Ernie Els, the four-time major champion who finished dead last at Augusta National in April, has received a special exemption to play in the 2018 Masters, his management team confirmed to Golfweek.
On Christmas Eve, Els - whose five-year standing invite to Augusta for winning the 2012 British Open had expired - thanked the Masters on Twitter for a great present, though he didn't provide details.
Els, who hasn't won a PGA tournament since edging Adam Scott by one stroke at the British Open five years ago, has twice been runner-up at the Masters, finishing second to Vijay Singh in 2000 and behind only Phil Mickelson in 2004, but the 48-year-old struggled mightily in his last couple trips to Augusta.
In 2016, Els' tournament started in disastrous fashion, as the South African scored a record-worst 9 on the first hole and ultimately missed the cut. This year, after making the cut with a 72 and 75, Els imploded on the weekend, stumbling to an ugly 11-over 83 on Saturday and finishing with a 6-over on Sunday that included consecutive double-bogeys on the back nine.
"This tournament was just not for me," Els told the Associated Press after his difficult finish. "I've won a lot of events around the world, but this one just eluded me. And that's fine."