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Golf Tidbits: New OneAsia Tour already causing a stir

Kevin Currie, Golf Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Golf is a worldwide sport. That much can be learned from one glance at the top 20 of the world rankings, where six continents are represented.

Golf fans in the United States may only focus their thoughts on the PGA Tour, European Tour and maybe the Nationwide Tour in the men's game. However, there are many more tours worldwide, and several of those co-sponsor events with the three best-known circuits.

The European Tour plays a worldwide schedule that includes several events in Asia, Australia and South Africa. These European events are co-sponsored by one of the local tours - Japanese, Korean, Chinese or Australasia.

A new tour, known as the OneAsia series, is stepping on the toes of these other tours and causing controversy already. The OneAsia series, devised by the PGA of Australia, is pulling events from the smaller Asian tours to create one super tour that would become the third largest in the world, behind the PGA and European.

The Japanese Tour, playing the part of Switzerland, has decided not to join the OneAsia series this year. But that will likely change in 2010, when the schedule expands.

The new tour has just six events this year, plans for 12 to 14 tournaments in 2010 and hopes to have more than 20 events by the 2011 season.

"This is just the first step in creating an elite platform of golf that runs from Delhi through to Auckland," Australian PGA Tour commissioner Ben Sellenger said in a tour newsletter.

"It's a platform that will sit above and complement the regional tours. It will also give the players, from all the bodies involved, the chance to compete on a tour that's a genuine alternative to the U.S. PGA and European Tours."

The Asian Tour, which currently sanctions events on the continent, is not happy with the development of a new, competing tour.

"The Asian Tour is shocked and disapproves of this desperate attempt by the PGA of Australia to revive its flagging domestic circuit, through its proposed creation of a series by listing events which are already part of the Asian Tour schedule," Asian Tour executive chairman Kyi Hla Han said in a statement earlier this year.

Sixteen of the Asian Tour's 28 tournaments this year are co-sanctioned by either the European Tour or the Japanese, Korean, Indian or Australasian tours.

There had already been trouble brewing between the Asian Tour and the European Tour, with the amount of events the European Tour is co- sanctioning in Asia leading to a clash of egos.

The presence of the OneAsia series on the Asian Tour's turf is not going to make the more established circuit any happier.

What does all of this mean relative to the various tour schedules? The European Tour for the last several years has started its new season in November and December of the previous calendar year, but will begin its 2010 season in January 2010 due to a probable reduction of the schedule, which currently stands at 53 events.

When the schedule shrinks in '10, that will mean fewer events that the European tour co-sponsors all over the world, including in Asia. That in turn would mean less prize money, and those events that are no longer co- sanctioned will attract fewer big-name players.

Many professional tours are already losing money and sponsorships, and less European Tour events in 2010 will continue this trend, giving the new OneAsia series a chance to step into the breach. Players will be searching for more quality events to play, and a new tour, catering to the best players from several countries and more players, would bring about the possibility of larger purses. That being said, it will be difficult for this new tour to match the prize money of events hosted the PGA Tour or the European Tour.

Players could get caught in a tug-of-war between the tours as well. More and more Asian golfers are trying to make it on the PGA Tour, but that tour does not offer appearance fees for events. Those appearance fees help offset the cost of travel and accommodations for players at said events.

The European Tour does have appearance fees, but they are not thrown around wildly. The Asian Tour and the PGA Tour of Australia, meanwhile, offer big money to attract name players to their events, knowing that big names equal better crowds and television coverage.

Players loyal to the Asian Tour could be pressured into not playing events on the OneAsia series. Well-known players such as Jeev Milkha Singh (a three-time winner on the European Tour), Prayad Marksaeng (who owns six Asian Tour titles) and Thongchai Jaidee (owner of 11 Asian Tour wins) could foresake playing events in Asia altogether to avoid ruffling the feathers of any of those tours, and stick to playing European or PGA Tour events.

The same goes for Japanese teenage star Ryo Ishikawa, who may just set his sights on the PGA Tour in order to avoid the brewing turf war in Asia.

The premise of the new OneAsia series is promising, but will another tour help or hurt the game in Asia? The easy answer is that it won't hurt the game at all, but for the elite golfers of Asia, it forces a decision - and some fortune telling - in regard to which tour will be more beneficial.

The bottom line for the players is which tour will help them more. Once they figure that out, the chips will fall into place. That may mean the OneAsia series is a flash in the pan, or it could doom some of the lesser tours in Asia.

TURN UP THE SOUND? CADDIES MIGHT GET MIC'ED UP

The drama for golf on television comes from players hitting remarkable shots over water, from a bunker or out of the trees.

Occasionally, on-course microphones catch some good banter between players and caddies. Those microphones are hand-held boom mics held by a network employee positioned on the fairway.

The PGA Tour thinks there is a chance that broadcasting more player-caddie dialogue could make for better television. With that in mind, at next week's Houston Open, the tour is going to mic some caddies to see if this is a worthwhile investment for the future.

The tests next week will look at how the audio comes out, and whether the conversations are suitable for broadcast. It's a nice thought by the tour, but this may go a little too far.

Having caddied for many years, I can tell you there will be many comments that are not allowed on television because of the blue language.

The tour players and their caddies are a tight-knit community. If some of their off-hand comments about other players get circulated, that could create a rift. Seems a little childish, but some of the guys take every little comment to heart.

I think this idea will fall by the wayside quickly because the player-caddie conversation is not as riveting as these television execs think it is.

MINI-TIDBITS

- Tough economic times are hurting all the tours, and the Silly Season events are no exception. The Father-Son Challenge is taking this year off and there are rumors of the demise of the Skins Game. "I believe it is dead in its old form. We cannot continue in the same manner," said Tom Renaud, vice president of new programming at ABC/ESPN, to The Desert Sun.

- Congrats to Colin Montgomerie who made his 500th start on the European Tour this week. And an early congrats to Mark Calcavecchia, whose next made cut will be his 500th on the PGA Tour.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Kevin Currie at kcurrie@sportsnetwork.com.

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