Japanese teenager Ryo Ishikawa received a special invitation Thursday from Augusta National, putting the 17-year-old from Japan in line to become the second-youngest player to compete in the Masters.
One day after Ishikawa received exemptions from three PGA Tour events, the Japanese star received the biggest one of all.
He will be the youngest player at the Masters since Tommy Jacobs competed as an amateur in 1952 at 17 years, one month and 21 days. Ishikawa, a senior in high school who already has won twice in Japan, turned 17 four months ago.
Augusta National awarded Ishikawa the invitation it sets aside for international players. It has gone to Asian-born players every year since 2003, when no such exemption was offered. Greg Norman was the last non-Asian to received the "special foreign invitation" in 2002.
"At a young age, Mr. Ishikawa has shown the skill and competitiveness to make him a deserving recipient of this invitation," club chairman Billy Payne said. "We see this as an opportunity to expose an emerging talent on a world stage and fulfill our objective to grow the game. I am optimistic that his participation in the Masters will inspire younger players and increase interest in golf in Asia and beyond."
Ishikawa, the youngest player to crack the top 100 in the world ranking, already is at No. 60 and might have been able to qualify on his own depending on he played over the next two months. He is the highest-ranked player to receive the foreign invitation since Shingo Katayama was No. 58 in 2005.
Known as the "Shy Prince" in Japan for his unassuming demeanor, Ishikawa made history two years ago when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup on the Japan Golf Tour, becoming the youngest player to win on one of the six major tours around the world.
He turned pro last year and won the mynavi ABC Championship to go along with six top 10s and ranking No. 5 on Japan's money list.
Ishikawa already has accepted exemptions to the Northern Trust Open at Riviera in February, and consecutive weeks in Florida for the Transitions Championship at Innisbrook and the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.
His invitation to Augusta National brings the size of the field up to 89 players, with others still able to qualify by winning a PGA Tour event (except opposite-field tournaments) or getting into the top 50 in the world one week before the Masters.
Among those still trying to qualify are Davis Love III, David Toms and J.B. Holmes, the only player from the Ryder Cup still not eligible for the Masters.
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