Asian Tour Enters Golden Era With 2007 Season
A bumper Schedule consisting a minimum of 29 events with an all-time high of US$26.5 million in total prize money await Asia's best players who begin their chase for the coveted UBS Order of Merit crown at the Pakistan Open starting on Thursday.
"It promises to be our best season yet," said Kyi Hla Han, Executive Chairman of the Asian Tour. "We've got more events and prize money than ever before and I expect our players to perform well, both at home and abroad.
"It's an exciting time for the Asian Tour and I believe that we are entering a golden era for golf in Asia."
Five new tournaments will make its debut, with Indonesia taking a lion's share with three new tournaments lined up this season. History will also be made when Cambodia stages its first professional tournament later in the year. Additionally, no fewer than eight established events will hike up its prize funds.
Last season, Jeev Milkha Singh was the outstanding performer, winning four worldwide titles and lifting a maiden UBS Order of Merit crown. The Indian star, whose world ranking has risen to 36th, will venture abroad more regularly this season in his search for global fame but there will not be any shortage of talents ready to challenge for Singh's prized trophy.
Established names including Thai stalwart Thongchai Jaidee, winner of the season-ending Volvo Masters of Asia on home soil last month, compatriot Thaworn Wiratchant, India's Shiv Kapur and Jyoti Randhawa and Singapore's Mardan Mamat are expected to dominate but an abundance of young guns are ready to upset the Asian order.
Prom Meesawat of Thailand, third on the ranking last year, teenage phenom Chinarat Phadungsil, already a two-time winner, Filipino Juvic Pagunsan, Rookie of the Year in 2006, China's Liang Wen-chong, Korea's Park Jun-won and India's S.S.P Chowrasia are all tipped to sparkle once again.
Han said: "There is so much strength in depth on the Asian Tour. Our experienced players like Jeev, Thongchai and Thaworn have dominated the UBS Order of Merit race over the last three seasons but our young players have also proven that they have the talent and determination to excel.
"This year's calendar, which may well surpass 30 tournaments, reinforces our mission to create exciting tournaments for our players, spectators, television viewers and valued sponsors. We are on course in maintaining our push towards the forefront of international golf."
Ultimately, Han is confident that a strong Asian Tour Schedule will eventually produce Asia's first Major champion.
"Jeev Singh and Choi Kyung-ju, who cut his professional teeth in Asia, have won tournaments against the world's best players in Europe and the United States. There is no reason to believe that our players cannot achieve a Major breakthrough in the near future, if not this season," said Han.
Amongst the major events on the Asian Tour in 2007 will include the Barclays Singapore Open, which at US$4 million will be Asia's richest national Open, the UBS Hong Kong Open, Volvo China Open, BMW Asian Open, Johnnie Walker Classic, HSBC Champions and Maybank Malaysian Open, of which many have raised their prize funds.
A total of nine events will be co-sanctioned with the European Tour, which Han says will continue to benefit both Tours and the players.
2007 ASIAN TOUR SCHEDULE
Jan 18-21: Pakistan Open, Karachi GC, Karachi, US$300,000
Jan 25-28: Commercialbank Qatar Masters*, Doha GC, Doha, US$2.2 million
Feb 1-4: Philippine Open, Wack Wack GCC, Manila, US$300,000
Feb 8-11: Maybank Malaysian Open*, Saujana GCC, Kuala Lumpur, US$1.29 million
Feb 15-18: Enjoy Jakarta Astro Indonesia Open*, Damai Indah GCC, Jakarta, US$1 million
Mar 1-4: Johnnie Walker Classic#, Blue Canyon CC, Phuket, US$2.44 million
Mar 8-11: Singapore Masters*, Laguna National GCC, Singapore, US$1 million
Mar 15-18: TCL Classic*, Venue TBC, US$1 million
Mar 22-25: Motorola International Bintan, Ria Bintan GC, Bintan, US$350,000
Mar 27-28: The Open Championship IFQ, Sentosa GC, Singapore
Apr 12-15: Volvo China Open*, Shanghai Silport GC, Shanghai, US$2 million
Apr 19-22: BMW Asian Open*, Tomson Shanghai Pudong GC, US$1.5 million
May 3-6: Maekyung Open, Venue TBC, Seoul, US$600,000
May 17-20: Macau Open, Macau GCC, Macau, US$300,000
May 24-27: SK Telecom Open, Venue TBC, Seoul, US$600,000
May 31-June 3: Jakarta Masters, Venue TBC, US$500,000
June 14-17: Bangkok Airways Open, Santiburi Samui CC, Samui, US$300,000
June 28-July 1: Crowne Plaza Open, Venue TBC, Malaysia, US$300,000
July 5-8: Johor Classic, Royal Johor GC, Johor Bahru, Malaysia, US$300,000
July 12-15: Brunei Open, Empire Hotel and CC, Bandar Seri Begawan, US$300,000
Aug 16-19: Dynasty Cup**, Venue TBC
Aug 23-26: Indonesian International Championship, Venue TBC, Jakarta, US$400,000
Sept 6-9: Pulai Springs Malaysian Masters, Pulai Springs Resort, Johor Bahru, US$300,000
Sept 20-23: Taiwan Open, Sunrise GCC, Taipei, US$1 million
Sept 27-30: Mercuries Taiwan Masters, Taiwan GCC, Taipei, US$500,000
Oct 4-7: Kolon-Hana Bank Korea Open, Woo Jeong Hills CC, Seoul, US$750,000
Oct 11-14: Hero Honda Indian Open, Delhi GC, New Delhi, US$500,000
Oct 25-28: TBA
Nov 1-4: Barclays Singapore Open, Sentosa GC, Singapore, US$ 4 million
Nov 8-11: HSBC Champions (s), Sheshan International GC, Shanghai, US$5 million
Nov 15-18: UBS Hong Kong Open*, Hong Kong GC, Hong Kong, US$2 million
Nov 22-25: WGC-World Cup, Mission Hills GC, Shenzhen, China, US$5 million
Dec 6-9: Cambodian Open, Phokeethra CC, Siem Reap, US$300,000
Dec 13-16: Volvo Masters of Asia, Thai CC, Bangkok, US$650,000
* Co-sanctioned with European Tour
** Co-sanctioned with Japan Golf Tour Organisation
# Tri-sanctioned with European Tour and Australasian Tour
(s) Special Event.