Asian boss blasts big money lures
Asian Tour supremo Kyi Hla Han has strongly condemned the practice of paying appearance money to star imports for co-sanctioned events staged within the tour's territory. Marquee players such as South African duo Ernie Els and Retief Goosen, European Ryder Cup stars Colin Montgomerie and Paul Casey and American John Daly are understood to be receiving up to US$250,000 each to play in this week's BMW Asian Open in Shanghai.
Kyi Hla Han, who assumed the helm of the fast-growing Asian Tour last September, said he was 'very uncomfortable' with the principle of paying appearance money to European and US Tour players when the Asian Tour is the host organisation.
'It is not something we like to see here in Asia, but I guess it is a sponsor's decision,' the executive chairman said. 'I did not agree with the practice when I was a player and I don't agree with it now. It effectively takes money out of my members' pockets and we would much rather see all the players' budget going into the prize fund where everyone has the opportunity to earn in direct proportion to performance,' Han said.
Last week's Volvo China Open, which offered a US$2 million prize fund compared to the US$2.3 million on offer at this week's BMW Asian Open, attracted the cream of Asian golf, minus defending champion Jeev Milkha Singh, who missed the cut in the lucrative US Tour event he chose to play, and a workmanlike European Tour entry. The Asian Open has attracted three of the world's top 20, plus Montgomerie (29th) and Daly (234th).
It will be the reported six-figure sum paid to the colourful Daly that particularly sticks in the throats of the Asian Tour players, more than a dozen of whom are ranked higher.
A senior Asian Tour player, who did not wish to be named, said: 'It's wrong. The Asian Tour prize money has risen 100 per cent in three years, thanks to our efforts and our economy, while the European Tour has growth in single figures, and yet their guys come out here and take a million dollars right off the top line.
'These are already fabulously rich guys already. The acid test will come when we see whether Asian Tour players like Jeev [Milkha Singh] and Thongchai [Jaidee] are paid appearance money to play European Tour events, and I think we all know the answer to that one.'
Marco Kaussler, of BMW Golfsport, the Asian Open tournament director said: 'I don't understand the issue. We have increased the prize fund by half-a-million US dollars and events everywhere in the world make special arrangements for star players to add value to their tournaments.'
Kaussler declined to divulge whether star players were contractually precluded from playing in last week's China Open - which has never paid appearance money - but a European Tour source said: 'You can bet on that.'
European Tour chief executive George O'Grady defended the practice, saying: 'It really is not an issue. We have our guidelines for extra-curricular activities and this falls within them.
'In theory, no more than 25 per cent of the prize fund should be paid towards extra-curricular activities, which is what these guys are doing this week in Shanghai.'
It's all about the money
Ernie Els, Retief Goosen and Colin Montgomerie will be appearing in Shanghai. But they don't come cheap
The alleged thousands of US dollars needed to attract a marquee player to this week's Asian Open: 250