Ryo Ishikawa gets special invite to play in the Masters

Currently ranked 53rd in the most recent edition of the Official World Golf Ranking, 20-year-old Japanese sensation Ryo Ishikawa still had an outside shot to quality for the Masters on his own.

But after Tuesday's announcement, he can rest can rest easy knowing that no matter what he does between now and the first major of the year, he's already booked his ticket to the Masters, after Augusta National chairman Billy Payne confirmed Ishikawa would be given a special invitation to play in the event. This is the second time he's received a spot in the field via special invite.

"Historically, the Masters has invited international players not otherwise qualified to expand the Tournament's global reach," Payne said in a press release. "Ryo Ishikawa is an accomplished player on the Japan Golf Tour, and we believe his presence will help increase interest not only in his home country, but also throughout Asia."

While it's Augusta National's call to hand out special invitations, you can't help but look at the decision as a marketing ploy. Tournament officials have been trying their best to build a presence in Asia, going so far as to partner with the R&A to grant another automatic invite to the winner of the Asian Amateur Championship. Most would argue there's nothing wrong with trying to branch out, but the decision to offer up a second invite to Ishikawa just doesn't make sense.

The first time they offered it to him as a 17-year-old it made sense; he was tearing up the Japan Golf Tour and made for an intriguing story. But since then he's failed to do anything to warrant a second invite -- especially to a tournament as prestigious as the Masters.

When players with great track records at Augusta -- Ernie Els is a prime example -- are still on the outside trying to get in, you have to wonder if giving a kid with little Masters success another free pass sets a bad precedent for the future.

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