NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. PGA Tour chief Tim Finchem said on Wednesday that Asia would be the new frontier of professional golf and let slip that China’s HSBC Champions tournament would become a World Golf Championship event.
A formal announcement of a premier WGC event in China for next year has been expected, but Finchem revealed the choice to add Asia’s richest golf event to the WGC series when speaking to Reuters about the globe-trotting practices of tour players.
“In today’s world, a lot of players go over and play two events in Asia -- the HSBC, which will now become a world golf championship, and also the Barclays Singapore event,” Finchem said at the Reuters Media Summit in New York.
The HSBC Champions, a $5 million invitational that has been held in Shanghai, would become the fourth elite WGC event joining three other tournaments held in the United States.
The U.S. Tour already co-sanctions the $5.5 million World Cup of Golf, featuring two-man teams representing 28 countries, that has been staged in China the last two years and will continue to be hosted there through 2018.
Finchem said the Chinese market could provide a tremendous boost to golf, noting the way the sport has taken hold in Japan and South Korea.
“If you were to extrapolate the growth of golf in Japan starting at the end of World War II, when it was zero, and on a percentage basis apply that 50-year growth to China, the numbers are-mind boggling,” he said. “It would be about 200 million golfers.”
The commissioner admitted that number might be unrealistic, but said the potential was undeniably enormous. “It’s a tremendous growth market.
“If you look historically at Japan and then Korea, Asians love the game of golf. The mental challenge of it, the discipline it takes is something they adhere to. We see a tremendous upsurge.
“Golf is growing very nicely in Vietnam. It is obviously huge in Korea and Japan already and in Thailand. Golf in Asia is a major piece of the future of global golf and will probably help change the face of what professional golf is within the next 20, 25 years.”
Reporting by Larry Fine, editing by Lisa Von Ahn
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