PGA Tour to tap Japan market

2010-04-01 09:44

Tokyo - The US PGA Tour is eager to launch a tournament in Japan in late 2011 as it explores new markets amid the global economic slowdown, a Japanese tour executive says.

Japan Golf Tour Organisation (JGTO) chairperson Tadashi Koizumi is scheduled to meet with PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem at the Augusta National Golf Club on April 7, on the eve of the Masters there.

"They will discuss what both sides should clear up and prepare in order to stage such a tournament," JGTO senior director Hiroshi Yamanaka said.

"Nothing is definite yet but undoubtedly the US side is actively seeking to do something in Japan."

He said that Finchem had first floated the idea when he talked with Koizumi on the sidelines of the Presidents Cup in San Francisco last October.

"The United States seems to be looking at the Japanese (men's) tour as a completely untapped tour which has not tied up with Europe either," Yamanaka said. "They may probably want to make a deal first."

The US and Japanese women's tours have co-sanctioned a tournament in Japan since 1973, currently dubbed the Mizuno Classic.

The US PGA has lagged behind its European counterpart in tapping the booming Asian market. European and Asian ties date back to 1989, when the European Tour set up the Dubai Desert Classic.

In late 2009, the US PGA finally struck a deal on its first joint tournament with the Asian Tour -- the Asia Pacific Golf Classic, due to be staged in Malaysia this year.

The European Tour is also seeking to stage a tournament in Japan, Yamanaka said. "There is a need to coordinate the schedule and solve other matters such as regulations."

The US Tour, which wants to stage an event in Japan late in the season, is "concerned with many things" apart from financial factors, Yamanaka said.

An event in Japan before or after the cash-laden HSBC Champions tournament in China in November could help lure American players -- many of whom prefer to stay in their comfort zone at home - to the Far East, he explained.

But, due to a clutter of end-of-year tournaments in Japan, the proposed joint event could potentially be held by repackaging one of them, he said.

The Japanese men's game has been boosted by sponsorship deals focusing on teenage star Ryo Ishikawa after he won the domestic KSB Cup in 2007 at the age of 15.

He made his US PGA debut and became the Japan Tour's youngest money leader last year. Now 18, the hot media and marketing property is set to compete in his second Masters after missing the cut in 2009.

In the meeting in Augusta, the Japan Tour is also expected to reaffirm its "great interest" in hosting the Presidents Cup in 2015, Yamanaka said.

The high-profile biennial tournament pits a 12-strong team of Americans against a dozen of the best from the rest of the world, apart from Europe.

It is hosted alternately in the United States and countries represented by the international team. The 2011 event will be staged in Australia.

The US commissioner, Finchem, earlier mentioned the possibility of China hosting it in 2019.