Imagine a PGA Tour season that opens in the second week of January with a co-sanctioned Asian Tour event on mainland soil at Mission Hills before the players head to Hawaii. Picture the crowds flocking to Shenzhen to see Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson do battle alongside top local golfers, given special exemptions. Now that Shanghai is hosting a World Golf Championships (WGC) tournament, the idea was put to PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem during a quick-fire visit to Mission Hills on Friday. Hawaii has two January events - the Mercedes-Benz Championship and the Sony Open - but the murmurs at the Dongguan clubhouse were that a 'regular-season' PGA Tour stop during the mild winter of southern China on one of those weeks might be a natural next step. 'We're open to [the idea] and we are going to go back and look at ways to maybe accomplish that in the next few years,' Finchem said, before adding that he was having discussions with Zhang Xiaonang, secretary general of the China Golf Association. But it is unlikely to happen any time soon, certainly not before the 2016 Olympics and perhaps not until after 2019 when China is likely to be given the chance to host the biennial Presidents Cup. 'The WGC tournament in Shanghai and the World Cup at Mission Hills are the kinds of events that need to happen to create the interest level that will generate the potential that China has to offer,' Finchem said. 'The focus will now be on what additional events would be appropriate in the years to come.' A former college debating champion who became a lawyer and then an adviser to former US president Jimmy Carter, Finchem displayed all his oratory gifts and political dexterity during the final stop of his 18-day Asian tour that took in four other cities in China, Japan and South Korea. He was in Shenzhen to present an award to Mission Hills' founder Dr David Chu for his services in developing golf in China but then had to field tricky questions about why the resort had not been given the chance to host a WGC event. 'It's possible in the future because we like the facilities here at Mission Hills and on Hainan Island, as well,' Finchem said. 'Those facilities would certainly be paramount when we look at potential sites as we move forward. I just think it's premature to assume it will happen.' In the PGA Tour's top job for more than 15 years, Finchem has overseen a period of unprecedented growth and popularity for the world's richest golfing circuit that sees any player in the top 100 of the money-list earning more than US$1 million per year. But unlike the European Tour, which plays more than a third of its events away from the region - including this weekend's UBS Hong Kong Open - its American equivalent has been in no hurry to take its regular season outside the 50 states. Instead, Finchem has been happy to see the world come to the PGA Tour. 'Fifteen years ago we had 20 players from outside the United States but today we have nearly 80,' he said. 'We're very much a global tour and our international television rights are increasingly valuable. As golf grows around the world, it adds more value to the PGA Tour.' Even so, the 62-year-old admits he is staggered by the rapid expansion in China, which has coincided with his tenure at the top of the PGA Tour. 'When I came to Mission Hills in 1995 for the World Cup, it was a very different world to today,' he recalled. 'It went from 50-something golf courses to more than 500 today. To see the changes that have occurred is incredible. I certainly didn't foresee that.' In a golfing sense, Finchem compares China to two nations, which are now well established. One of them recently produced a male major champion for the first time. 'Golf in China seems to be following the pattern that we saw in Sweden and Korea, where it is first viewed as an elitist sport before becoming more accessible to the broader population,' he said. 'It's like a pyramid. To get to a player to the PGA Tour level you need to have a lot of people playing.' Finchem also observed from his Asian travels the extra excitement the game's addition to the Olympics produced. 'I've learned there's a very strong expectation: not just about golf growing here but that China can produce players that will soon compete at the Olympic level and in the Presidents Cup,' he said. 'I don't think it would be unrealistic that a Chinese player could play in the Presidents Cup in 2019 or win an Olympic medal as early as 2016. It may be pushing it, but I just feel a lot of energy here.' In predicting that China could have 'six or seven players in the top 100' by the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, Finchem hinted he was less confident of the calibre of Brazilian golfers in the host city. 'It is not a strong golf country so we've got to make sure we put our best foot forward in 2016. We need to make sure we're taking advantage of golf being in the Olympics to help grow the game for the future.'