January 8, 2019 / 9:55 PM / 2 months ago

Golf - Japan's Imahira accepts Masters invitation

FILE PHOTO: Aug 9, 2018; Saint Louis, MO, USA; Shugo Imahira hits his tee shot on the 7th hole during the first round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at Bellerive Country Club. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

(Reuters) - Shugo Imahira has accepted a special invitation to compete in this year’s U.S. Masters after a brilliant season in which he was the Japan Tour’s top money leader.

The 26-year-old Japanese collected 14 top-10 finishes last year on Japan Golf tour and in October won his second career title at the Bridgestone Open where he birdied the final three holes to win by one shot.

His other win came at the 2017 Kansai Open Golf Championship, winning by six strokes.

For Imahira, who is ranked 53rd in the world rankings, his appearance at Augusta National Golf Club for the April 11-14 Masters will mark his first appearance at the year’s opening major.

“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,” Fred Ridley, Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, 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.”

Imahira has competed in golf’s other three majors, missing the cut in the British Open (2016), U.S. Open (2017) and PGA Championship (2018).

The field for the Masters stands at 80 players and the only remaining ways to qualify are by winning a PGA Tour event that awards a full-point allocation for the season-ending Tour Championship or by finishing among the top 50 in the world rankings published during the week prior to the Masters.

Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Pritha Sarkar

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