SINGAPORE - The Singapore Open, once Asia's richest golf tournament, will return next year after a three-year absence but with a vast drop in prize money and without the European Tour on board.
The US$1 million (S$1.3 million) Jan 28-31 event will be co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and the Japan Golf Tour (JGTO) after Japan's Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation agreed to a three-year sponsorship of the tournament, last held in 2012 with a US$6 million purse.
"The Singapore Open was always one of our best events and one that our members strove to compete well in," Asian Tour Chairman Kyi Hla Han said on Wednesday.
"It is tremendous to have it back as it is an important event for our region and our tour."
Tournament promoters World Sports Group (WSG) signed a five-year contract extension with the Singapore Golf Association days before Italian Matteo Manassero lifted the trophy at the Sentosa Golf Club in November 2012 but they struggled to find a replacement sponsor for Barclays who quit that year.
WSG executive chairman Seamus O'Brien was in the dark as to why no corporation in wealthy Singapore wanted to come on board and blamed the global financial crisis for international sponsors not biting.
With the European Tour no longer a co-sanctioning partner, the tournament will move to a January date and serve as a likely curtain raiser for the Asian and Japan Golf Tour seasons, with each getting a minimum of 60 spots in a 156-man field, Han said.
Inevitable questions on the lower prize money and which headline acts from the US PGA and Europeans Tours organisers hoped to attract were met with vague answers, with Han and O'Brien both saying they wanted the tournament to grow.
There appeared no room, though, for the OneAsia Tour, a partner of O'Brien's WSG.
Beginning in 2009, the OneAsia circuit was billed as a future rival of the grand European and US PGA Tours but only 10 tournaments are confirmed for 2015, the same number as in 2010.
Stagnation has raised questions about its future, with WSG previously denying claims from Han that they underwrite any OneAsia loss making.
O'Brien was prickly when asked about OneAsia's lack of involvement and long-term outlook, contorting his face to show his displeasure at the question.
"Mate, there never was so why do you think there would be?" he said as they unveiled the Japan Golf Tour as a first time co-sanctioning partner of the event.