Asian Tour set for second half of season
An array of Major champions led by Tiger Woods will grace Asia 's finest fairways when the Asian Tour begins its record homeward run with the resumption of its 2005 season this week.
After a nine-week mid-season break, the Volkswagen Masters - China in Beijing , starting from Thursday, will kick off a lucrative stretch of 14 events across the region and will end with the season-finale Volvo Masters of Asia in Thailand in December.
In between, several events will make its debut on the Asian Tour, including the Bangkok Airways Open and Double A International Open, both in Thailand . The Singapore Open at Sentosa Golf Club from September 8-11 will be one of the main highlights. With US$2 million on offer and the likes of Adam Scott, Thongchai Jaidee, Lee Westwood, Thaworn Wiratchant, Darren Clarke, Nick O'Hern and Crag Parry competing, the championship will be the richest national Open in the region.
The HSBC Champions Tournament, which will be headlined by world number one Woods, will be played for the first time in Shanghai where tournament winners from the various Tours from Asia, Europe, South Africa and Australasia will receive invites to the US$5 million event. This tournament will not count towards the Asian Tour Order of Merit.
By the time the curtain comes down at the end of the year, the Asian Tour will have hosted 28 official tournaments and offered over US$20 million in prize money, an unprecedented achievement for professional golf in Asia.
"We can certainly expect some glorious golf during the second half of the Asian Tour season," predicted Louis Martin, Chief Executive, Asian Tour.
"There are many lucrative events and the best players from the Asian Tour will be battling hard in search of glory and riches. We enjoyed a great first half of the year but I'm sure we can all anticipate more fireworks from our talented line-up of players.
"The Asian Tour Order of Merit crown will also be at stake and it will be an interesting battle for this mantle due to the many lucrative events that have been slated for the latter half of the year."
The Volkswagen Masters - China, the first of five more stops in China this year, will see India's Rahil Gangjee defending his crown at Jinghua Golf Club, Beijing but he must contend with Major champions Michael Campbell of New Zealand, who broke through in June for the US Open title, and two-time US Open champion Retief Goosen of South Africa. Welshman Phillip Price and Chinese ace Zhang Lian-wei will also be amongst the contenders.
Another eagerly anticipated event is the full-field US$2 million Singapore Open at Sentosa's award winning Serapong course next week. Making a welcome return after a lapse of three years, the Singapore Open is poised to play a major role in determining the Order of Merit race, currently led by Thailand 's Thaworn. A princely US$315,000 first prize cheque awaits the winner in Sentosa.
After Singapore , the Asian Tour will head to Chinese Taipei for the Taiwan Open and Mercuries Taiwan Masters, both events offering US$300,000 and US$400,000 in prize money respectively, in late September.
It will be back to China for the second edition of the Crowne Plaza Open in Beijing , followed by the Bangkok Airways Open, Sanya Open in China and Indian Open.
Martin said that the Double A International Open in Thailand will swap dates with the Carlsberg Masters Vietnam in November. The Double A event will now be played from November 3-6, followed by the HSBC Champions Tournament, Carlsberg Masters Vietnam, Volvo China Open, UBS Hong Kong Open and the Volvo Masters of Asia, which will be exclusive to the top-60 players from the Order of Merit.
"When the last putt drops in, it will mark a record-breaking season for the Asian Tour. It has been a tremendous year of development for the Tour as we were accepted as a full member of the International Federation of PGA Tours earlier this year while the Board of the Official World Golf Ranking recently endorsed the move to upgrade the points status for Asian Tour events from 2006 onwards.
"Our players have responded positively with some strong performances both at home and abroad and the future looks bright indeed for the Asian Tour," said Martin.
ASIAN TOUR SCHEDULE - SEPTEMBER TO DECEMBER, 2005
Sept 1 - 4: Volkswagen Masters - China , Jinghua GC, US$300,000
Sept 8 - 11: Singapore Open, Sentosa GC, US$2,000,000
Sept 15 - 18: Taiwan Open, Chung Kung GC, US$300,000
Sept 22 - 25: Mercuries Taiwan Masters , Taiwan GCC, US$400,000
Sept 29 - Oct 2: Crowne Plaza Open, Beijing , First Epoch City GC, US$200,000
Oct 13 - 16: Bangkok Airways Open, Santiburi Samui CC, US$200,000
Oct 20 - 23: Sanya Open , China , Yalong Bay GC, US$300,000
Oct 27 - 30: Indian Open, Delhi GC, US$300,000
Nov 3 - 6: Double A International Open , Thailand , Course TBC , US$300,000
Nov 10 - 13: HSBC Champions Tournament#, China , Shanghai Sheshan International GC, US$5,000,000
Nov 17 - 20: Carlsberg Masters Vietnam , Chi Linh Star GCC, US$200,000
Nov 24 - 27: Volvo China Open*, Shenzhen GC, US$1,300,000
Dec 1 - 4: UBS Hong Kong Open**, Hong Kong GC, US$1,200,000.
Dec 8 - 11: Volvo Masters of Asia , Thailand , Thai CC, US$600,000
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