Woods may roar in S'pore open

Woods may roar in S'pore open
SMBC’s managing director Masayuki Shimura (right), is aware of the importance of ensuring that the Singapore Open retains its status as a world-class event.

SINGAPORE - He may not be the phenomenon who once ruled the world of golf, but when the Singapore Open makes its long-awaited return next year, Tiger Woods could be teeing off for the first time here.

Officials said the American star is among the names they are looking at to spearhead the tournament, which unveiled Japanese bank Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC) as its new title sponsor yesterday.

The tournament had been in hiatus for three years after British bank Barclays chose not to extend its title sponsorship in 2012.

"We are very aware that Tiger hasn't played a tournament here, so getting him to do so would be great," said Patrick Feizal Joyce, vice-president (golf) at tournament promoter World Sport Group, yesterday.

"Even if Tiger shows up on one leg with one good arm, people will come to see him in the flesh.

"We are actively in discussions with several big names because Singapore deserves to see that kind of talent."

Despite his recent battles with knee and back injuries, Woods reportedly commands an appearance fee of around US$2 million (S$2.7 million).

Although the Open's new prize pot is US$1 million - down from US$6 million in 2012 - under a three-year deal with SMBC, it is understood a separate budget exists for attracting some of the world's top players to Sentosa Golf Club's iconic Serapong course from Jan 28 to 31 next year.

"The Singapore Open has a history of great champions so our responsibility is to maintain its status as a world-class tournament and keep it growing," said Masayuki Shimura, SMBC's managing director and head of its Asia-Pacific division.

The Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour will co-sanction the full-field event, with each providing at least 60 players.

The purse may have shrunk but organisers believe the new date will prove attractive to the likes of Woods and past competitors such as Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson, all Major winners.

While it is no longer co-sanctioned by the European Tour, during this period, its players are typically on their Middle East swing while those on the PGA Tour are competing on the United States' West Coast, hence allowing for convenient travel to compete in Singapore.

Officials also hope the weather, which disrupted recent editions during its previous November slot, will no longer be a factor.

Asian Tour chairman Kyi Hla Han said: "I'm confident the Open will get back its status as one of Asia's premier golf events.

"It will be the players who dictate how much progress it makes.

"If they play good, entertaining golf, the fans and sponsors will come."

Once Asia's richest national Open, the 2012 edition drew a final-day crowd of more than 20,000, who witnessed Italian young gun Matteo Manassero's play-off win over former British Open winner Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa.


This article was first published on Jan 29, 2015.
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