Aust PGA shuns Asia Tour for Euro deal

Murray Wenzel |

The PGA of Australia has resisted the temptations of the rich, Greg Norman-backed Asian Tour to re-link with Europe’s DP World Tour.

The delayed Australian PGA Championship will begin at Royal Queensland Golf Club in Brisbane on Thursday, with a purse of $1 million available to a below-strength field missing its US-based stars.

However it will be held again later this year and offer double that as the country’s richest golf event recovers after COVID-19 saw Australian tournament golf wiped out in 2020 and 2021.

It comes as the Norman-backed Saudi International steals headlines for its incredible line-up, with the likes of Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, Sergio Garcia and Australians Cameron Smith, Marc Leishman and Lucas Herbert all accepting handsome appearance fees to participate.

Norman’s group LIV Golf Investments has signed a 10-year deal worth hundreds of millions of dollars to bring 10 new events to the existing Asian Tour with a goal to “grow the game”.

Rumours of a breakaway, Saudi-backed Super Golf League (SGL) have caused division among player ranks, as has the country’s poor human rights record.

In siding with Europe, the new deal will mean automatic exemption for the winner, while the top three on the Australasian Tour’s order of merit will also gain full access to the DP World Tour.

That’s an increase from one in the previous deal between 2017-19, while ample qualifying spots will also be set aside for the US’s Korn Ferry qualifying tournament and five spots will be held for any DP World Tour events held in Asia.

“There has been discussions (with the Asian Tour) but at the end of the day our focus was on finding out what was going to be best for our players,” Australian PGA boss Gavin Kirkman said.

“The young men playing on our tour, their goal is to get to the PGA Tour. 

“They want to play major championships and Min Woo Lee is the perfect example (winning the European Tour-sanctioned Vic Open and now set for a Masters debut).

“This pathway and alliance is going to be best.”

Kirkman said other domestic events, some completely new, will be co-sanctioned with the tour just as the Vic Open was previously.

“This didn’t come overnight and the acknowledgement of other tours to our CEO is unbelievable,” Australian PGA chairman Rodger Davis said.

“This alliance will make sure that we’re part of this ecosystem.

“It’s taken a lot of work and trust, they actually do trust us, which is why we’ve got this deal.”

It’s hoped a return to a traditional late-year slot and the alignment of other events in Australia will help attract the likes of Scott, Smith and Leishman home again.

But US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy, who last year pioneered a captivating four-course tournament across four days in Melbourne called the Sandbelt Invitational, said the focus should be on creating good events, not the size of the cheque or the player line-up.

“I think there’s been far too much focus on prize money and big name players,” he said.

“People go anyway to the Australian Open or Melbourne Cup (regardless of who’s playing).

“We’ve sat down in Tuesday and Wednesday press conferences for the last 20 years in Australia saying ‘isn’t it a shame there’s nobody playing here this week’.

“Golf’s a massive sport in Australia; people love it, so give them a reason to come, not a reason not to come.”