Golf: Virus-hit Asian Tour to restart in September after 6-month gap

Australia’s Wade Ormsby, seen here winning the Hong Kong Open in January, is the current Asian Tour Order of Merit leader

HONG KONG: The Asian Tour announced on Sunday (Jun 7) plans to restart its 2020 golf season with three tournaments in September as coronavirus travel restrictions begin to ease across the world’s most populous continent.

The tour, which has been suspended since American Trevor Simsby won the Malaysia Open on Mar 7, told AFP it aims to tee off again at the Shinhan Donghae Open from Sep 10 to 13 in Incheon, South Korea.

The US$1.181 million tournament will be the first of three to be played under strict COVID-19 protocols which could mean players have to travel alone and use local caddies. Events in Taiwan and Japan will follow in consecutive weeks.

“We are targeting between 10 to 12 events from September to December,” Asian Tour Commissioner and CEO Cho Minn Thant told AFP, with the tour calendar almost certainly extending into the new year before transitioning into the 2021 season.

“Unlike domestic markets, we understand international travel will slowly restart in phases and the ultimate lifting of quarantine periods will determine the Tour’s ability to resume full-scale operations,” Cho added.

The Asian Tour is the last of golf’s three leading men’s circuits to announce a return to action, faced with a complex international schedule that necessitates players from more than 25 countries cross borders for each tournament.

The US PGA Tour will make an eagerly anticipated return this week, without spectators but with a star-studded field including the world’s top five players, at the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas.

The European Tour has announced a six-event “UK Swing” to begin next month with the British Masters.

“We are targeting a conservative restart in September because of the current predicament with restrictions on air travel and large gatherings,” Cho said.

The US$950,000 Mercuries Taiwan Masters from Sept 17 to 20 and the US$1.4 million Panasonic Open in Japan from Sep 24 to 27 will complete the opening mini-swing in three countries where lockdown and travel restrictions have already been eased.

Discussions are taking place for an event in South East Asia in October before an “Indian Swing” with the Panasonic Open, the rescheduled Indian Open and a possible new event in Delhi, though dates are yet to be confirmed.

The first events back will have a different look, said Cho, with heightened health and safety regulations in place.

“If we need to minimise the number of foreign travellers travelling into a host country, we may have to do without private caddies, entourages, and support staff,” admitted Cho.

“It is possible that only players and essential staff are permitted to travel.”

Australia’s Wade Ormsby, who won the Hong Kong Open in January, leads the fledgling 2020 Order of Merit but only four tournaments have been completed.

Z24 News

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