Monty unhappy at Masters rules

Colin Montgomerie is unhappy at the new changes adopted at The Masters at Augusta National.

Colin Montgomerie, Golf

This April's US Masters will be unlike any previous staging of the event in one hugely important respect - Augusta National now has two women members.

Many of the media present will be as keen to talk to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and business executive Darla Moore in their green jackets - assuming they are present at some stage during the week, of course - as they will be to interview Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods.

One of the most famous clubs in the world is widely viewed to have finally bowed to pressure in changing their men-only membership stance, but in the way they run the tournament they have again shown they have their own views and intend to stick to them.

Five years ago Colin Montgomerie criticised Augusta when he missed out on The Masters and yet invitations were handed to China's Liang Wen-chong, Thailand's Prayad Marksaeng and Indian Jeev Milkha Singh - respectively 111th, 93rd and 80th in the world at the time.

"There are enough Brits in the field, so there won't be a call," Montgomerie said.

"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. 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. 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 two invitations handed out for this year's tournament are to Thailand's Asian Tour leading money-winner Thaworn Wiratchant and Japanese star Ryo Ishikawa.

For Wiratchant it will be a debut. For Ishikawa it is the third time he has been told he can join the party without qualifying - and last year he was preferred to Ernie Els no less.

The 'Bashful Prince' has no need to feel red-faced about it because he has in no way campaigned to be treated so well by the powers that be down Magnolia Lane.

But he has become a PGA Tour member now and there might well be some murmurings of discontent if it goes on.

Ishikawa dropped as low as 91st in the world late last year before his game picked up and he won the Taiheiyo Masters for his 10th career title on the Japan Golf Tour.

As well as those PGA Tour players who just miss out this time, there might well be a feeling in Japan that, if Augusta National wants them to be represented, perhaps their money list ought to be the deciding factor.

Hiroyuki Fujita is their only player to have qualified through the world's top 50 at the end of last year, while at 82nd in the world Toru Taniguchi is currently only four places below Ishikawa and not yet in The Masters field.

Augusta chairman Billy Payne, who faced an awkward time over the women member issue when he faced the world's press last April, has stated the club's view - as it stands.

"Through our established qualifications, and invitations to select international players not otherwise qualified, we historically bring together a collection of the world's top players, and this year is no different," he said.

"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."

Thanks to them and the Royal and Ancient Club setting up the Asia Pacific Amateur, with the winner getting a spot in The Masters and the international qualifying event for The Open, this year will also see Guan Tian-lang, a 14-year-old Chinese sensation, becoming the youngest player in Masters history.

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