Japan's Shugo Imahira receives special Masters invitation

Shugo Imahira, of Japan, knocks his ball out of a greenside bunker on the 10th green during the final round of the Sony Open golf tournament, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)

Japan's Shugo Imahira, who didn't make the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking at the end of 2018 and missed out on an automatic Masters Tournament berth, is still coming to Augusta this spring.

Fred Ridley, chairman of the Masters and Augusta National Golf Club, announced Tuesday that Imahira would receive a special invitation. The 2019 Masters will be held April 11-14.

“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 in a statement. “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.”

Imahira, 26, will be making his Masters debut. He is a two-time winner on the Japan Golf Tour, where he regularly plays and was the leading money winner for the 2018 season. He collected 14 top-10 finishes last year and, in October, he won his second career title at the Bridgestone Open. His other victory came at the 2017 Kansai Open Golf Championship, winning by six strokes.

He is currently ranked No. 53 in the world. He was at No. 55 in early December and needed a win or runner-up finish at the Indonesian Masters to move inside the top 50, according to The Associated Press, but he tied for 12th.

Currently there are 80 players in this year's Masters field.

The only way players can qualify for this year's Masters is by winning a PGA Tour event that is not held opposite a World Golf Championship event or by finishing among the 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking published during the week prior to the Masters.

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