Indian golfers regular on the Asian Tour were thrilled at the announcement of two events in November-December and possibly two more after the Christmas and New Year break as part of the 2020-21 schedule, which was disrupted by the pandemic. The Asian Tour last held an event in March 2020 and the last 18 months have seen players across the region struggle. While some managed to see some action in Japan and Korea, many had to find jobs outside of golf to survive.
The Indians were fortunate in that sense as some local events had begun as action slowly returned to the golf courses. The Asian Tour on Tuesday announced that it is all set to stage a series of season-ending tournaments to finish its 2020-21 schedule, ensuring that the Tour can complete its Order of Merit, and crown a Merit list champion.
The Tour make its eagerly awaited return by staging back-to-back inaugural events at two of the most renowned golf courses on Phuket Island in Thailand with purses of USD 1 million respectively. The Blue Canyon Championship will first take place at Blue Canyon Country Club from November 25-28, followed by the Laguna Phuket Championship, which will be held at the Laguna Phuket Resort from December 2-5.
The Asian Tour plans two more events in Singapore over consecutive weeks in January after the Christmas and New Year breaks. All four tournaments will be broadcast live on television. Six-time winner on Asian Tour and 2016 Olympian SSP Chawrasia, who did manage to play in Europe in the last 18 months, welcomed the return to action on Asian Tour. "I think it is a great relief for hundreds of players in Asia. I had quite a few starts in Europe, but for many Indians and players from elsewhere in Asian, the Asian Tour is crucial. So from that point of view this is great news."
S Chikkarangappa, one of the leading Indian stars on Asian Tour was thrilled. "I got my job back. After being 'unemployed' and 'jobless' for so long, finally some great news of tournaments on Asian Tour. "The pandemic had put a stop to all action and thanks to Asian Tour we will soon be able to see more play. It was a tough job for Asian Tour as different countries have different protocols, so a lot of logistics are required."
Another player happy with the news would be Rashid Khan, the top Indian on the Asian Tour Order of Merit, when the Tour was halted last year in March. He had often expressed a desire to play on the Tour once again. Olympian Udayan Mane, said, "I am hoping I can get into the events in Thailand and later as I am on a country spot, but any which way this is good news for all of us, who have been desperate to get back to the course on the Asian Tour."
Cho Minn Thant, Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer, Asian Tour, said, "After a difficult 18 months the Asian Tour is thrilled to announce that it is able to restart in Q4 of 2021, and most importantly expedite the return of our membership to elite competition." He added, "The Asian Tour have been working around the clock to resume competition and crown the Merit list champion ‒ a challenge made more difficult by our reach across many countries and each of their COVID-related protocols.
"We are confident of being able to complete our season despite several remaining challenges created by the pandemic." The top 30 players from the final Order of Merit will receive automatic entry into next year's season-opening USD 5 million Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers. The four Asian Tour events played in early 2020 will be added to the blended 2020-21 schedule. Australian Wade Ormsby has led the Order of Merit throughout the hiatus since winning the Hong Kong Open last January.
Jazz Janewattananond, the 2019 Order of Merit champion, has confirmed he will compete in the Phuket events ‒ which will be backed by the Sports Authority of Thailand (SAT). All four tournaments will be played in bubbles and will adhere to local government standard operating procedures. In addition, all players will need to be fully vaccinated in order to compete.