India's Shubhankar Sharma gets Masters invitation

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PALM HARBOR, Fla. (AP) — Shubhankar Sharma can add another achievement to his rapid rise. He's going to the Masters.

Two days after Sharma held the 54-hole lead in his first World Golf Championships appearance, the 21-year-old from India accepted a special invitation to play in the Masters next month.

He will be the fourth Indian to play the Masters, and the second to receive a special invitation. Jeev Milkha Singh, a mentor to Sharma, received one in 2008.

"Golf is a global game, and throughout our history we have extended invitations to deserving international players not otherwise qualified," Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley said. "As his results have proven, Shubhankar Sharma is a remarkable young player."

Sharma was at No. 462 in the world three months ago when he shot 61 in the second round and won the Joburg Open. He closed with a 62 last month to win the Malaysian Open, making him the only two-time winner on the European Tour this season.

Sharma also leads the Race to Dubai.

"I am deeply honoured to be found worthy of invitation by the Masters Committee. It's a dream come true. My gratitude," Sharma said on Twitter.

He held at two-shot lead going into the final round of the Mexico Championship last week, but he failed to make a birdie until the 12th hole and a string of bogeys late in the round dropped him into a tie for ninth.

It still was enough for Sharma to rise to No. 66 in the world.

This is the first time since 2013 the Masters has awarded a special invitation. It usually reserves such invitations to international players who, unlike PGA Tour members, do not have as much access to qualifying, such as winning PGA Tour events or making it to the FedEx Cup finale at the Tour Championship.

International players typically are among the top 100 in the world ranking when they receive an invitation.

Sharma, who turned pro at 16, is playing this week at his home course (DLF Golf Club) in New Delhi at the Hero Indian Open. He is on the bubble in the final week of qualifying for the next World Golf Championship, the Dell Technologies Match Play in two weeks in Austin, Texas.

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