By Bernie McGuire in Saudi Arabia.
The Asian Tour has joined with Greg Norman’s LIV Golf with the announcement the Asian Tour will from next month host an initial 10-event ‘International Series’.
The Series will kick start in Thailand with the hosting of a $1.5m event at the famed Black Mountain Golf Club. The second event will be on the outskirts of London with a $2m event at the Centurion Club.
Asian Tour CEO Cho Minn Thant joined Norman and also in attendance was recently crowned Asian Tour No. 1 Joohyung Kim with the announcement taking place in the Onyx Room of the Royal Greens clubhouse, host venue for this week’s fourth edition of the Saudi International.
“It comes as a surprise to many of us in this room, but it’s basically part of our strategy to make the Asian Tour more of a global tour,” said Thant.
“We have members from all over the world, 25 different nationalities playing on the Asian Tour. It’s not just for Asians. It’s not just in Asia, and we will be playing in other destinations outside such as the Middle East.
“So, we’ll be playing in Asia, in China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Indonesia, but dates and locations to be confirmed because we are still in the midst of a COVID pandemic where travel is difficult in Asia.
Norman’s involvement with the Asian Tour has clearly ruffled the feathers of the big guns in golf, namely the PGA Tour and DP World Tour, while there was the issue with the R&A’s shock decision prior to Christmas to remove the yearly Asian Tour Order of Merit winner’s invitation in The Open.
Norman revealed he had been approached last March with the suggestion of building the status of the Asian Tour, a Tour that he strongly supported in the early of his professional career.
“From my perspective, being in the game of golf for over 45 years, it’s just a great honour to be sitting here,” said Norman.
“There’s a lot of reasons why I can say that. I’ve been a global player. I’ve been very impressed and helpful in growing the game of golf across all continents that I could possibly go.
“When you’re fortunate enough to be No. 1 player in the world because of your capabilities and your competitive level to get to that spot, it’s no easy feat, but when you get there, you have a lot of responsibilities you have to assume, not necessarily inherit, but you assume, and that responsibility differs for many players.
“My responsibility as the best player in the world was to grow the game of golf as much as I could possibly grow it, and to do that, you had to be eyes wide open and ears wide open to see what was going on around the world.
“Now, a lot has changed in 40 years. There’s no question about it. Joohyung and I were just talking about it inside there, and we said, well, we’re going to when this press conference is finished, just an example, the press conference is finished we’re going to do a couple shows outside here, and one of it is the PGA Memes. His eyes lit up, PGA Memes, yes, yes, yes. That’s the younger generation; that’s what it’s all about. Over a 45-year history and 40 years from now, he’s probably going to be going, PGA Memes? Who’s that?
“But this is an incredible journey, and I’m going to get back to my point. It’s an incredible journey and an opportunity to be able to reach out to every fan, every player, every stakeholder, every partner that you possibly can to grow the game of golf. It doesn’t happen with one individual, it happens with multiple people, multiple organisations, and it happens with the belief that the game of golf is an asset class. We invest in the game of golf for certain reasons, the player on my left and the commissioner of the Asian Tour on my right.
“So, we at LIV Golf Investments, we recognise this, and part of the decisions and behind the scenes discussion we have, we want to understand where and how do you unlock a sleeping giant, and the Asian Tour has been a sleeping giant for a long period of time.”
And the 19-year-old Kim, who sealed the Asian Tour No. 1 title with victory last fortnight at the Singapore International spoke at the announcement about what it means to be an Asian Tour member.
“I feel like Asia is a very underestimated tour because the competition is just absolutely crazy, and you see on the world stage where a lot of Asian people are carrying the flag,” said Kim.
“I think Asian Tour is the start, and this is the pathway to the big stage. Just because of how hard the Tour is, I feel like if you can play well out here, you can play good on the big stage.
“I’m very lucky to be able to play on this tour and to have additional tournaments, and the prize money as well as a very big bonus, and I’m pretty sure all the players are very happy about it.”