Shanghai - The flagship World Golf
Championships-HSBC Champions will stay in China for the next five years with an
increased prize fund of $9.5 million, officials said on Tuesday, making it the
richest tournament outside the US and major championships.
In a slew of announcements at the HSBC Golf
Business Forum in Shanghai, the bank also said it was extending its sponsorship
of Asia's richest US LPGA event, the HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore, to
2020, as well as the European Tour's Abu Dhabi Golf Championship and its
association with the British Open as the event's patron.
The move comes after an uncertain period
for HSBC which was hit with huge penalties over money-laundering in Switzerland
and foreign exchange manipulation in Britain, forcing the bank to set aside
$1.3 billion to cover fines imposed by regulators.
But any fears that the 150-year-old bank's
sports sponsorship portfolio, which also includes the Rugby Sevens World Series
and junior golf development programmes in Britain, Hong Kong and China, would
suffer as a result were firmly allayed by Tuesday's announcements.
The HSBC Champions has been a highlight of
the Asian golfing calendar since it was founded in 2005, before joining the
four-stop World Golf Championships series co-sanctioned by the US PGA, European
and Asian Tours in 2009, and is sometimes dubbed "Asia's major".
This year's WGC-HSBC Champions begins on
Thursday at Sheshan Golf Club in Shanghai, its home for all but one edition of
World number two Jordan Spieth and
third-ranked Rory McIlroy are among 41 of the world's top 50 taking part in an
elite 78-man field competing for a prize pot of $8.5 million this week. The
defending champion is fourth-ranked Bubba Watson.
From 2016, the event will remain at Sheshan
in the eastern Chinese mega-city of 24 million people for at least five years
with prize money rising to $9.5 million, giving it parity with the other three
WGC events which are all played in the United States, and making it by far the
richest golf event outside of the US or major championships.
"This is an exciting morning for HSBC
as part of their 150th anniversary celebrations but also for golf," US PGA
Tour commissioner Tim Finchem told 300 golf industry delegates gathered at
Shanghai's Shangri-La hotel.
"If you look back, the success of this
championship has opened up a lot of things in Asia. I doubt seriously if we
would have been successful in bringing the Presidents Cup to Korea this year
but for the fact that this tournament has demonstrated what can be achieved
with golf in Asia."
"We look forward to continuing this
partnership for the next five years at least," he added.
HSBC global head of sponsorship and events
Giles Morgan said the bank was delighted to be able to continue its investment
in golf and in China in particular.
"We are very pleased as a company to
be playing a small part in the future success of the sport," he said.
"There are a lot of things we would
like to see happen over the next five years but given the level of our
investment here in China, and with our youth programmes.
"If we had a medallist from China at
the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo that would be a wonderful testament to the
growth of golf here in Asia and in China."
Tour bosses have brushed off concerns over
golf in China after the Communist Party banned its 88 million members from
playing the game, along with "extravagant eating and drinking" and
"improper sexual relationships", in a crackdown aimed at improving governance