Asian Tour would have ‘disappeared’ in a merger with golf’s European Tour
Regional chief Kyi Hla Han says the players opposed a full merger because it would have severely limited their playing opportunities
The Asian Tour saved itself from disappearing altogether by rejecting a full merger with the European Tour, said interim commissioner Kyi Hla Han, with the circuit now focusing on strengthening its identity and providing more opportunities for its players.
Han said a “strategic alliance” with the European Tour means Asian Tour players can enjoy privileges on a fully fledged circuit while rising golfers can use the Asian Development Tour – which he said would have become obsolete had the merger gone through – as a stepping stone.
“The aim was to keep the independent identity of the Asian Tour going,” said Han, whose organisation faced opposition from players – particularly Thai members – during protracted talks with the European Tour.
“We have to give opportunities to young players to keep playing so they can develop their games.
“At the time, it looked like the Asian Tour would disappear, so there were a lot of reservations from most of our players.
“It was going to be that there would be no Asian Tour and no European Tour ... a new brand. There would not have been any security for Asian players to keep their status.”
This month, the Asian Tour announced 14 tournaments for the second half of the year with prize money worth US$36 million.
This includes the US$8 million World Cup of Golf in Australia and the US$9.5 million WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, although the former’s prize money is not included in the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit ranking.
The Tour welcomes back the US$750,000 King’s Cup in Thailand, which is a co-sanctioned event with the majority of places going to Asian Tour members – though not all joint events are top-heavy with regional players.
The two events in partnership with the European Tour in the second half are September’s US$3 million Omega Masters in Switzerland and the US$2 million UBS Hong Kong Open in December.
Malaysia’s US$7 million CIMB Classic in October is co-sanctioned by the US PGA Tour.
The Asian Development Tour features 20 tournaments – 13 in Malaysia – with prize money ranging from US$46,000 to US$150,000.
Han is also hoping that the Asian Tour can bring back the China and Korean tournaments, which in the past few years have been part of the rival OneAsia Tour.
OneAsia’s 20 million yuan Volvo China Open is also part of the European Tour and was this year won by Chinese star Li Haotong.
“Their tournaments there are diminishing,” said Han. “As an ideology, it’s not a bad idea but from a concept point of view, putting it together is kind of tough.
“I think their record speaks for itself. A lot of sponsors and players are still backing us, we are a membership tour and they are not.
“We are trying to reach out and talk. We are talking with Korea, Australia and China and it’s just a matter of time.”