Strategic shifts are a normal part of corporate culture. When UBS decided it was no longer going to renew its title sponsorship of the Hong Kong Open, it simply stated in a press release the decision was 'part of a strategic shift in its sponsorship strategy away from golf.' Some asked why, but I ask why not? Seven years ago the tournament was in a bind when Omega pulled out as title sponsor. UBS stepped up when it was most needed but the golfing landscape, as well as the economic landscape, has changed severely in Asia over the past seven years. China is drunk with money on golf and is making no effort to hide it. While UBS has no shortage of funds under its control, it may have found the money being thrown around on golf out here to be somewhat vulgar and ostentatious. It was aided greatly this year in assembling a quality field thanks to HK$8 million from the Tourism Commission's Mega Events Fund (MEF), but no one knows yet if that money will be available next year. But what is truly the value in sponsoring this type of event for a group like UBS? The branding certainly helps. However, it is hard to beat the type of branding you get when you have over 2.2 trillion in Swiss Francs (HK$18.6 trillion) in invested assets. Perhaps the most direct and tangible benefit for UBS is entertaining clients and in that regard it has set up a top-flight hospitality structure behind the 18th green. Wealth management is one of its principal chores and there is no shortage of wealth to manage in Hong Kong. But I figure most of its investors won't pull out their portfolios because UBS is no longer involved in golf. In fact, with the idiotic sums being paid out for golf events and appearance fees these days, most of its clients may find UBS getting out of golf to be a sound business idea. It does leave the Hong Kong Open in search of an identity, at least temporarily. A few years back when Tiger Woods was the most famous sportsman in the world, I banged a drum for bringing him to Hong Kong, no matter what it cost. Fortunately, it didn't happen and not because of his subsequent scandals. Events like the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, which was in its infancy in 2005, needed to create a buzz so they paid Tiger a reported US$5 million to show up. But here in Hong Kong at a tournament that was over 50 years old being played on a course that was over 120 years old, with his massive entourage and pushy phalanx of management flunkies, it would have been a huge distraction. His mere presence would have totally altered the tournament's vibe. I get that now and so, apparently, do a number of the players who recite on cue how much they enjoy coming to Hong Kong and playing in this tournament. Rory McIlroy says it's one of the first tournaments he puts on his calendar, and Ireland's Padraig Harrington says it's where you want to be this week, despite the attractions of Sun City in South Africa and Tiger's event in California. 'It's a really good golf course and a great city and the weather at this time of the year - I think this is the place to be playing golf,' he said. 'There's probably not a place around the world that you'd rather be playing a tournament than Hong Kong this week.' But Harrington has not been back here since he finished runner-up in 2004 and since that time he has gone on to win three majors so his stock went up considerably before dipping these past few years. It's possible he may be a bit more affordable right now and there is no doubt the additional funds the MEF has made available helped. But defending champion Ian Poulter says not all considerations are financial for players. 'If you look back at this tournament, every single year people enjoy themselves in this city,' he said. 'And you have to look at that year in, year out and see where you like to play golf, as opposed to just going somewhere because they have a big prize fund.' Still, the inaugural Lake Malaren Masters in Shanghai featured the reigning Masters, US Open and PGA champions in its field a few weeks back in a tournament that offered US$2 million for first place and US$20 million in appearance-fee money for a field of only 30 players. We don't need that much star power here and we likely won't be getting it in the future. But while tradition, great restaurants and a booming nightlife is nice, it's money that gets you a field. We still need some names here to sell the tournament. How big they will be depends not only on whether the MEF is involved, but what sort of value the new sponsor derives from this tournament. Rumours are strong Omega is coming back and if it's true I certainly wish it well. It will need it, because the price of poker is going through the roof these days in Asian golf.