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. - AFP

WASHINGTON: Japan’s 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.”

A field of 80 is set for the year’s first major tournament April 11-14 with two ways remaining to crack the lineup for the 83rd edition of the golfing classic at Augusta National – win a full-points PGA event or finish in the world rankings top 50 in the week before the Masters.--AFP

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