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New Zealand Open joins European Tour

New Zealand Golf (NZG) landed a major coup today when it confirmed the New Zealand Open in January will be co-sanctioned by the European Tour.

The February 10-13 Australasian PGA Tour event at Gulf Harbour on Auckland's Whangaparoa Peninsula is set to become one of the country's richest sporting events.

NZG chief executive Larry Graham told Radio Sport today the European tour officials recognised that New Zealand could host top quality international events.

The deal between the Australasian PGA and European Tour was for five years, with prize money topping 750,000 euros ($1.4 million).

"There are now some good reasons to come down this way and they are all part of the global expansion of golf and I think it's a smart move," Graham said.

The 88th New Zealand Open will form part of three events on the Australasia PGA Tour that are co-sanctioned with the European Tour, alongside the Johnnie Walker Classic and Heineken Open in Melbourne.

"This is a wonderful boost for golf in this country, and will ensure our sport, our players and our country have a considerably enhanced profile through the massive television audience that goes with a co-sanctioned European event," Graham said.

Controversy surrounded the lead-up to the announcement, after New Zealand's No 1 golfer Michael Campbell earlier this month slated Gulf Harbour, calling it the worst designed course he's ever played on.

Despite Campbell's criticism, Graham said the world No 66 and 2000 New Zealand Open champion had confirmed by video link at today's announcement at Gulf Harbour that he would be playing.

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