Quick 9: Why PGA Tour's Asian swing is gaining momentum

From ESPN - October 11, 2017

1. The Asian swing

Slowly, the PGA Tour has forged its way into Asia, first giving players another option in addition to the World Golf Championship event in China several years ago, and now adding another choice that allows players to compete in three events in a row -- although not exactly in close proximity.

This week's CIMB Classic, which began in 2010 as a small-field event for just 40 players, has been an official tournament on the schedule since the PGA Tour went to a wraparound season in 2013-14 and now has a field of 78 players. Justin Thomas is the two-time defending champion of the Malaysian event.

Next week the tour heads to its first-ever event in South Korea, the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges. Like the tournament in Malaysia, the CJ Cup will have a 78-player field, with 60 coming off the final FedEx Cup points list from last season. Each tournament will also feature players from the host country.

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan talked about the event "inspiring a new generation of players," not just in Asia but around the world. Hence, the tour's interest in expanding its footprint in the region, even if it is relatively small.

After the event in South Korea, the tour moves to Shanghai for the WGC HSBC Champions. The tournament has been on the schedule since 2005 and is co-sanctioned by the European Tour. It became a WGC in 2009, and it was recognized as an official PGA Tour event starting in 2013.

All three of the Asian events do not have a cut, meaning guaranteed prize money and FedEx Cup points for those who participate.

2. Proximity, or lack thereof

Although the idea of playing three tournaments in Asia sounds good from a logistics standpoint, only the time zones are close. The distance from Kuala Lumpur -- it takes approximately 18 hours to get there from the East Coast of the United States -- to Seoul is a flight that lasts more than six hours. From Seoul to Shanghai is a little less than two hours.

3. Expansion?

While nothing seems imminent, the idea of partnering with one of the tournaments in Australia such as the Australian Open or Australian PGA (the Australian Masters is now defunct) or both would be intriguing for the PGA Tour if it wanted to create a true Asia-Pacific Swing of tournaments and market them as such.

You could envision Malaysia, South Korea, China, perhaps an event or two in Australia and even the two Hawaii events making up a strong fall schedule while leaving room for some other domestic events to take the place of the Hawaiian events in January.

Australian golf officials would undoubtedly love the idea of the PGA Tour's marketing and financial might giving a boost to a golf-strong country that has had difficulty finding significant sponsorship money.

For example, the purse for the Australian Open (where Jordan Spieth is the defending champion) this year is $1.25 million Australian -- which is just $970,000 U.S. The winner of this week's CIMB Classic will get $1.26 million U.S., or more than the entire Australian Open purse.

4. Old Course, 'new' record

Ross Fisher went around the Old Course at St. Andrews in a mere 61 strokes Sunday during the final round of the Dunhill Links Championship, missing a 4-footer at the last for 60. Nobody has ever shot 59 in a European Tour event, and the fact that somebody threatened it at the home of golf is another indicator of equipment gains and how vulnerable old courses are today. Rory McIlroy shot 63 at The Open at St. Andrews in 2010.

Not all, of course, are pleased. Gary Player, for example.

Whilst delighted for all the players, it's quite sad to see The Old Course of St Andrews brought to her knees by today's ball & equipment.

Gary Player (@garyplayer) October 8, 2017

5. Phil's best

Despite missing fairways left and right, Phil Mickelson posted his best finish since the 2016 Open with his tie for third at the Safeway Open. He got within a shot of the lead through 16 holes Sunday, and then bogeyed the 17th after missing the fairway -- with an iron. Still, it was an encouraging week for Mickelson, who has not won since the 2013 Open and vows he is getting closer.

"The game has come back," he said. "My focus is much better. I am staying in the present and hitting the shots."

Mickelson is taking the next two weeks off, and then heading to China for the WGC HSBC Champions -- which he won in 2009. It will be his last tournament of 2017, with Mickelson expected to return in January at the Career Builder Challenge.

6. No Ryder Cup points

7. Tiger tweets

8. Fighting back

9. Back to work


Continue reading at ESPN »