The Asian Swing (And The Grand Slam)

As the PGA Tour comes careening down the home stretch of a long season, we branch off for what Monty Python used to announce as, “And now for something completely different!”

Different in this case is the tour taking a two-week jaunt to Asia, first, with this week’s CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and the second, the World Golf Championships – HSBC Champions in Olazabal, Guangdong, China, just across the border from Hong Kong.

While the CIMB Classic is not an event co-sponsored by the Tour, it is certainly a beachhead into whole new marketing arena for the Tour. Helen Ross, writing at PGATour.com, lays out what’s at stake in, “PGA Tour, sport of golf, continue to grow in Asia.” In it, she lays out the numbers in terms of the growth in players, merchandising and highly skilled professionals who come out on the world stage ready to play. Her article is worth reading because she cites the well-documented business reasons behind this thrust.

Both tournaments have been on the schedule as “Featured Events” (along with the Ryder Cup), but when the 2013 season begins next Fall, they will both be fully sanctioned events just like any other tournament on the schedule. That means they will grant FedExCup points, a strong incentive to add them to a player’s schedule.

From a mastery point of view, if all that Ross writes is true, this feels like the beginning of a tectonic shift in what the PGA Tour will be. If you’re a player and you’ve always dreamed of playing on the PGA Tour, your vision was limited to a wide swath of America with all the best courses she has to offer.

But now, just as Arnold Palmer legitimatized the British Open as a “must play” tournament, the table is being set for that to happen in Asia too. While the British was once a “nuisance” travel decision, any slot in it is now a coveted honor. You have to go. And apparently Tiger Woods is the Pied Piper for the CIMB; he’s the most notable player in the small, 48-player field. They’ve also enticed Jason Dufner, Bill Haas, Nick Watney, J.B. Holmes and Kyle Stanley among other notables.

So now, just as European Tour players have had to adapt and expand into the PGA Tour to remain relevant, so too the American players will have to expand into Asia for the same reason. This is particularly true if the success the Tour expects causes them to add even more Asian cities. When you discover the density of Ross’s article, you can get a sense of what the U.S. players will ultimately have to adapt to in terms of their mindset. This won’t be your father’s PGA Tour.

As this new plan unfolds, the players might just cast an eye over at the LPGA Tour for some direction. They seem to have settled quite nicely into their new reality as an international tour. Coincidentally, they happen to be in Taiwan this week, Incheon (Seoul) last week and Kuala Lumpur the week before that.

PGA Grand Slam of Golf

While those 48 players will be winging their way to Asia, four guys are sneaking off in the other direction to Bermuda for the PGA Grand Slam of Golf. The Grand Slam is a reward to the four guys that win each year’s majors.

The Masters was won by Bubba Watson, the U.S. Open by Webb Simpson, the British Open by Ernie Els and the PGA Championship by Rory McIlroy. Els and McIlroy will not be able to make the two-day event and will be replaced respectively by Padraig Harrington and Keegan Bradley (who won the event last year as the 2011 PGA Champion).

 

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