Asian Tour breaks new ground in Scotland, eyes America next, as it leaves DP World Tour partnership in past

The Asian Tour breaks new ground at the St Andrews Bay Championship in Scotland on Thursday, the latest step in its push to be a major player on the world stage.

Little more than 18 months into an initial five-year plan, the organisation has already taken its International Series to the Middle East, across Asia and Australasia, Africa and now into Europe.

This week will be the first time it stages an event in the home of golf, and if its two top officials are correct, there are stops in North, South and Central America to come.

With any country a potential destination, its globalisation beyond what Rahul Singh, the head of the series, called “it’s natural boundaries” is no longer the pipe dream it once seemed.

“One of the most exciting things is that a number of countries that have not necessarily been part of any conversation with the Asian Tour are in touch with us,” Singh said. “People who are reaching out to us to say, how do we get an International Series event to our country?”

Rahul Singh, head of the International Series (left), and Cho Minn Thant, Asian Tour CEO and commissioner with the winner’s trophy at the International Series England. Photo: Asian Tour

Challenging its more established rivals on home soil would have been unthinkable before the influx of Saudi Arabian money into the sport, and Rahul acknowledged it made the Asian Tour “completely different to where we were”.

Now, not only is it holding events in areas once the preserve of the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour (DPWT), the Tour is more than holding its own in terms of prize money, and now in world ranking points as well.

Last week’s stop in Newcastle, which featured 22 players from LIV Golf, offered more of both than at the rival ISPS Handa World Invitational in Northern Ireland. The first time that has happened.

It marked another shift in the move towards parity with the DPWT, and it would not be outlandish to suggest that but for the latter’s status as a feeder tour to North America it could one day overtake it.

“Becoming a member of the Asian Tour has suddenly become attractive,” Cho Minn Thant, the commissioner and CEO, said. “In the past it was your third or fourth option after you missed getting your card in America, Europe or Japan, you came to Asia.

“Now, I can confidently say that we’re ahead of Japan already. And in some instances people are choosing Asia ahead of Europe.”

Andy Ogletree practices his chipping ahead of the St Andrews Bay Championship. Photo: Asian Tour.

The growing rivalry means players will soon have to make a decision about where they compete long term. Several Asian Tour members missed last week’s International Series event to be in Northern Ireland; among them Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond and Japan’s Takumi Kanaya.

There were suggestions some of those with dual memberships were denied letters of release by the DPWT, and while Jazz finished in the top 10, and Kanaya not far behind, Kanaya sacrificed the opportunity to battle for top spot in the International Series, losing significant ground to Andy Ogletree in the race for the place with LIV Golf next season that goes to the order of merit winner.

Next year will provide a better idea of how the two organisations are progressing. The DPWT’s schedule for 2024 includes the Singapore Classic, the return of the Volvo China Open, and a blank week marked ‘Asia’ in March that rumour suggests could involve an event in India.

In the past, the Asian Tour had co-sanctioning tournaments with its European partner which attracted big names and the prize money that went with it.

The Hong Kong Open was one of those, but it returns this year as part of the International Series with a US$2 million purse and the prospect of at least one of the world’s best taking part.

It [the Hong Kong Open] is almost the same if not a stronger field than a co-sanctioned event

Asian Tour CEO Cho Minn Thant

Cho said that there had been no discussion with the DPWT over co-sanctioning in 2024, and the belief within the organisation is it’s not necessarily needed any more.

“We’re pretty much still on our own path,” he said. “We’ve been in discussions with them to try to avoid clashes where possible, but there’s still no working relationship.

“The Hong Kong Open, when it was a co-sanctioned event, half the field came from the European Tour and there were some star players that were paid appearance fees to come.

“If you look at the field this year, you’re almost getting the best of the international players. You’re getting a lot of LIV players coming to play the best of Asia. It’s almost the same if not a stronger field than a co-sanctioned event.”

The two executives have always been consistent in their determination that the International Series, which will be played at 10 locations this year, would not expand beyond a maximum of 15 tournaments.

But where the start of the series has been backed by the US$300 million from the Saudi’s Public Investment Fund, via LIV, the aim is to ultimately ensure each tournament has a title sponsor, or presenting partner.

The understanding is that the first two years of the series’ existence was an investment on LIV’s part, and from 2024 there was an expectation that the local market would take over.

“I can tell you 2024 is going to see significant larger financial contribution from partners,” Singh said. “We’ve already signed one major partner, and conversations are trending in the right direction.”


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