The Macau Open has hit the jackpot with the Venetian coming on board as title sponsor. It is the first time that a major casino is backing the Asian Tour event, leading to optimism among officials for the future well-being of the tournament.
"This is just fantastic. It has re-set the Macau Open by having such a big brand backing it," said Mike Kerr, chief executive of the Asian Tour. "In today's environment, acquiring a major sponsor like the Venetian Macau is huge for us and it is only going to get better."
A case in point is the Hong Kong Open. Last year, Swiss banking giant UBS pulled out as title sponsor after a long relationship. The Hong Kong Golf Association has still to confirm who the new title sponsor will be for November's tournament, which is co-sanctioned by the Asian and European tours.
While the prize money for the Macau Open will remain at US$750,000 and the Venetian is only signing on for one year, both the Asian Tour as well as its partner, the Macau Sports Development Board, are confident that a longer-term relationship will ensue.
The tournament, which began in 1998 and has had such illustrious names as Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood among its winners, was cancelled in 2010 due to the lack of a title sponsor. It went ahead last year thanks to government funding.
"Without the support of the gaming industry in Macau, professional sport will struggle," Kerr said. "With the continued support of the government we have now secured a title sponsor with major cachet. We expect a long-term relationship with the Macau Venetian."
The tournament, which will be played from October 11-14 at the Macau Golf and Country Club, has attracted big-name players like Vijay Singh, Padraig Harrington, Nick Faldo, Fred Couples and Mark O'Meara - all major winners - in the past.
"The involvement of the Venetian as title sponsor will have a very positive effect on the development of the Macau Open and we look forward to making this year's championship a very successful one," said Vong Iao-leck, president of the sports board.
Edward Tracy, president and chief executive of Sands China, parent company of the resort hotel, said the involvement with the Macau Open was part of the company's bid to promote Macau as a major tourism city. "Through our association with great sporting events, we will continue to provide quality entertainment and sporting extravaganzas in Macau for everyone's enjoyment, but more importantly, it will promote Macau as a world centre of tourism and leisure," Tracy said.
Organisers have confirmed that two-time winner Zhang Lianwei of China and defending champion Chan Yih-shin of Taiwan would feature in October. "At the moment these are the only two names we can confirm. We will have to wait and see if we can get a couple of marquee names this time, but in the years to come this is certainly one of the targets," Kerr said.
"The most significant aspect is that we have got a title sponsor on board, a major player, for an event which is a full-field Asian Tour event and one which all of our players enjoy taking part in. I'm confident that this is the start of a long and prosperous relationship and that this tournament will continue to get bigger."