As he waltzed to victory at Fanling in 1987, Ian Woosnam not only enhanced his standing as one of the world's outstanding golfing talents, but also added further credence to the reputation of the Hong Kong Open as the region's premier national Open championship. Over the ensuing 12 years, much water has passed under the bridge for Woosnam . . . and the Hong Kong Open. Born in 1958, the year before the launch of the Hong Kong Open, Woosnam has seen his stocks slowly dip since scaling the peaks in 1991 when he won the US Masters and topped the world rankings. When he teed-off at the Hong Kong Golf Club last Thursday, Woosnam's ranking had slipped to 73rd. By his own admission, 1999, which he began in 36th place in the standings, has been a far from vintage year for him. Neither did he win an event on his home Tour in Europe, nor, for the first time in more than a decade, did he qualify for the European Ryder Cup team. How wonderful then to see him regain a semblance of his old form and confidence this past week. If his Hong Kong Open triumph in 1987 helped to truly launch his career, who's to say that his runner-up finish in 1999 won't re-ignite his competitive fires and provide the perfect platform for a revival in his fortunes going into the 21st century? But Woosnam, speaking prior to the tournament, readily acknowledged that he was not the force he was when he thrilled the Hong Kong galleries in 1987. The same might be said of the Hong Kong Open. Among other things, Woosnam, along with Zimbabwe's Mark McNulty, opined that Hong Kong's premier golfing showpiece needs to link up with one or more of the recognised international Tours. Failure to do so, they concurred, would be potentially damaging to the future of the SAR's longest-running professional sporting event. Indeed, the Hong Kong Open is among only a handful of major tournaments in Asia that is not a fully fledged component of the Asian PGA Tour, although the Asian PGA is allocated 60 spots in the starting lineup for its members. Following the demise of the Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation's Asian Tour, the Hong Kong Golf Association (HKGA), the Open's guardian, has steadfastly opted to remain an independent tournament with no affiliations. While the HKGA says the Open can stand on its own, the dangers of continuing along this road are many. For without being part of a proper Tour, the tournament runs the risk of becoming increasingly isolated and alienated. Finding a date on the ever more crowded golfing calendar that does not clash with another event in the region will inevitably prove ever more difficult. So, too, will attracting players. Not just marquee names but the rank-and-file who make up the majority in any field and provide the strength in depth. A suitable date and a strong field are prerequisites for a successful tournament. Without them no sponsor will be forthcoming. And without a sponsor, you don't have a tournament. It's for those reasons that the ruling golfing bodies in China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand have aligned themselves with the Asian PGA Tour, the latest addition to the PGA Tours International Federation that also includes the Tours in the US, Europe, Japan, Australia and Southern Africa. Why not the HKGA? It's certainly not because it hasn't been courted. Yes, the Hong Kong Open, with its rich history and tradition, remains a valuable and attractive property. However, if the HKGA continues to reject the chance to join the mainstream, how does it expect to restore the Open to its former glory as one of the jewels in Asia's golf tournament crown?