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March 26 2012

1:23 AM

Els’ putter won’t cooperate again

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM

ORLANDO -- For the second Sunday in a row, Ernie Els' putter let him down, this time at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard.

The affable South African was bidding to slide into the top 50 in the world and earn an invitation to the Masters. Els needed to finish solo third or better to have a chance, although solo second would have been a lock.

Els put himself in position through 54 holes, too, as he started the final round at Bay Hill, where he picked up his last TOUR victory in 2010, tied for third with Ian Poulter.  But Els never could get untracked, three-putting  twice for bogey and missing a 9-footer to save at the 15th hole, on the way to a 75 that left him tied for fourth.

So when the Official World Golf Ranking was released shortly after Tiger Woods won the tournament for the seventh time, turns out Els had only moved from 62nd to 58th.

"I still hit the ball well," Els said. "I didn't have my putting touch today, that was the difference. I was a little tentative again and the wind didn't help too much on the greens either. I'm pleased with my ball striking but again on the greens, I was awful."

Els, who has not missed a Masters since 1994, has one more chance to play his way to Augusta National. He'll have to win the Shell Houston Open next Sunday, though, to get the final invitation.

A week ago, Els had a chance to win the Transitions Championship but bogeyed the last two holes, missing a 4-footer on the 72nd that would have put him in a playoff for his first title in two years. He tied for fifth there and fourth at Bay Hill, though, so Els is secure in the knowledge he's playing well.

"Obviously, you go into a week, a fourth place, you'd probably take it," Els said. "But it was a bit of bittersweet there again. I had a lot of chances today, and you know, kind of blew it a little bit. …

“I wasn't good on the greens, and that's the disappointing thing. I really hit the ball well and probably could have shot 5-under par if I putted anything like I did the first couple of days, and that was the disappointing thing."

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