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Major addition?

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Many believe it’s only a matter of time until an Asian wins the Open Championship. And as the global balance of golfing powers tilts to the East, there’s a growing feeling that Asia will become the venue for a fifth major championship on the men’s calendar.

Asian bodies press Finchem for expansion plans

In a BBC interview held during the Open, Peter Dawson, the R&A’s chief executive, highlighted the success of Asians at the Open and last week’s Junior Open at Lundin Links, which was won by Japan’s Kenta Konishi.

Though Dawson would not define what would constitute a major championship, when asked about the possibility of Asia hosting a major championship, he predicted: “It’s hard to believe it won’t happen some day.”

“I’m sure we’ll see the demographic of the field (at the Open) change over the next 10 to 20 years with a lot more Asians,” said Dawson, whose organization now runs an Open Championship International Final Qualifying event in Asia. “We’ll see more and more big tournaments taking place in that part of the world.”

Asian tournaments have been increasing in number and stature of late, most notably with the HSBC Champions in Shanghai being designated a World Golf Championships event. In addition, the PGA Tour is co-sanctioning with the Asian Tour the inaugural CIMB Asia Pacific Classic – an unofficial, limited-field tournament scheduled for October in Malaysia. Such activity could serve as a precursor to an Asian swing, which Tour commissioner Tim Finchem has been contemplating.

Earlier this month, he told The Associated Press: “We’re looking at possibilities in Japan, Korea, China. I’m not saying we will, but we may very well do a short series over there in the fall in the next two or three years.”

This year’s British Open featured 19 Asians – from Japan, Korea, Thailand and Malaysia – a record number for the championship. Seven of them made the cut, led by 20-year-old Korean Jin Jeong (T-14), who last month became the first Asian winner in the 125-year history of the Amateur Championship.

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