Third exemption sees Ishikawa back at Masters

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RYO Ishikawa of Japan is headed back to the Masters with another special invitation.

Augusta National Golf Club have confirmed that Ishikawa and Thaworn Wiratchant of Thailand have accepted the invitations, which are reserved for international players.

It will be the fifth straight year the 21-year-old Ishikawa plays in the Masters. This is his third special exemption. Thaworn is No 68 in the world and won the Asian Tour money title last year. He also holds the Asian Tour record for most career victories, winning the Hero India Open last year for his 15th title.

Ishikawa dropped to No 91 in the world late last year before his game picked up. He won the Taiheiyo Masters for his 10th career title on the Japan Golf Tour, part of seven top-10 finishes in his last ten tournaments of the year.

“Through our established qualifications, and invitations to select international players 
not otherwise qualified, we historically bring together a collection of the world’s top players, and this year is no different,” Masters chairman Billy Payne said.

Ishikawa is sure to attract attention because no other player has received more exemptions over the last ten years. During his slump last year he missed the cut in the first three majors before a tie for 59th in the PGA Championship. He came under further scrutiny when he received his Masters invitation ahead of Ernie Els, who had fallen out of the top 50. Els went on to win the Open – his fourth major championship.

The special exemptions, however, typically go to players who are not PGA Tour members, and the Masters looks mainly at Asian players because of its television contracts and the rapid growth and interest in golf in the region.