Quesne, who equalled the course record with a closing 64.
Italian teenager Manassero, who at 16 became the youngest ever player to make the cut at Augusta when he made his one and only Masters appearance in 2010, heads to Morocco as the world number 61. As with Rock, it's likely that only a win there will book his ticket to Augusta.
Two more players keeping an anxious eye on the world rankings are Paul Lawrie and Ben Crane.
Neither are yet into The Masters but, at world numbers 45 and 48 respectively, they will get their invites if they can hold their top 50 positions for one more week.