PGA Tour seeking bigger footprint in Asia

Phil Mickelson after winning the 2009 WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, China.

Phil Mickelson after winning the 2009 WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, China.

The PGA Tour’s plans to boost its presence in Asia – potentially by adding a “short series” of events in the Far East – could take greater shape during this week’s Open Championship in St. Andrews, Scotland.

Commissioner Tim Finchem’s recent comments about the Tour’s desire to establish a stage in Japan, Korea and China have more than piqued the interests of executives with the Asian Tour and relative newcomer, the OneAsia circuit.

Both tours are vying for dominance in the region, which features pockets of economic growth and rising public demand for the game. Asia’s potential also has drawn the interest of the European Tour, which aggressively has co-sanctioned tournaments outside its continental borders.

The potential impact of a similar PGA Tour expansion has leaders of the various tours seeking clarification of Finchem’s intentions. Kyi Hla Han, executive chairman of the Asian Tour, said he intends to discuss the matter with Finchem during the International Federation of PGA Tours’ meeting in St. Andrews. Likewise, Ben Sellenger, chief executive of OneAsia, said he hopes to talk with Finchem in Scotland.

Earlier this month, Finchem 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.

“If we’re going to get serious about a presence in Asia, it would probably argue for a short series.”

The Tour already has a footprint in China with the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions, which is an unofficial money event held in November. It also is co-sanctioning with the Asian Tour the inaugural CIMB Asia Pacific Classic, an unofficial, limited-field event scheduled for October in Malaysia.

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