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Shugo Imahira receives special invitation to Masters

AFP-JIJI, AP

Shugo Imahira, last year’s Japan Golf Tour leading money winner, has accepted a special invitation to play in this year’s Masters tournament, Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley said Tuesday.

The 26-year-old from suburban Tokyo will make his Masters debut after missing the cut in all three prior major starts at the 2016 British Open, 2017 US Open and 2018 PGA Championship.

Imahira, ranked 53rd in the world, had 14 top-10 finishes last year and won his second career title at the Bridgestone Open, closing with three birdies for a one-stroke victory. His other Japan Tour title came at the 2017 Kansai Open.

“Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts established the Masters as a global sporting event, so throughout our history special invitations for deserving international players have always been carefully considered,” Ridley said.

“We are pleased to continue this tradition by welcoming Shugo Imahira to our field this year based on his impressive record during the past 12 months. We look forward to hosting him and all of our Masters competitors in April.”

This is the second straight year Augusta National has given out a special invitation, which it typically reserves for international players who do not have full PGA Tour status. Shubhankar Sharma of India received an invitation last year.

There remain two more ways to qualify for the field of 80 at the year’s first major tournament, which will take place April 11-14 — win a full-points PGA event or earn a ranking in the world’s top 50 in the week before the Masters.