Thursday, October 28, 2010

Can the PGA and LPGA Tour bring Asian golf to the ROW?

The popularity of golf is escalating to a fevered frenzy in Asia but can the PGA and LPGA Tour help bring this emerging market to the rest of the world?

With the WGC-HSBC Champions event combining the talents of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson for a possible dream match and Michelle Wie needing a bodyguard to keep fans at bay during the LPGA Malaysia, Asian golf fans are coming out in droves to witness star power in professional golf.

The Asian golf market is relatively unknown here in the USA but has plenty of events during the season sanctioned by the Asian Tour, OneAsia and the Japan Golf Tour. It appears as if all of the Tours operate independently of each other instead of combining strength to create one professional commission with larger purses and better known talent. The LPGA has already established the Japan and Korean Tours but the Ladies Asian Golf Tour remains a separate entity.

In July, Tim Finchem made rumblings that there may be more PGA Tour events springing up in China, Japan and Korea. Currently there are two such events; the inaugural Asia Pacific Classic in Malaysia (co-sanctioned by both the PGA Tour and Asian Tour) and the HSBC-WGC event in Shanghai.

In other words, if you can't bring the Asian Tour to the USA, bring the action of the PGA Tour to Asia.

Although the number of Asian golfers is "increasing in the majors" as Tim Clark has mentioned, Ernie Els doubts that golfers will make the long trip to the region. This, in my opinion, may keep Asian golf segmented from the rest of the world.

"It's a very long way from the U.S. to Asia so any more golf tournaments over here," said Els. It's going to be tough for players to travel. They have a full schedule anyway in the U.S. but it will be interesting to see what the commissioner [Tim Finchem] thinks about it."

Luke Donald has agreed with Els adding that more events on the PGA Tour roster may make the field "a little bit diluted." On the flip-side, Donald sees golf as global adding, that "people want to see the U.S. players playing in Malaysia, China or Japan"

"New events like this tend to increase fan support for the game and create awareness that there are great places around the world to play golf in."

Even though every win still counts and the event money is good, the Asian Swing might deter golfers because of the distance to travel. On the flip side, the Asia-Pacific Classic has a very solid group making the trip: the top twenty-five players on the FedEx Cup standings along with the top ten golfers from the Asian Tour and five sponsor exemptions for a select group of forty will play in this week's event.

Adding the star power of Michelle Wie and Natalie Gulbis to the region for last week's LPGA event in Malaysia will also help gain momentum for an Asian Swing. With all of the professional Tours working together to bring golf into the region by coinciding their events, this Asian Swing can be a success for the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Asian Tours and most importantly, the fans and the growth of golf.

Also read about golf supremacy in Russia?

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