Monday, April 12, 2004

Els is masterful, but it isn't enough

Effort comes up one shot short

By Paul Daugherty
The Cincinnati Enquirer

AUGUSTA, Ga. - In most years, he'd have won. Ernie Els would not have been at his rented Augusta house Sunday night, watching the TV replay of Phil Mickelson's Masters-winning birdie putt.

Els shot 67 on Masters Sunday. He shot a 33 on the back-nine, under the fabled Sunday pressure. He had two eagles. The par saves Els made at Nos. 11, 14 and 16 proved his courage; the eagle at 13 showed his extreme talent. Els rallied from three down at the beginning of the day to lead Mickelson by three shots with five holes to play.

The only thing the 34-year-old South African didn't do was win his first green jacket.

"It's disappointing, it's hard to explain. I played as good as I've played around here," Els said. Given that Els has finished no worse than sixth in his past five Masters, that's a huge statement.

Els didn't only beat back Mickelson for eight of the last nine holes. He withstood some of the best playing and scoring a Masters Sunday has had in years. Padraig Harrington and Kirk Triplett both aced the par-3 16th Sunday, within 10 minutes of each other. K.J. Choi eagled the par-4 11th from 220 yards out.

Els himself eagled two par-5s, the eighth and 13th. At the 15th, another par-5, his second shot rolled through the green. Els still made birdie, with a tricky chip up the slope and an 18-inch putt. Els' tee shot at the par-3 16th landed 20 feet above the hole. A baby could have breathed harder than Els hit that putt. It still rolled 6 feet by the cup. Els made the comeback putt to save par.

Then he made par from a fairway bunker at the 18th. Els was on the practice green, preparing for a playoff, when Mickelson made the winning putt.

"What more could I do?" Els wondered. "I'm going to look myself in the mirror tonight and say, 'Well done.' I've had some good wins and some tough losses. This is a tough loss. That's golf."

Reds say foundation in place
Photos of Sunday's game
Relievers leave club stress-free
Kearns finally gets bat, ball to meet
Reds at Phillies series preview
Ephedra ban begins today
NL: Wood stymies Braves
AL: Ortiz bomb stops Jays in 12th
AAA: Louisville 12, Norfolk 3
Notes from Sunday's games

Daugherty: Fans share Lefty's joy
Just call him Major Mickelson - finally
Els is masterful, but it isn't enough
Another major comes and goes without Woods

For Cyclones, the plot took wrong twists
Kovalev's two goals pace Habs

Pacers-Celtics rematch set
After five years, Sixers' playoff run is finished

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