New Delhi:Jeev Milkha Singh, the first Indian to play at the Augusta Masters will once again hit the greens at the Augusta National Club. The Indian star, who won great accolades for his brilliant performance last year, has been invited for the event again.
Also invited for the Masters in April are two other Asian Tour players Liang Wen Chong and Prayad Marksaeng.
Jeev, Asia's number one in 2006, made history last year when he became the first Indian to qualify for the Masters after breaking into the world's top-50 and enjoyed a memorable debut by finishing tied 37th.
Singh was surprised to receive a return trip to the Masters as he had slipped to 81st in the world. The invitation certainly marked a memorable month for the Indian who got married to childhood friend Kudrat January 4.
"I couldn't have asked for a better start to the year," said Jeev from Doha, where he is scheduled to play the Qatar Masters this week. "I was planning to work my way back into the world's top-50 to qualify again."
"It's a dream come true as the Masters is my favourite championship. I'm going to try and improve from last year's finish as I enjoyed playing at Augusta National. Second time around, I'm still as excited going to the Masters," he said.
He said it was rewarding to see three Asian Tour members being invited to the Masters.
"I want to thank the Masters' committee for extending the invitations to Asian competitors. I believe it is a great recognition for us," Jeev said.
Asian Tour executive chairman Kyi Hla Han was pleased with the invitations, saying it was another recognition of the tour's growing stature.
"We are delighted for our three players. It is another endorsement for the Asian Tour and I would like extend our appreciation to Augusta National chairman Billy Payne and his committee members for their belief and vision for golf in Asia.
"I am confident that Liang Wen-chong, Prayad Marksaeng and Jeev Milkha Singh will fly the Asian Tour flag proudly at Augusta National in their quest to challenge the world's best golfers," he said.
Liang, winner of the Asian Tour's Order of Merit last season, will become the second Chinese after mentor Zhang Lian-wei to play at the prestigious Masters Tournament while Prayad will be the third Thai player to feature at Augusta National.
Liang said: "I received a phone call last Friday from Buzzy Johnson (of Augusta National) who informed me that I have been invited to play in the Masters. I was very happy to receive the call. I've always hoped I could play in the Masters but I just kept waiting patiently.
"I knew that the Masters has invited top Asian players in the past and after winning the Order of Merit last month, I didn't want to think about it as it's not within my control. Not everybody can get into the Masters and I'm happy I have been given a chance."
Liang, ranked 91st in the Official World Golf Ranking, won once and posted eight other top-10s en route to becoming the first Asian Tour number one from China. With the invitation to the Masters, he hopes to better Zhang's appearance in 2004 by playing in all four rounds.
"That would be my target. I will watch old videos of the Masters and try to learn about the golf course. I will talk to Zhang to find out more about the tournament," said Liang.
Prayad, a six-time winner on the Asian Tour, will follow in the footsteps of countrymen Sukree Onsham and Thongchai Jaidee when he tees up at the hallowed turf of Augusta National. The Thai, who turns 42 later this month, never thought he could play at the Masters.
"I am very excited. I've always asked my manager if I could have a chance to play in the Masters and then I get a phone call last week," said Prayad.
The smooth swinging Thai enjoyed a strong season in 2007, winning the season-ending Volvo Masters of Asia as well as posting six other top-10s on the Asian Tour. He also enjoyed a good year in Japan, registering seven top-10s to finish 10th on the money list.
"My performance last year was quite smooth and it has given me the rewards. My world ranking is up to 79th right now and I hope to break into the top-50," said Prayad, the first Thai to play in the British Open in 1999.
"I would like to make the cut in the Masters and if I can finish in a good position, it would be nice. I will try my best," he added.
The Thai plans to engage Posom Meeposom, who caddied for Thongchai at the Masters in 2006 and also tap on Thongchai's knowledge on Augusta National.
"Thongchai used to tell me that the Masters was very difficult. I haven't had a chance to talk to him yet but I also plan to call Posom to caddie for me. I hope I can do well and show everyone how good Asian players are," said Prayad.