Asia's lucrative golf events could miss coronavirus cut

SEOUL • South Korea's biggest golf tournament was moved to Las Vegas because of coronavirus restrictions yesterday, with the rest of the PGA Tour's US$30 million (S$41 million) Asian swing looking in doubt.

The CJ Cup, originally due to take place on Jeju Island from Oct 15-18, will now be played at the Shadow Creek course in Nevada on the same dates, the Tour and sponsors CJ Group said in a joint statement.

South Korea - which had brought its outbreak largely under control, but is now tackling several clusters of infections - has imposed strict limits on travel, with all arrivals required to spend two weeks in quarantine.

Separately, the Tour said it was in talks over the fate of Japan's Zozo Championship and the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, which are scheduled to be held in consecutive weeks after the CJ Cup.

With combined purses of US$29.75 million, the Tour's three-stop swing has been the highlight of Asia's golf calendar in recent seasons.

"We are currently engaged in discussions with the stakeholders of both the Zozo Championship and World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions and will make an announcement shortly on the status of both events," the US-based men's circuit said in a statement to Agence France-Presse.

The US$10.25 million Shanghai tournament has been under a cloud since Chinese authorities banned most international sports events this year to guard against coronavirus outbreaks.

The maiden Zozo Championship was won last year by Tiger Woods, who equalled Sam Snead's record of 82 Tour victories.

In its three years of existence, the CJ Cup has been won by two former world No. 1s - Justin Thomas in 2017 and last year, either side of Brooks Koepka's victory in 2018.

"While our players have always looked forward to visiting Korea, the current circumstances provided this new opportunity to bring the event to Las Vegas," said Ty Votaw, the Tour's executive vice president of international operations. The CJ Group added it planned to bring the event back to South Korea next year.

Meanwhile, regional golf suffered another blow as the Asian Tour, on hold since March, announced the loss of the only remaining event on this year's calendar. Next month's Shinhan Donghae Open will now be played as a domestic event on the Korean Tour because of the travel restrictions, the Asian body said.

40 million dollars in prize money that players will miss out on if the PGA Tour's Asian swing is axed due to Covid-19.

Just four events, including the SMBC Singapore Open, have been possible on the Asian Tour this year and all occurred before mid-March.

The LPGA Tour's BMW Ladies' Championship, due to be held in Busan in October, could fall by the wayside with officials awaiting government advice if it can go ahead.

A cancellation would leave November's Toto Classic in Japan as the last remaining Asia-based tournament for the year and that is also said to be in doubt. Should it be scrapped, no LPGA events would be held on the continent this year.