The countdown to the first ever Indian Masters of the PGA European Tour with a $2.5 million (almost Rs10 crore) prize has begun.
But on the sidelines, a controversy that erupted when the event was first announced three months ago continues to simmer: Asian Tour officials are still unhappy over being sidetracked by their European counterparts in planning the mega tournament.
“We don’t agree with that,” Singapore-based Asian Tour senior vice-president Gerry Norquist says.
“We’ve made an offer, it’s up to them,” the European Tour tournament director, Jose Maria Zomora, replies.
The back-and-forth began with the 12 June announcement of the European Tour coming to the Delhi Golf Club in February. The same day, the Asian Tour reacted, saying the PGA European Tour had breached protocols of the International Federation of PGA Tours by not including it in the initiative. When a tour visits another territory, the “field share” or players from the two tours are usually equal.
Negotiations have begun, but there’s been no progress, both sides say. The Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI), a body of professional Indian golfers, has been offered 20 exclusive “spots” for players not associated with the Asian Tour.
Seven leading Indian golfers such as Jeev Milkha Singh and Shiv Kapur, who are with the Asian Tour, get automatic entry through the tour’s quota under the international federation rules. The Asian Tour has been offered a separate lot of 26 spots, bringing the total offered to it to 46.
The Asian Tour isn’t content. “The offer we have made is 52 Asian Tour-PGTI players, not counting dual members playing in the Asian Tour and European Tour such as Jeev or Jyoti,” says Norquist.
European Tour’s Zomora, in New Delhi last week, said it had made a second offer of a total of 46 spots to the Asian Tour; it was free to include PGTI players if it chose. “We haven’t reached any agreement, but we want to,” Zomora said.
The offer apparently doesn’t fit with the norms of the international federation, the trade body of the six men’s professional tours: the PGA Tour of America, the richest in terms of prize money; the European Tour that also visits Africa and Asia and ranks second by prize money; the Asian Tour, which excludes Japan; the Japan Golf Tour; the PGA Tour of Australasia; and the Southern African Tour, also called the Sunshine Tour.
In tri-sanctioned events, the formula is different. In the Johnnie Walker Classic, approved jointly by the European, Asian and Australasian tours, the share is more for Asian and European tours and less for Australasia if the meet is in Asia, and more for Europe and Australasia and less for Asia if it’s held Down Under. But the European Tour, in not consulting its Asian partners for the Masters, didn’t follow the pattern, says Norquist. “We’ve always been working partners and there’s no reason to change that,” he said.