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Asian Tour feeling credit crunch

The Asian Tour has been offered the venue free of charge for this week’s SAIL Open in India which will go ahead with substantially reduced prize money as a result of the global credit crunch.

Launched as a $400,000 event in 2008 and won by New Zealand’s Mark Brown, a quarter of the purse has been wiped out due to the Indian currency losing value.

“In rupee terms it is the same (20.4 million),” a spokesman for the sponsors told reporters on Tuesday. “We committed a certain amount last year but payment has to be made to players in dollars.”

The event, which starts on Wednesday, has been switched from Jaypee Greens in Noida to the Classic Golf Resort in Gurgaon near Delhi after the course was offered free of charge.

“The Classic sponsorship is worth $100,000 otherwise we would have had to pay for it,” former Asian Tour players’ committee member Amandeep Johl told Reuters.

Indian Johl, 40, who still plays on the circuit, said the global economic slump could hit the tour hard in the future.

He said the $500,000 Jaidee Invitational in Thailand next month, named after top tour pro Thongchai Jaidee, was in doubt due to sponsorship problems.

“It may be postponed or scrapped completely,” said Johl.

Thaworn Wiratchant, 42, aiming to equal fellow Thai Thongchai’s record of 11 Asian Tour wins this week, said he hoped the Jaidee Invitational could be saved.

India’s Jyoti Randhawa, the SAIL Open favourite after winning this month’s Thailand Open, chose to accentuate the positives on the Asian Tour.

“The good thing is at least we’re having golf tournaments,” Randhawa told Reuters. “People are losing jobs and not getting to work but the tournaments are going on.”

Some believe the launch of the new Australasian Tour could hurt the Asian Tour still further.

The Asian Tour has accused the pro circuits of Australia, China and South Korea of trying to muscle in on its turf.

The proposal is for the new tour to be launched with six events this year, with plans to extend it in 2010.

Johl said the Australasian Tour could give an excuse to sponsors, already under financial strain, to back out of Asian Tour events.


March 18, 2009

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