Asian Tour targets Incheon tournament for season restart

Trevor Simsby celebrates with his caddie after winning the 2020 Malaysia Open (by How Foo Yeen/Getty Images)

Golf’s Asian Tour has set out “conservative restart” plans for September, outlining its intention to resume its 2020 season with the Shinhan Donghae Open in Incheon, South Korea.

The Asian Tour’s season has been suspended since American Trevor Simsby won the Malaysia Open on March 7, but it has detailed a new calendar based on Covid-19 forecasts and the current trajectory of gradual relaxations of social distancing measures across the region. The decision for the Tour’s restart in September is also largely centred around international travel restrictions.

Asian Tour commissioner and chief executive, Cho Minn Thant, said: “We are targeting a conservative restart in September because of the current predicament with restrictions on air travel and large gatherings. Unlike domestic markets, we understand international travel will slowly restart in phases and the ultimate lifting of quarantine periods will determine the Tour’s ability to resume full-scale operations.”

The Shinhan Donghae Open is expected to be the first event to tee off on September 10-13 with a purse of KRW1.4bn (€1.03m/$1.17m). Plans are in place for the season to continue to Chinese Taipei and Japan for the Mercuries Taiwan Masters and Panasonic Open Golf Championship, respectively.

Following that, the Tour said talks are taking place for an event in South East Asia before it heads to India for what is intended to be an ‘Indian Swing’ with the Panasonic Open India, the re-scheduled Hero Indian Open and a possible new event in Delhi.

Cho said: “We are targeting between 10-to-12 events from September to December. There is a prospect of the Tour traveling to China and culminating with a stretch which includes the Hong Kong Open and Mauritius Open in the later part of the year. During this period, if things go our way, there may also be a couple of new events that get added to the schedule.”

Taking into consideration the possibility of extended disruptions for some of its players, discussions are being held to determine how the 2020 season will conclude and its impact on the 2021 campaign.

Cho said: “We anticipate that there may be some restrictions for travellers from certain countries when we resume. If this is the case, we will still start as planned with players who can travel and assess the impact and severity of the disadvantage for those who cannot.

“Once this information is established, we will make a call with regards to the conclusion of the season and the transition into the 2021 season. But at this time, we plan to extend our season into 2021, with the early events in 2021 also forming part of the current season.”

Cho also said that heightened health and safety regulations will mean that tournaments will take on a new look. He added: “There is no doubt there will be some compromises in the early events. These could be in areas that we have taken for granted for many years. If we need to minimise the number of foreign travellers travelling into a host country, we may have to do without private caddies, entourages, and support staff. It is possible that only players and essential staff are permitted to travel.

“If hospitality marquee structures are not feasible because of the crowds that they attract, we may need to create other low risk opportunities for sponsors, such as an additional pro-am. But these temporary measures are necessary to ensure that we can resume our tournaments this year.”

The Asian Tour’s resumption plan comes with golf getting back underway in other parts of the world. The US PGA Tour returns on Thursday with the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas.

The Memorial – which will be staged at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, on July 16-19 – is scheduled to be the first event on the PGA Tour to allow fans in the wake of Covid-19.

Meanwhile, the European Tour is to adopt a model of hosting tournaments in one regional ‘cluster’ as it makes its return to action following the Covid-19 shutdown. Revealing its ‘UK Swing’ to be held over six successive weeks, the European Tour last month announced a return to action on July 22 with the Betfred British Masters at Close House near Newcastle.