x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Asian Tour chief reveals ambitious plans for 'fifth Major' by 2015

The new chief executive of the Asian Tour wants the competition to rival the European Tour within the next decade - and to stage its own "iconic" event to rival the Majors within three years.

Asian Tour chief executive Mike Kerr believes the region needs to find its own Rory McIlroy, rather than stage events such as the forthcoming one-on-one against Tiger Woods.
Asian Tour chief executive Mike Kerr believes the region needs to find its own Rory McIlroy, rather than stage events such as the forthcoming one-on-one against Tiger Woods.

SINGAPORE // The Asian Tour is in talks to set up an "iconic" golf event to rival the majors as early as 2015, its new chief executive has revealed.

Mike Kerr, who took the helm in March, revealed the ambitious plans, which would see the circuit expanding to match the current size of the European Tour within the next decade.

"Yes, I think we can have an iconic event in Asia. There are some plans that we have that we're already in the market talking about," he said.

"We're working on it ... let's say definitely within the next three to five (years)."

The so-called "fifth major" is considered the next frontier of Asian golf after years of rapid growth brought new, world-class tournaments and pumped up prize money and standards.

Both the WGC-HSBC Champions in China, with a purse of US$7 million (Dh25.7m), and the US$6 million Singapore Open, have been informally touted as "Asia's major".

Golf's majors — the US Masters, US Open, British Open and the PGA Championship — have slightly larger purses, but also prestige and tradition built up over generations.

"The majors are not going to move. I think I can say that for certain," said Kerr.

"I'm not sure whether it would ever be confirmed as a major or supported in that way but I think there certainly is room for an iconic event in Asia that would be at a similar level to a major event, which the players can support and which we can build up over time.

"Golf is still in its infancy in this part of the world. The majors have hundreds of years of tradition, which is what sets them apart from every other event."

He predicted the Asian Tour would be offering similar total prize money to the European Tour in a decade, rising from 26 to about 40 tournaments a year with potential new partnerships in the Middle East and the former Soviet bloc.

But a one-day matchplay 'duel' event pitting Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy against each other in China later this year has not found favour with the tour.

"I think it helps to profile golf, but does it help Asia? Does it help China? No," he said.

"To be honest with you, that's a marketing exercise using two high-profiled athletes who happen to be golfers ... we certainly wouldn't support it."

But he said the region's sheer weight of numbers meant that the next Woods or McIlroy was likely to come from Asia.

"I think you'll probably find that we will get that Asian McIlroy. I think the next Rory McIlroy probably will come from this part of the world," said Kerr.

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