Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Vijay to Roll Back Wheel Barrow, Play More Asian Tour Events

Perhaps it is news like this that makes the Asian Tour perfectly comfortable in doing their own thing when it comes to the OneAsia Tour concept. Vijay Singh has committed to playing in more Asian Tour events after accepting an honorary membership. You know what that means? As soon as the FEC ends, it's off to Asia to make some big bucks!

The Asian Tour is poised to stage an unprecedented 30 events this season, offering more than $40 million in prize money.

"Golf in Asia is getting bigger and over the next few years we will see many more strong players coming from the Asian Tour," said Singh.

"I'm happy to see this development and I believe it won't stop. We need more big tournaments to get the players going," he said.

Let's try to read between the lines here, from a cynical point of view. There are now 30 events on the Asian Tour offering $40M in prize money. That's a little more than $1 million per event. Realistically, though, that is not an accurate description of the schedule.

There are - technically - 39 events on the schedule. Subtract the four majors, 3 WGC events, and the World Cup, and there are 31 events. 7 events are co-sanctioned by the European Tour and Asian Tour. 4 other events are co-sanctioned by those two tours plus others. Realistically, then, there are 20 events that are strictly Asian Tour events.

21 of the 39 events have purses that are greater than $1 million. Of those, only 1 event is sanctioned only by the Asian Tour - the Korea Open, oddly enough, being defended by Vijay Singh this year. The rest are either majors, WGCs, or co-sanctioned with other tours. Co-sanctioned events - especially those with the European Tour involved - are likely to bring in better players, therefore better sponsors, and therefore better money.

Basically, what I am trying to say is that the Asian Tour is growing, but on the backs of strategic partnerships. There is no doubt that Asian pro golf talent is growing also and expanding into the Indian subcontinent. Still, I contend to you that it seems odd for someone to commit to play on the Asian Tour more often when the money week to week simply is not there compared to the PGA Tour.

That is, until you consider that pretty much every tour in the world except the PGA Tour can pay out appearance fees to players. Once the schedule opens for Singh after the FEC, he can play on the Asian Tour as often as he needs and rake in cash for appearance fees. Of course he will play more often if he knows he will get paid more for just showing up than winning the event outright. Doesn't it seem strange that this wave of support for Asian golf is coming on the heels of the interest of better sponsors - not bigger purses? I'm looking your way, Phil.

You can still have a great tournament without a big purse for the event. All you have to do is bribe the best players in the world for guaranteed money and they will play for a purse of peanuts. It is an interesting strategy, but one that is working for the Asian Tour in their efforts to grow.

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