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Asia’s richest golf tournament set to lose its sheen

other Updated: Dec 05, 2010 00:28 IST
Robin Bose
Robin Bose
Hindustan Times
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Indian Open, one of the richest and most prestigious golf events in the country, will not feature on Asian Tour's calendar, which will be announced on Monday. Even if it does sometime later, the national Open will lose its sheen because other Tour events will block the prime (October-November) slot. The Indian Open will either have to be held during peak summers or after the season ends in December. All, because of Indian Golf Union's delay in reaching a decision to renew a contract with the Asian tour and promoter, World Sports Groups whose five-year contract ends on Sunday.

Since Friday, Kyi Hla Han, executive chairman, Asian Tour, and his team have held several meetings with the IGU top brass at the Delhi Golf Club, but a solution remains elusive.

Though the Asian Tour was not willing to confirm but Hindustan Times has learnt that the IGU has conveyed to Han that a decision cannot be reached before late January or early February, as that's when the IGU Council is scheduled to meet.

“I am not trying to push them but given the Indian Open's rich history, an early settlement will not only help us but also the sponsor to draw up long-term plans,” Han told HT on Saturday.

Call it the IGU's lack of foresight or ignorance, the delay could severely bring down the Indian Open's value, which is the richest full-field event on the Asian Tour. “There is tremendous pressure for dates in October-November and if a commitment does not come soon, we could have to push it back from its usual slot (third week of October) in the calendar,” said Han. In that case, a watered down field can be expected as top golfers take a break towards the end of the year.

When contacted, Rohit Amin, president, IGU, refused to speak on the matter, saying, “We're in talks, it'll take some time.”

Not only is the indecision baffling, the delay could also have a cascading effect. The Asian Tour has its share of differences with the WSG, primarily because of its interests on the rival OneAsia Tour, and Han made it clear “the factor would certainly play on the mind when we sit down for talks”. The two groups also do not see eye-to-eye on TV and media rights and a common meeting ground would have to be reached before the contract can be renewed. But that'll have to wait as Han made it clear that unless IGU shared its vision for the event, the Asian Tour would not engage in talks with WSG.

In a similar situation, the tradition at marquee events like the Barclays Singapore Open and Maybank Malaysian Open is to make an announcement on a Saturday, but the IGU's lackadaisical attitude has ensured aficionados are robbed of the joy this weekend.