AUGUSTA, Ga. – Sergio Garcia might be the best player to never win a major. Padraig Harrington felt it was his time to contend on one of golf's grandest stages. Charles Howell III grew up near Augusta National (search).
None will be wearing the green jacket Sunday. They won't even be allowed to play.
Garcia, Harrington and Howell were three of the biggest names to miss the cut at the Masters (search) on Saturday, a list that also included major winners Davis Love III and David Toms.
And the biggest name of all said goodbye. Six-time champion Jack Nicklaus (search) called it quits at this tournament after missing the cut by five strokes.
"It's no fun," the 65-year-old Nicklaus said, "to just go out there and hack it around."
Howell's chances faded when he knocked his ball into the bushes on the famous par-3 12th. Forced to take an unplayable lie, he wound up with a double bogey.
Howell's family held a membership at neighboring Augusta Country Club. The two courses brush against each other in Amen Corner, not far from the spot where his chances were snuffed out.
"Obviously, this tournament is extremely important to me," said Howell, whose 149 missed the cut by a single stroke. "I love it more than anything in the world. But the best way to get yourself in contention on Sunday is to get there."
Ernie Els, a perpetual contender at the Masters, was fortunate to be around for the rest of the weekend. At his final hole, last year's runner-up faced a 10-foot putt with a severe right-to-left break on the treacherous 18th green.
The Big Easy let out a big sigh when the ball dropped into the cup for a 4-over-par 148 — right on the cut line, but 14 strokes behind leader Chris DiMarco.
"This is disappointing," Els said. "I'm not hitting my irons well. Too many wrong shots at the wrong time. It's a bit of a battle."
He hoped to make a charge on the back nine, but it didn't work out. Els flew a wedge into the bunker behind the 13th green, leading to bogey on one of the easiest holes on the course. Now all he can do is "shoot two 64s and hope for the best."
Garcia hardly resembled someone playing his 26th major championship — especially at the 18th. The Spaniard made a poor pitch past the hole, watched a downhill 4-footer skid by the right side, lipped out a 3-footer coming back and settled for double bogey.
Garcia, who opened with a 77, tried to rally with three birdies on his final nine holes. He wound up even par for the round but 72 wasn't good enough to avoid the cut.
Also at 149 was Harrington, an Irishman who joined the PGA Tour this year in hopes of improving his chances in the majors. He won the Honda Classic last month but didn't fare well in the Masters, slumping to 77 in the second round.
Fred Funk had one of the biggest wins of his career in The Players Championship two weeks ago, but couldn't carry that momentum to Augusta. He missed the cut by two strokes.
Another shot back was Love, who missed the Masters cut for only the second time in 11 years. The 1997 PGA Championship winner is normally among the contenders at Augusta National, finishing in a tie for sixth last year.
David Toms, a surprise winner of the '01 PGA Championship, came to Augusta as one of the hottest players on Tour. He had been in the top 10 four times since the beginning of the year and made every cut.
Not anymore. Scores of 77 and 75 left Toms a distant four strokes away from a weekend pass.
Then there's Fred Couples, who never misses the cut at Augusta. He stretched the longest active streak to 21 Masters in a row — every year he's played and just two away from tying Gary Player's record.
David Duval didn't make the cut, which wasn't surprising. The former No. 1 player in the world has been mired in a mystifying slump since winning the British Open in 2001.
A two-time Masters runner-up, Duval didn't even play at Augusta last year because his game was in such disarray. Returning this year, he got on the leaderboard Thursday with birdies on two of his first six holes.
That was about as good as it got. Duval made only three birdies the rest of the way, to go along with 13 bogeys that left him four shots shy of another 36 holes.
Duval said the stormy weather — play started late on Thursday and was halted Friday afternoon — was especially troubling for someone trying to find their stroke.
"It was hard to get a rhythm," he said. "It makes it much harder if you're not on top of your game."
Still, it was a better showing than two years ago, when Duval headed home from Augusta following a 79-83 debacle. Actually, he can't wait to get home this time — his first child is due to be delivered by Caesarean section on April 21.
"That is going home to real life, not this fantasy world we are privileged to live in," Duval said. "I'm excited to go home and rub my wife's stomach."