Upon seeing the PGA Tour join other tours in trying to stake out a presence in Asia, one high-ranking tournament official said two years ago, “The Far East looks a lot like the Wild, Wild West.”
That appears to be the case with two tournaments next week.
CHILDREN'S MIRACLE NETWORK HOSPITALS CLASSIC
For thr first time since 2003, the PGA Tour money title will be decided in the season finale at Disney World.
The PGA Tour has its CIMB Asia Pacific Classic in Malaysia, which began last year with 25 top players from the FedExCup standings as part of a 40-man field playing for a $6 million purse. The winner gets $1 million. The field includes Brandt Snedeker, Lucas Glover, Brendan Steele and Jhonattan Vegas.
It’s up against a new tournament called the Shanghai Masters that IMG put together at Lake Malaren. It’s not sanctioned by a major tour, thus has no set criteria and will get no world ranking points. But it has put together a field that dwarfs Malaysia. And while it has a $5 million purse, it is offering $2 million to the winner, the richest first-place check in golf.
The 30-man field includes three major champions -- Charl Schwartzel, Rory McIlroy and Keegan Bradley -- along with Lee Westwood, Jim Furyk, Geoff Ogilvy, Hunter Mahan, Anthony Kim, K.J. Choi, Louis Oosthuizen, Padraig Harrington, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey and Y.E. Yang. All are getting appearance money, and last place pays $25,000. John Daly and Colin Montgomerie also are in the field.
The PGA Tour -- not to mention Malaysia title sponsor CIMB -- is not happy about the new tournament, especially with 16 of its tour members involved. Because it is not a sanctioned event, the players do not need a conflicting-event release.
The HSBC Champions in Shanghai is the following week, adding to the appeal of the Shanghai Masters.
Chubby Chandler of International Sports Management said he expects the Shanghai Masters to be a European Tour-sanctioned event next year. If that’s the case, there must be an established criteria.
“It’s probably a similar event to Malaysia,” Chandler said.
It was a perfect fit for China, which is desperate to attract top players but still needs help -- IMG, in this case -- to run the tournament.
Chandler just returned from China after an exhibition in which McIlroy, Westwood and Poulter were part of a group that went to seven courses in seven cities over seven days to play a total of 18 holes, promoted as the best holes in China.
“We went to one city I had never heard of that had 32 million people,” Chandler said. “It was a fantastic experience. It was like an adventure. There is no recession in China, believe me. The middle class is growing. There’s a lot of people with a lot of money, but there’s a lot more with a little bit of money.”
That explains the interest in China, along with other parts of Asia. Chandler has predicted there would be more European Tour events in Asia than in Europe within five years. After his trip, he adjusted his forecast.
“It will be three years,” he said.
Next week is another example of a crowded schedule, and how competition is not just among players. Chandler said he expected the PGA Tour to be upset with the new tournament in Shanghai. But noting that the field included the likes of Mahan, Furyk and Bradley, he added, “I’m just glad it’s not my boys taking all the heat this time.”