Amidst the ongoing turf war between the Asian Tour and the newly created OneAsia Tour, the question that has started to raise its head is which side of the fence is the Indian Open on?
While authorities here remain straight-faced and claim that the country's national open is far removed from the mudslinging and continues to be a marquee event of the Asian Tour, reports coming in from overseas seem to portray a different picture.
Sample this: A report emanating from Singapore a few days back quoted Seamus O'Brien, the influential head of World Sport Group (WSG), as saying that the Asian Tour had a "sell by" date and "it's over" for (Kyi Hla) Han's (executive chairman) organisation. Under the agreement between the Indian Golf Union (IGU), which holds the rights to the Indian Open, and the Asian Tour, WSG has been promoting the event since 2004 and will do so till October 2010.
The discordant note is O'Brien's quotes came on a platform where WSG was pitching itself as consultant to OneAsia. As a promoter, WSG is within its rights to pick up events anywhere, but if a moral stance is adopted, the words defy logic, given the firm's keenness to stay connected to the Indian Open when the IGU calls for fresh bids in March.
Harish Krishnamachar, vice-president, WSG, and sponsors Hero Honda were unavailable for comment due to their preoccupation with the IPL, but a source said the company "had no idea" about a possible shift of loyalty.
O'Brien's utterings are not in isolation, feedback available with the Hindustan Times has it that while lobbying for TV rights at the Augusta Masters, a OneAsia team took everyone, including Hero Honda CEO Pawan Munjal aback, by projecting the Indian Open as part of its fledgling calendar.
IGU president Ashit Luthra dismissed all such talk and pointed towards the agreement with Asian Tour. "We are concerned with two things. First, the Indian Open cannot happen without our players (in a show of solidarity, Indian players have decided to boycott OneAsia) and second, the PGTI (Professional Golf Tour of India) is firmly behind the Asian Tour. If these factors stay static, we have no issues," he said.
Despite the show of solidarity, most, including Kyi Hla Han, are baffled by O'Brien's outburst. "Probably, it has something to do with our souring of ties over TV rights earlier this year," he said.
By expressing its desire to stage more events in India, WSG has made its intent clear and after challenging the Asian Tour's authority in China and South Korea (it has lost five events so far), the lucrative Indian market could well be next on the OneAsia radar.