Australia has missed its chance to be part of the Asian Tour’s new ‘The International Series’ spearheaded by frontman Greg Norman.
World Golf Hall of Famer Norman, chief executive of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Investments that has injected millions of dollars into the revamped Asian Tour, revealed the destinations and prize purses for the ground-breaking series of 10 marquee international events via a press conference at the Saudi International on Tuesday night.
In what Norman hailed as ‘the most significant development in the history of Asian golf and a boom for the global game’, The International Series will be integrated into the full 2022-23 Asian Tour schedule. The series will kick off in Thailand in March followed by visits to England, Korea, Vietnam, the Middle East, China, Singapore, and Hong Kong and will feature prize purses ranging from $US1.5 million to $2 million per event.
But a glaring omission from the new-look schedule was Norman’s homeland. Australia was widely tipped to be a beneficiary of the Shark’s crusade for global expansion. But the recent decision made by the ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia (PGATA) to extend its strategic alliance with the DP World Tour until 2026 poses a significant conflict of interest for Australia’s governing bodies.
Yet Norman refused to rule out an Australian-based event in the future.
“Would I like to see an International Series event held in Australia? Of course I would,” he said. “This is just the beginning. There will be other opportunities. Of course, I would like to see one in Australia, though, because that’s where it all started for me. To me, Australia is part of Asia. We’re the Pacific Rim. It’s an integral part of that. But they (PGATA) decided to keep their alliance with the DP World Tour and that’s their decision.”
Said partnership between the PGATA and DP World Tour (formerly the European Tour) was first struck in 2017 and has provided a range of benefits for PGATA members including important pathways to global golf tours. As part of the renewed deal, PGATA members will benefit from additional opportunities aimed at strengthening existing pathways, most notably two additional tour cards now on offer to its final order of merit standings, along with additional exemptions on the DP World Tour.
On announcing the extension at January’s Australian PGA Championship in Queensland, PGA of Australia CEO Gavin Kirkman said: “We are excited to extend our relationship with the DP World Tour and provide a range of great benefits and opportunities for our members and fans.
“Australasian players currently hold over 110 tour cards outside of our region and play an important role in the continued success of global golf tours. This partnership ensures these all-important development opportunities for players on the ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia and means that Australasian golf fans can continue to support and cheer their homegrown players on the world stage.”
Meanwhile, today’s announcement by Norman also saw the unveiling of the new brand, name, and logo as well as an increase in the lucrative and unprecedented investment into the Asian Tour from $US200m to $300m, further solidifying LIV Golf Investments dedication to the global game. As one of the biggest investments in the history of professional golf, The International Series will support playing opportunities and prize funds for the 10 events to be played every season over the next decade. It has been designed to drive greater engagement amongst fans, attract new commercial interest and to help stabilise professional golf following a sustained period of worldwide disruption and uncertainty.
“We are on the threshold of a new era for Asian golf,” said Cho Minn Thant, the Asian Tour’s commissioner and CEO. “The International Series is a new upper-tier of elite events, the likes of which the region has not seen before, that will mark the start of a phenomenal period of growth for the Asian Tour. It also signifies the beginning of our relationship with our new strategic partner LIV Golf Investments and its CEO Greg Norman.
“Importantly, The International Series will add to the Asian Tour’s backbone of established events to comprise a 25-event season, expected to represent a record-breaking combined prize-fund. Each of the 10 events will be broadcast live across the globe, with plans to attract an international field of headline talent.”
In October last year, Norman was announced as CEO of LIV Golf Investments – a newly formed company whose mantra, it claims, is to holistically improve the health of professional golf on a truly global scale to help unlock the sports’ untapped worldwide potential. PIF, one of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds with a diverse international investment portfolio, is the majority shareholder in LIV Golf Investments.
“We are setting the Asian Tour up as a powerful new force on the world golf stage,” added Norman. “In my 40 years as a professional golfer, I’ve seen many parts of the world that have benefitted tremendously from golf and its growth and development. We now have the opportunity to do that in the Asia Pacific region and the Middle East with this incredible investment platform. Everyone benefits – professional players, amateurs, grassroots golf, fans, economies, communities, stakeholders. I’ve never been so optimistic about the future of the sport.”
The widely acclaimed Black Mountain Golf Club in Hua Hin, Thailand, will host The International Series Thailand March 3-6, boasting a prize purse of $US1.5m, before London stages the next event at Centurion Club from June 9-12, offering a $2m purse. The second half of the year will see stops in Korea, Vietnam, and Indonesia before heading to the Middle East and then culminating in China, Singapore, and Hong Kong.
The announcement comes on the eve of the Asian Tour’s new season with the $5million PIF Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers, starting on Thursday at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club. With six of the top-20 players in the world competing – including Aussie pair Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith and Americans stars Dustin Johnson and Bryson Dechambeau – along with more than 50 of the Asian Tour’s most prominent players, the star-studded event is the strongest field in the history of the Asian Tour. The tournament, which is not part of The International Series, also offers one of the Asian Tour’s most lucrative purses.