| PGA TOUR’s Oc­to­ber Asia Fest

HK Golfer - - Contents - By Chuah Choo Chi­ang

Three world-class golf tour­na­ments, three ex­cit­ing and yet di­verse des­ti­na­tions and a whop­ping US$26.5 mil­lion in to­tal prize money on of­fer

Three world-class golf tour­na­ments, three ex­cit­ing and yet di­verse des­ti­na­tions and a whop­ping US$26.5 mil­lion in to­tal prize money on of­fer - wel­come to the PGA TOUR’s an­nual Oc­to­ber fest, writes Chuah Choo Chi­ang.

It is be­com­ing a won­der­ful tra­di­tion for the game in the Far East when fans can pre­pare to wel­come and cel­e­brate the best golfers on the planet, thanks largely to the PGA TOUR band­wagon which rolls into town in suc­ces­sive weeks with the CIMB Clas­sic in Malaysia, CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES in South Korea and World Golf Cham­pi­onships-HSBC Cham­pi­ons in China.

Mega-events at­tract the big­gest stars of the game who de­liver the glitz, glam and fire­works on the fair­ways and it prom­ises to be a glo­ri­ous run of tour­na­ments in a re­gion widely ac­knowl­edged as the game’s most sig­nif­i­cant growth op­por­tu­nity.

From Dustin John­son to Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka to Justin Thomas, Francesco Moli­nari to Hideki Mat­suyama and Pa­trick Reed to Rory McIl­roy, many of these su­per­stars have punched their tick­ets to Asia in chase of top dol­lar, earl­y­sea­son FedExCup points and ul­ti­mately be a part of a TOUR which is help­ing to grow the game around the world.

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

The US$7 mil­lion CIMB Clas­sic kick-starts the fes­tiv­i­ties at TPC Kuala Lumpur from Oc­to­ber 11 to 14, with vet­eran star Pat Perez de­fend­ing his ti­tle against a stel­lar cast which in­cludes world No. 4 Justin Thomas, him­self a dou­ble CIMB Clas­sic cham­pion in 2015/16.

The US$9.5 mil­lion CJ CUP, the new­est ad­di­tion to the PGA TOUR’s Sched­ule last sea­son, will see Thomas, the 2016-17 FedExCup win­ner, re­turn­ing to Jeju Is­land in search of a fourth win in the re­gion. The WGCHSBC Cham­pi­ons will con­clude the fes­tiv­i­ties with new world No. 1 Justin Rose and the ti­tle holder head­lin­ing the starry field in She­shan In­ter­na­tional Golf Club.

When Mon­a­han vis­ited the in­au­gu­ral CJ CUP last year, he told the Korean me­dia that the TOUR hopes to in­spire more golfers into the sport, which re­port­edly now has more than 80 mil­lion peo­ple play­ing the game glob­ally and Asia’s grow­ing mid­dle-class seg­ment ex­pected to raise the fig­ures in the years to come.

“It’s an hon­our to be in this golf crazed­mar­ket (South Korea) and it re­ally is a re­mark­able mar­ket­place for golf. I think as you look to to­day and look to the fu­ture and in fact if you look to the past, 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 here in South Korea for the CJ CUP,” said Mon­a­han.

The stars too have em­braced the 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 has been 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’s ex­panded out­side the United States. I think it's im­por­tant for the game. When I was com­ing up, the game wasn't that global. But I think there're so many great new, young play­ers world­wide that it's im­por­tant to get all these kids or play­ers to­gether be­cause you can see there's so much com­pe­ti­tion go­ing on.”

Xan­der Schauf­fele, the 2016-17 Rookie of the Year, epit­o­mises the game’s facet best. “I have a very in­ter­na­tional back­ground… my dad's half French, half Ger­man. My mom's Tai­wanese, grew up in Ja­pan. So, it's cool that golf has al­lowed me to start here in Malaysia, then Korea, then China. If you want to be one of the best play­ers in the world, you have to be a global player. You have to col­lect fans in dif­fer­ent coun­tries and play well in dif­fer­ent coun­tries.”

Ad­di­tion­ally, the PGA TOUR’s col­lab­o­ra­tion with other golf bodies in­clud­ing the Asian Tour, Korean PGA and China Golf As­so­ci­a­tion have pro­vided pos­i­tive in­flu­ences as well, as ex­plained by 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. It also got me a chance to gauge what the level of golf is and where I needed to take my golf and el­e­vate 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,” said Lahiri, now a reg­u­lar on the PGA TOUR.

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 is ben­e­fit­ting,” he said.

Chuah Choo Chi­ang is Se­nior Di­rec­tor, Com­mu­ni­ca­tions of the PGA TOUR and is based in TPC Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Dustin John­son and Brooks Koepka, two of the big­gest names onthe PGA Tour

Justin Thomas will re­turn to Jeju Is­land in search of his fourth win in the re­gion

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