Asian Tour eyes late start to lure top names

Singapore: The Asian Tour is considering changing its calendar to entice more top players to tournaments following demands from sponsors, executive chairman Kyi Hla Han has said.

The current Asian Tour schedule runs from January to December with the final months from October attracting top names from around the globe when the stronger U.S. PGA Tour ends and the European Tour moves East to the region.

Han said sponsors were keen to capitalise on top players such as American four-times major winner Phil Mickelson being in the region and putting on more events like the $6 million Singapore Open.

"We have a lot of tournaments interested in that two month window where we get the top players available," Han said on the sidelines of the Singapore Open on Sunday, adding the schedule change could come in 2014.

"The big sponsors are going to demand the top players and the top players are on the PGA Tour and the European Tour and they are going to finish their season so there is not that much of a window.

"We just have to see how we can keep all sponsors happy but there are a lot of sponsors who want tournaments around this time so it is a great problem."

Han said one solution would be to start the Asian Tour calendar around August with the three-week long qualifying school in order to free up time for more events at the turn of the year.

"The weather gets better from October to about March and we have Q-school in between because of the calendar year so we kind of lose a three week stretch there in early January," Han said.

"We have always a blank tournament (space) in June and July so in a way that would be ideal (switching).

"I have been thinking about it but never really seriously discussed it with other tours. If anything happens it probably won`t start until 2014."

Han, a former Myanmar professional, has continually pushed for more opportunities for his members to play on the bigger PGA and European Tours and increased prize money on the Asian Tour.

The Asian Tour`s successful co-sanctioning with the European Tour has led to increased prize money at the Singapore Open, next week`s $2million Johor Open and December`s $2.75 million Hong Kong Open.

There is also the $6.1 million Asia Pacific Classic, a joint U.S. PGA Tour tournament hosted in Malaysia last month.

But there are gaps in the calendar and also a number of $300,000 events so Han believes the move of start date would be good for his members.

"I haven`t really gone through the board but I`ll have to pretty much discuss it with the other tours first and then the players," he Han said.

"I think the players would probably support it. In January that means we could fit three more tournaments in plus they are kind of sitting it out all summer and they are free to go and play wherever they want ... in Japan or the States.

Bureau Report

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