Ishikawa gets another Masters invite, Wiratchant of Thailand gets his first

Ryo Ishikawa
courtesy of Callaway Golf
At age 21, Ryo Ishikawa of Japan will be playing in his fifth Masters.
By
Associated Press

Series: PGA Tour

Published: Friday, January 11, 2013 | 1:45 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Ryo Ishikawa of Japan is headed back to the Masters with another special invitation.

Augusta National Golf Club said Friday 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 is playing the Masters. This is his third special exemption.

Wiratchant 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 as low as 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 10 tournaments of the year. He is No. 75 in the world.

''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. ''The Masters has long established a tradition of supporting the global game, and we were excited to extend invitations to Thaworn Wiratchant and Ryo Ishikawa, who we hope will provide added interest and enthusiasm for golf in Asia through their participation in the tournament.''

Ishikawa is sure to get attention because no other player has received more exemptions over the last 10 years. Ishikawa is a rock star in Japan, however, having won his first tournament as a 15-year-old amateur. But his game went into a deep slump last year, when he missed the cut in the first three majors before a tie for 59th in the PGA Championship.

Ishikawa came under more scrutiny last year when he received an invitation ahead of Ernie Els, who had fallen out of the top 50. Els went on to win the British Open for 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. That's why it helped to create the Asia Pacific Amateur, with the winner getting a spot in the Masters. This year, the winner was Guan Tianlang, a 14-year-old from China, who will be the youngest player in Masters history.

PGA Tour members have several different categories through which they can qualify, such as winning a tournament, finishing in the top 30 on the money list or reaching the final event of the FedExCup playoffs.

This might be the last year of an exemption for Ishikawa. The Japanese star has joined the PGA Tour for the first time, and will make his season debut next week at the Humana Challenge.

Here are the 85 players who have qualified and are expected to compete in the 77th Masters. Players listed in only one category for which they are eligible:

MASTERS CHAMPIONS: Bubba Watson, Charl Schwartzel, Phil Mickelson, Angel Cabrera, Trevor Immelman, Zach Johnson, Tiger Woods, Mike Weir, Vijay Singh, Jose Maria Olazabal, Mark O'Meara, Ben Crenshaw, Bernhard Langer, Fred Couples, Ian Woosnam, Sandy Lyle, Larry Mize, Craig Stadler, Tom Watson.

U.S. OPEN CHAMPIONS (five years): Webb Simpson, Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Lucas Glover.

BRITISH OPEN CHAMPIONS (five years): Ernie Els, Darren Clarke, Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink, Padraig Harrington.

PGA CHAMPIONS (five years): Keegan Bradley, Martin Kaymer, Y.E. Yang.

PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIPS CHAMPIONS (three years): Matt Kuchar, K.J. Choi, Tim Clark.

U.S. AMATEUR CHAMPION AND RUNNER-UP: a-Steven Fox, a-Michael Weaver.

BRITISH AMATEUR CHAMPION: a-Alan Dunbar.

U.S. AMATEUR PUBLIC LINKS CHAMPION: a-T.J. Vogel.

U.S. MID-AMATEUR CHAMPION: a-Nathan Smith.

ASIAN AMATEUR CHAMPION: a-Guan Tianlang.

TOP 16 AND TIES-2012 MASTERS: Peter Hanson, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Jim Furyk, Sergio Garcia, Hunter Mahan, Kevin Na.

TOP EIGHT AND TIES-2012 U.S. OPEN: Michael Thompson, David Toms, John Peterson, Jason Dufner.

TOP FOUR AND TIES-2012 BRITISH OPEN: Brandt Snedeker.

TOP FOUR AND TIES-2012 PGA CHAMPIONSHIP: David Lynn, Carl Pettersson.

TOP 30-2012 PGA TOUR MONEY LIST: Luke Donald, Steve Stricker, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Nick Watney, Bo Van Pelt, Ryan Moore, Robert Garrigus, Scott Piercy, John Huh, Ben Curtis.

PGA TOUR EVENT WINNERS SINCE 2012 MASTERS (FULL FEDEX CUP POINTS AWARDED): Marc Leishman, Ted Potter Jr.

FIELD FROM THE 2012 TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP: John Senden.

TOP 50 FROM FINAL WORLD RANKING IN 2012: Paul Lawrie, Francesco Molinari, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Branden Grace, Bill Haas, Nicolas Colsaerts, Jason Day, Hiroyuki Fujita, Matteo Manassero, Thomas Bjorn, Jamie Donaldson, George Coetzee, Thorbjorn Olesen.

TOP 50 FROM WORLD RANKING ON MARCH 31: TBD.

SPECIAL FOREIGN INVITATIONS: Ryo Ishikawa, Thaworn Wiratchant.