The Asian Tour has come out and defended this week’s historic hosting of the St. Andrews Bay Championship at the Home of Golf in Scotland.
The staging of the $1.5m event right on the doorstep of the famed golfing city has attracted a number of LIV-based players including Masters champion Sergio Garcia along with fellow European Ryder Cup stars Paul Casey and Bernd Wiesberger.
The event is one of 10 tournaments to feature on the Asian Tour’s 2023 International Series in association with the Saudi Arabian-backed LIV Golf and this week’s host, the Fairmont Resort course, is located on the eastern outskirts of the town of St. Andrews, just four miles from the R&A clubhouse at the course the town is best known for.
Initially, news to play an Asian Tour event in St. Andrews certainly raised the eyebrows of many in the golf world, including the DP World Tour that hosted two Hero Opens on the Torrance Course along with a Seniors Tour event, while the R&A must also have questioned the move.
However, you only have to look back earlier this year when the DP World Tour hosted back-to-back events in Singapore and Thailand, on the very doorstep of the Asian Tour, without seeking the Asian Tour’s involvement.
As well, the Asian Tour was far from pleased when the R&A stripped the Asian Tour Order of Merit champion of an Open Championship invitation to the 2022 Open Championship at St. Andrews and the recent Open Championship at Royal Liverpool due to the Tour’s links with Saudi Arabia and LIV Golf.
Cho Minn Thant addressed the decision to host a regular Tour event in St. Andrews when speaking to BBC Scotland.
“It’s the home of golf, and we’re an international golf organisation, so why not?” said Thant, the Asian Tour Commissioner. “We like to have that local flavour wherever we go.”
Thant has been a regular visitor to St. Andrews in his role, including last year when representing the Asian Tour at the 150th Open Championship as a VIP guest at the annual Association of Golf Writers dinner before catching COVID and being confirmed to his Fairmont Resort hotel room.
“I think I’ve been to St. Andrews six or seven times now because it really does have the feel of the home of golf.
“Just being there in the town, you walk round the streets and on every corner there is a golf shop, or iconic hotel. The whole feel of the town is just ‘golf.’ I do always make sure I go for fish and chips, too.”
Of course, the Asian Tour was in England last week for the International Series England event at Close House won by current Asian Tour Order of Merit leader Andy Ogletree as the American went on to win by an impressive seven shots.
We also learned last week from LIV Golf star Graeme McDowell how much he would welcome an International Series event being played at his beloved Royal Portrush.
“We’ve been working very closely with the management of Fairmont so we can produce a very good-looking event on TV,” said Thant.
“We did Newcastle as a one-off last year but it made sense for us to do back-to-back weeks in Europe. The feedback from the players is that they would like that.
“So, we’re all really looking forward to this week.”