Woods absence likely to boost Asia

TOKYO: World No 1 Tiger Woods’s absence from golf may prompt the US PGA Tour to court sponsors more aggressively in Asia, further embracing Japanese teenage star Ryo Ishikawa, a Japan Tour executive says.

The European Tour has tapped the booming Asian market over years but the US body started to look at the region only “in the past year or two,” Japan Golf Tour Organisation senior director Hiroshi Yamanaka said. “Asia is where money moves and gathers,” he said as global sponsors started to desert the American superstar following his announcement of an “indefinite” break from the game amid an infidelity scandal.

“Tiger’s absence greatly affects spectator turnouts and TV ratings. It makes it still tougher for the US tour to survive on its own amid difficulties such as the pullout of various sponsors due to the subprime loan crisis,” he said. “I expect the (US) PGA to step up its approach to Japan in order to pump up its tournaments,” Yamanaka said. “For example, if Ishikawa plays on the US tour, it will draw Japanese media and his sponsors may follow him there.” US and Japanese tours have been discussing the possibility of holding a joint tournament in 2011, while European and Asia ties date back to 1989, when the European Tour set up the Dubai Desert Classic.

In 1992, the Johnnie Walker Classic was established as the first event sanctioned by the European Tour in East Asia. Eurasian ties have continued to grow and in September the European Masters became the first tournament in Europe to be co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour. There are now seven joint events.