New sponsorship deal expected to lift total purse to US$2.5 million in 2008 The Hong Kong Open is set to lure more and higher-ranked international players to the tournament following the announcement yesterday of a substantial cash injection from a new title sponsor. Organisers of the Open, the premier tournament in the territory, said Swiss investment bank UBS had signed a four-year agreement with the European Tour and Parallel Media Group (PMG) to replace outgoing sponsor Omega. The agreement will take Asia's second-longest-running tournament through to its 50th anniversary in 2008, with UBS substantially increasing the prize fund from last year's US$800,000 to US$1.2 million this year. This figure is projected to increase to US$2.5 million over the four-year term of the contract. Hong Kong Golf Association chief executive Iain Valentine said: 'We are delighted to welcome UBS on board. The Hong Kong Golf Association is incredibly proud of this tournament, which has a long and illustrious history as one of the oldest professional sporting events in Asia. With this fantastic four-year commitment from UBS ... we are confident our national Open will continue to grow even more in stature.' The tournament, co-sanctioned by the European Tour, the Asian Tour and the Hong Kong Golf Association, is the third event on the 2006 European Tour schedule and will be played at the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling on December 1-4, with PMG as the event promoter. It would also be the fifth year that the tournament had been jointly sanctioned by the European Tour and the Asian Tour. Since the event became jointly sanctioned, the winners have been two-time US Masters winner Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain (2001), Swede Fredrik Jacobson (2002), Irishman Padraig Harrington (2003) and Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez (2004). Increasing the prizemoney brings the Open on par with other major tournaments in Asia, such as the Malaysia Open and China Open, which each offer total purses of US$1 million. Organisers are hoping that the tournament becomes a focus for professionals seeking to play in a big tournament at the end of the year. The great tradition associated with the Hong Kong Open, which has seen some of the world's top players compete for the title, was a major factor in UBS's decision to take on the title sponsorship. A second reason was the status of the Open as one of the most prestigious tournaments on both the Asia-Pacific calendar and the PGA European and Asian Tour schedules. Keith Waters, director of international policy for the European Tour, said: 'We welcome this new four-year agreement, which will enable the event to celebrate its golden anniversary in style in 2008.' Louis Martin, chief executive of the Asian Tour, added: 'As Asia's second-longest-running tournament, the Hong Kong Open commands a special place on the Asian Tour schedule and we look forward to another successful edition of the UBS Hong Kong Open at Fanling in December.' The tournament has a rich and varied history since it was first played in 1959, when the winner was Taiwan's Lu Liang-huan - more popularly known as Mr Lu. Over the years, the tournament has been won by several major championship winners, including Bernhard Langer, Orville Moody, Kel Nagle, Greg Norman, Peter Thomson, Tom Watson and Ian Woosnam.