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Montgomerie hits out at Masters invitation policy

Colin Montgomerie has criticised Augusta National, organisers of the US Masters, for inviting three Asian players to next week's tournament for commercial rather than golfing reasons.

China's Liang Wen-chong, Thailand's Prayad Marksaeng and Indian Jeev Milkha Singh - respectively 111th, 93rd and 80th in the world - are additions to the field for the first major of the year.

Augusta chairman Billy Payne said: "These three individuals are successful, accomplished and talented golfers deserving of a Masters invitation. They are outstanding representatives of their respective countries.

"This is also another component in our objective of growing the game of golf worldwide utilising the Masters brand. We think the interest in golf in each country will heighten when these players compete in the Masters."

Montgomerie, who has missed out on the Masters after falling to 75th in the rankings, told reporters in Munich, where he was promoting June's BMW International Open: "No, there has been no call from Augusta.

"But then I wasn't expecting one - there are enough Brits in the field, so there won't be a call. Now if I were the only person in the country, a la China, I might get in.

"It's a strange way to make up a field for a major championship - TV rights.

"They are quite open about why, just as they were when I missed out last time in 2005, when they picked Shingo Katayama, then 67th in the world. I was 51st at the time. They picked him over me for the Japanese TV rights.

"Let me tell you, I am not the only one who feels this way. In or not, I would be saying the same thing.

"It is the only one (of the four majors) you can get invited to - you don't get an invite to The Open or the US Open or the USPGA. You have to qualify. But the Masters has its own rules.

"It would be easier to swallow if no-one was invited and the entry list was based on sporting and not commercial criteria."

The US Open and USPGA do, in fact, issue invitations from time to time, but usually to past champions whose exemptions have expired or, in the case of the PGA, Ryder Cup captains.

Montgomerie, who marries again in two weeks' time, has missed the Masters only once before since his debut in 1992.

It is a blow, of course, to his hopes of keeping his Ryder Cup place.

April 1, 2008




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