Storm in a tee box
Would you play for Vladimir Putin?
Would you have played in apartheid South Africa?
Is there a place where you would not morally play?
These were just some of the questions put to golfers Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood recently as the Ryder Cup duo – along with a host of other top players – announced their participation in the Saudi-backed LIV golf series .
The venture has sparked a lot of debate inside and outside the game, with four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy calling the LIV converts “doubtful” and many commentators and activists accusing the organization of trying to “sportingly” Saudi Arabia’s human rights record to wash”. However, tour bosses say the latter is not the case, arguing LIV Golf aspires to “holistically improve the health of professional golf on a global scale” which they believe will “help unleash the sport’s untapped potential.” to release”.
Golf’s Asian Tour held its first UK event at Slaley Hall in June, attracting a diverse field of players from around the world, with Zimbabwe’s Scott Vincent being the winner of the four-day competition on the Northumberland hills. The inaugural event on UK soil also had ties to the Saudi Arabian-backed LIV golf series, which offered two places for their inaugural competition at the Centurion Club, near London, a week later. This competition that The £20m LIV Golf Invitational attracted a handful of the game’s best players, plenty of controversy, awkward press conferences and, as it coincided with the USPGA’s Canadian Open, some bad feelings. Here, Asian Tour executive director Cho Minn Thant writes exclusively for North East Times Magazine, explaining why the Tour – and LIV Golf – aren’t keen to start battles over how competing operators can all share a slice of the financial pie and why that is Venture will be good for the game and the Northeast in the long run.
As we looked to England for part of our strategic global expansion, we were delighted to have Slaley Hall raise his hand to host the first UK event for the Asian Tour.
And we’ll definitely be back.
The four days of quality golf drew hundreds of spectators to a beautiful course and hotel and an area that had too long been starved of world-class golf.
The only thing we couldn’t change, of course, was the weather.
There are many Europeans, Americans and Australians on the tour, all used to the British weather.
However, some of the guys from Thailand, Singapore and so on had never been to the UK and they certainly weren’t prepared for the wind and rain!
During the practice session some people showed up in shorts and t-shirts and I thought ‘guys this isn’t Asia where it’s 35 degrees and humid when it rains and we stop playing, this is England!’
We are part of the structure of the new Saudi-sponsored LIV International Series; We’ve been to Australia, New Zealand and the Middle East and Europe has been a big destination for us as we continue our expansion.
New golf tournaments, new formats and of course big purses for the players can only do the game and the modernization of the sport good.
For many of the players in the Slaley Hall field it was an opportunity to qualify for this first LIV event in London next week and participating in this structure will bring better players to our tournaments.
The PGA Tour and DP World Tour have responded to LIV’s arrival on the circuit to protect their business.
And her reaction was not unexpected.
We’re not here to argue with anyone, we want to create new events that increase prize money and improve the experience for viewers, TV viewers and the companies that want to get involved.
The cake keeps getting bigger. But no one steals another’s piece.
From our perspective, on the Asian Tour we’ve always had players who have played multiple tours; they played the Asian Tour, then the PGA Tour, then the European Tour.
We’re proud to have them as members, and we also respect the fact that they need to grow and play bigger and better events.
The takeover by Newcastle United is a very good metaphor for what’s happening on the Asian tour.
His Excellency Yasir Al-Rumayyan has taken over as Chairman of Newcastle United and Majed Al Sorour, CEO of the Saudi Golf Federation, has been appointed Director of the club and they are the same two people I work with for the Asian Tour, together with Greg Norman and his team for the Saudi International, Business with Golf Saudi and the International Series.
Hopefully we’ll develop in the same direction as Newcastle United.
At the start of last season, people were saying they would definitely be relegated and there was some controversy over hiring the new manager.
But it worked – they finished tenth towards the end of the season with an incredible home record.
If we can walk this path, we will be very happy. I think you will see bigger and better things from the Asia tour as we follow this lead.
The Premier League is the biggest football league in the world and the Saudis want to be part of it.
With the Asian Tour and LIV International and all the other projects that the Saudis are doing in terms of golf investment, it’s not necessarily about covering the costs or running the tournament, it’s about establishing business connections.
You come to one of our tournaments and golf is a great place to network.
And football is also great for networking; You meet ministers, high profile businessmen and do business outside of golf or soccer.
It is these connections that they are looking for.
And of course the PIF is one of the largest investment funds in the world, so not only in sports, but also in all kinds of business sectors.
That can only be good for the entire Northeast.
I can speak of the Asia tour from personal experience through my dealings with them and on a personal level they have not failed or failed to deliver on anything they promised.
If anything, they have passed down.
It’s a pleasure to work with people who have such freedom of choice – they want things to be delivered at the highest quality possible.
Newcastle United are more of a mid-table club at the moment and for next season, let’s be honest, they would really like to finish in the top six, play in Europe, even top four and make it to the Champions League.
It’s similar to the Asian Tour.
The USPGA Tour has always been Liverpool or Manchester City, and the PGA Tour in Europe has always been like Chelsea, Arsenal or Tottenham Hotspur.
We want to be part of that conversation, come to Europe and the Champions League.
We want our golfers to be in the majors, earn the same amount as they do in the US and Europe, and truly compete on the world golf stage.
And while we’re aiming for that, the infrastructure underneath will be extremely important, as will be the case with the investments we’re seeing around Newcastle United.
Words of Cho Minn Thant