Augusta National and Masters chairman Fred Ridley announced Shugo Imahira of Japan has been extended and accepted an invitation to compete in the 2019 Masters Tournament.
Imahira, who won the Japan Golf Tour order of merit title in 2018, will make his first Masters appearance in April.
Ranked 53rd in the world, Imahira scored 14 top-10 finishes in 27 starts in 2018. He won the Bridgestone Open in October for his second JGT win. He ended the year ranked 55th in the Official World Golf Ranking following a T-12 finish in the Asian Tour’s flagship event, the Indonesian Masters. The 26-year-old has won in each of the last two years.
Augusta is showing some love to the Japan Golf Tour, inviting (Bridgestone Open champ!) Shugo Imahira to compete in the 2019 Masters pic.twitter.com/2NwFaWd1nJ
— Dylan Dethier (@dylan_dethier) January 8, 2019
Imahira isn’t new to the major stage. He has missed the cut in each of his three major championship appearances at the 2016 British Open Championship, 2017 US Open and 2018 PGA Championship.
The Masters field is now at 80 players. There are only two more ways to qualify for the Masters, either by winning a PGA Tour-sanctioned standard event or to land in the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking by the week prior to the Masters (before the Valero Texas Open).
With a lighter field than has been commonplace in recent years — with a number typically in the 90s — it wouldn’t be completely unprecedented for the Masters to invite more borderline international players to compete in the year’s first major.