Graeme McDowell earned a date with Arnold Palmer and a Masters boost with a red-hot finish in the WGC-CA Championship.

The Ulsterman’s closing 66 saw him tied for sixth behind Ernie Els at the Blue Monster to seal his place in the world’s top 50.

And that means he is guaranteed an invite for next week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill and the perfect warm up for Augusta.

McDowell said: “I knew that I was under pressure to fall out of the top-50 after this week.  I needed a big performance and thankfully I gave one.  

“If I didn’t get into Bay Hill then this would likely have been my last event before the Masters. Obviously that would not have been ideal, but now I am perfectly set up to be well prepared for Augusta.”

Up nine spots to world No 41, McDowell grabbed his best PGA Tour finish when he was second to Vijay Singh at Bay Hill in 2005.

He added: “Mr Palmers invitational event is a huge tournament, and I am really looking forward to it now.  I have done well there in the past, so hopefully I can get another good result in.”

Padraig Harrington had to settle for a share of third behind Els but he was looking on the bright side despite a mediocre closing 72.

Back to 10th in the world rankings, Harrington said: “My bunker play was just not with it and my pitching could have been a bit better. 

“You don’t really see it until you are under pressure. I’m happy - I need to be competing and testing myself.”

Rory McIlroy finished 65th of the 68 starters in Miami and confessed he needs to snap out of his slump quickly to be ready for the Masters

Hoping for a boost as he heads to Augusta for three days practice this week, he’s still troubled by a back strain and struggling with his game.

“I just didn’t have it and haven’t had it for the last couple of weeks,” McIlroy said. “I’ve a few issues to sort out when I get home. The back isn’t worrying me, but it’s getting me down. Half of it is probably mental. I’m starting off in a negative mood.”