Japanese teen to play in Masters
Japanese teenage golf sensation Ryo Ishikawa will play in three upcoming PGA Tour events on sponsor's exemptions, and he has an inside track on qualifying for the two World Golf Championship events during the first quarter of the season.
The ultimate invitation, however, came Thursday when the 17-year-old pro, who is ranked 60th in the Official World Golf Ranking, received a special international invitation from Augusta National Golf Club to play in April's Masters Tournament.
He'll be the youngest Masters participant in 57 years. Only Tommy Jacobs, in 1952, played in the Masters at a younger age. Ishikawa will be five months older than Jacobs, who was also 17. Jacobs finished 60th.
As a 15-year-old amateur, Ishikawa won the Japan Golf Tour's Munsingwear Open KSB Cup in 2007, making him the youngest winner on a tour recognized by the world golf ranking.
Ishikawa turned pro in 2008 and played on the Japan Golf Tour, winning twice and finishing fifth on the tour's money list.
"At a young age, Mr. Ishikawa has shown the skill and competitiveness to make him a deserving recipient of this invitation," Masters Tournament and Augusta National Golf Club Chairman Billy Payne said in a statement.
"We see this as an opportunity to expose an emerging talent on a world stage and fulfill our objective to grow the game," Payne said in the statement. "I am optimistic that his participation in the Masters will inspire younger players and increase interest in golf in Asia and beyond."
Ishikawa is the third Japanese golfer in the 2009 Masters field, which currently has 89 expected starters. The others are fellow Masters rookie and former University of Georgia golfer Ryuji Imada and Shingo Katayama, who has played in seven previous Masters.
Ishikawa will make his PGA Tour debut Feb. 19 in the Northern Trust Open. He also has sponsor's exemptions in the Transitions Championship, starting March 19, and the Arnold Palmer Invitational, starting March 26.
If he remains in the top 64 in the world golf ranking, Ishikawa will also qualify for the two upcoming World Golf Championship events (starting Feb. 25 and March 12). That would give him five U.S. starts before the Masters.
Reach David Westin at (706) 724-851 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
2009 Masters Tournament
WHEN: April 9-12
LAST CHANCES: Winners of PGA Tour events that award a full-point allocation for the season-ending Tour Championship (does not include winners of the two tournaments opposite World Golf Championship events) prior to this year's Masters
- By finishing among the 50 leaders on the Official World Golf Ranking published March 30