PGA Tour primed for its an­nual Far East feast

China Daily (Canada) - - SPORTS - By CHUAH CHOO CHI­ANG

Three world-class tour­na­ments, three ex­cit­ing desti­na­tions and a whop­ping $26.5 mil­lion in prize money up for grabs.

Wel­come to the PGA Tour’s an­nual Oc­to­ber fest.

The tour heads east this month with suc­ces­sive weekly treats at the CIMB Clas­sic in Malaysia, CJ Cup in South Korea and the World Golf Cham­pi­onships-HSBC Cham­pi­ons in China.

The events at­tract the game’s big­gest stars, with the likes of Dustin John­son, Justin Rose, Justin Thomas, Francesco Moli­nari, Pa­trick Reed and Rory McIl­roy all punch­ing their tick­ets to Asia in chase of big purses, FedExCup points and the chance to be part of the game’s global growth.

“The PGA Tour is a global or­ga­ni­za­tion, we’ve got a global mem­ber­ship and we are an im­por­tant part of a global sport,” said Jay Mon­a­han, PGA Tour com­mis­sioner.

The $7 mil­lion CIMB Clas­sic kick­starts the swing at TPC Kuala Lumpur from Oct 11-14, with veteran star Pat Perez de­fend­ing his ti­tle against a stel­lar cast which in­cludes 2017 FedExCup win­ner Justin Thomas, him­self a dou­ble CIMB Clas­sic cham­pion in 2015 and ’16.

The $9.5 mil­lion CJ Cup, the new­est ad­di­tion to the PGA Tour’s sched­ule last sea­son, will see Thomas re­turn­ing to Nine Bridges on Jeju Is­land in search of a fourth win in the re­gion be­fore Asia’s lone World Golf Cham­pi­onships event, the WGC-HSBC Cham­pi­ons, wraps up the fes­tiv­i­ties with ti­tle­holder Justin Rose head­lin­ing the starry field at She­shan In­ter­na­tional Golf Club.

When Mon­a­han vis­ited the in­au­gu­ral CJ Cup last year, he the tour hopes to in­spire many more peo­ple to take up golf, which re­port­edly now has more than 80 mil­lion play­ers glob­ally.

Asia’s grow­ing mid­dle class is ex­pected to sig­nif­i­cantly raise that fig­ure in years to come.

“It’s an honor to be in this golf-crazed mar­ket (South Korea) and it re­ally is a re­mark­able mar­ket place for golf,” said Mon­a­han.

“I think as you look to to­day and look to the fu­ture, 10 years from now and be­yond, we hope we are in­spir­ing a new gen­er­a­tion of fans and new gen­er­a­tion of play­ers by hav­ing the best play­ers of the world in South Korea for the CJ Cup.”

The stars have em­braced the PGA Tour’s vi­sion with both hands.

Not only do they en­joy the op­por­tu­nity to per­form in front of new fans, the di­verse cul­tures from one city to the next is a strong pull in their de­ci­sions to ven­ture abroad.

“The game is so global now,” said Perez, who won the CIMB Clas­sic by four shots last year.

“I think it’s awe­some that the tour has ex­panded out­side North Amer­ica. I think it’s im­por­tant for the game. When I was com­ing up, the game wasn’t so global, but I think there are so many great young play­ers world­wide that it’s im­por­tant to get all of them to­gether be­cause you can see there’s so much com­pe­ti­tion go­ing on.”

The PGA Tour’s col­lab­o­ra­tion with other golf bod­ies, in­clud­ing the Asian Tour, Korean PGA and China Golf As­so­ci­a­tion, has pro­vided pos­i­tive in­flu­ences, said In­dia’s Anir­ban Lahiri.

“I think this is a great, great plat­form. A lot of play­ers, of the 10 guys who qual­i­fied (from the Asian Tour for CIMB Clas­sic), I think there’s a whole bunch who could con­tend. I learned so much from my first two or three times that I played this event,” said Lahiri.

“It also got me a chance to gauge what the level of golf is and where I needed to el­e­vate my game to that level so that I could be full-time on the PGA Tour.

“For a lot of the young play­ers, it will be the first step. But you never know where that path leads, so it’s great.”

Mon­a­han is con­vinced the PGA Tour’s foot­print in Asia can fur­ther con­trib­ute to­wards the game’s grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity.

“One of the six tenets to our mis­sion state­ment is to grow the game, and any time we are ac­tively grow­ing, di­ver­si­fy­ing, de­vel­op­ing the game, open­ing new mar­kets, hope­fully ev­ery­body that’s in­volved in the game ben­e­fits,” he said.

The writer is se­nior di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions for the PGA Tour and is based at TPC Kuala Lumpur. He can be reached at chuahcc@pga­tour­intl.com.my

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