(Reuters) - Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa and Thailand’s Thaworn Wiratchant have received invitations to play in this year’s Masters at Augusta, tournament organizers said on Friday.
“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,” Augusta National Golf Club chairman Billy Payne said.
The tournament is scheduled for April 11-14.
Wiratchant, who became the oldest winner of the Asian Tour Order of Merit by topping the money list in 2012, will be making his first Masters appearance.
The 46-year-old holds the Asian Tour record for most career victories, having won for the 15th time at the Indian Open last October.
The Thai golfer was ecstatic after his new year resolution of making a Masters debut was fulfilled so unexpectedly.
“When my manager informed me, I initially thought she was joking,” he told the Asian Tour.
“I didn’t expect to receive an invitation and I was planning to work hard to break into the world’s top-50 (by the end of March) to qualify for the Masters.”
Wiratchant will become the fourth Thai after Sukree Onsham, Thongchai Jaidee and Prayad Marksaeng to tee off at the Augusta National and making the cut for the weekend rounds will be his top priority.
”I’ll try to make the cut... that would be the goal. If I don’t make it, then I want to ensure that I had played my best,“ he said. ”The players at the Masters are all good players and it is a very challenging golf course.
”Every year, I watch the Masters on TV and I think to myself that it’s such a difficult golf course.
”I have spoken to Thongchai and Prayad about their experiences in the Masters previously and I will talk to them again to find out more about the golf course.
“From what I’ve seen, you have to be good in every department, especially around the greens which are very fast and tricky. I am sure it will be really challenging but I am looking forward to my first trip there.”
Wiratchant hoped his late debut will be an inspiration for other players on the Asian Tour who aspire to play in the Masters and the other majors.
This edition will also mark the 21-year-old Ishikawa’s fifth consecutive start at the Masters where he has missed the cut on three occasions and finished tied for 20th in 2011.
Reporting by Simon Evans in Miami and Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; Editing by John O'Brien