New events and an expanded the relationship with the European Tour are two of the potential benefits offered by a restructured ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia schedule, according to two of our most prominent professionals.
On Sunday it was announced that this year’s ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia schedule would extend into next year and conclude in March, providing a full calendar of events for players and opening the door to a return to the wrap-around schedule of the 1980s and ‘90s.
With the announcement that the Australian PGA Championship will be played at Royal Queensland Golf Club from December 3-6, ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia officials saw an opportunity to use the delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to restructure the Order of Merit race from a calendar year to an October-March season.
The Australian PGA Championship and Vic Open are both currently co-sanctioned with the European Tour who, in the wake of the disruption caused by the coronavirus, have stated a desire to conduct up to four tournaments in the same country in order to complete its season.
If the ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia were able to develop a schedule that included three European Tour co-sanctioned events early in the year, Dubai Desert Classic winner Lucas Herbert has no doubt that the tour’s best players will come.
“The talk on tour is that guys would love to come out to Australia but it’s just so far to play one event,” said Herbert, currently ranked No.64 in the world.
“If we did have more than one event around the Vic Open or in a timeframe like that where guys can come out for two, three, four weeks, then I think we’d attract a lot more talent. We wouldn’t need to pay players to come anyway.
“It’s going to be hard with everything that’s going on to try and predict what’s going to be the best call but if we can get two, three, four events up, I think that would be great.”
When the Australasian Tour formerly operated on a wrap-around schedule, Peter Senior was at the height of his powers.
Engaged in head-to-head showdowns with Greg Norman and wielding his customary broomstick putter, Senior was in the centre of the enormous crowds that flocked into Melbourne sandbelt courses in February to watch the Australian Masters and Heineken Classic.
The three-time Australian PGA champion believes a stronger alliance with the European Tour provides the greatest opportunity to expand the Aussie offering.
“That’s probably our best bet. The European Tour doesn’t really start until March. They have a few tournaments in South Africa which would be a good lead-in for us over here,” Senior offered.
“There is heaps of opportunity there if we’re able to grasp it.
“There are a lot of countries in Europe that have been really hard hit by this virus and the tournaments may not go ahead in those areas. It gives us an opportunity.
“Australia has done really well in coping with the virus and it looks like we may be opening up a lot earlier than anybody else.
“There’s an opportunity if the European Tour is willing to play two or three tournaments here in January-February.”
In addition to the opportunities afforded to Aussie players looking to play their way onto the European Tour, Herbert believes shifting the focus of the Order of Merit to conclude at the end of the summer will enhance the experience for golf fans in this country.
“I kind of wish I’d grown up 20 years earlier than I did. There were obviously a lot of great tournaments around and Greg coming back a lot would have been a great thrill for the guys playing,” said Herbert, who secured his immediate future in Europe with his win in Dubai in February.
“It makes a lot of sense to do it the way we have and combine all the golf into one. It’s going to give golf in Australia a lot better exposure through the summer.
“The golf schedule in Australia is from October through until March anyway and it’s a bit tough having Q School in the middle of all that at the moment.
“Guys are finishing the year and losing status and then getting status and rearranging everything to play the next half of that summer.
“If you’ve got a card on a major tour it’s great to come back at the end of the year and play on home soil and play in front of your home fans and in a way try to grow the game a little bit back here in Australia.”