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Golf | European Tour

Sponsor, dates uncertain for 'Asia's major'



The Singapore Open is facing a possible change of dates, prize money and even sanctioning bodies as organisers search for a new title sponsor after the withdrawal of Barclays, officials said on Thursday.

Officials pledged the event was "here to stay" after promoters World Sport Group (WSG) signed a fresh five-year deal – but were unable to give details about the next edition of an event sometimes billed as "Asia's Major".

British bank Barclays will not renew its sponsorship after this year's ongoing $6 million tournament, which is one of the region's richest but has struggled to attract top-quality fields in a congested part of the season.

Chris Jordan, WSG's senior vice president for golf, said organisers were now canvassing an "enormous" number of possible sponsors, but stressed that all options were open for the event's future.

"I think we're going to use it as an opportunity to start with a blank piece of paper. We are talking to all the tours... we will be talking about the dates," Jordan said.

"We are talking to an enormous raft of (sponsors), in an enormous raft of different categories and we're very confident that towards the beginning of next year, when this one's settled, we'll be making some more announcements," he added.

Jordan indicated he was keen to shift the notoriously rain-affected event away from its current slot, which was intended to attract players as they gather prize money to position themselves before the European Tour's season finale in Dubai.

"Frankly, as far as I'm concerned all bets are off," he said. "Nothing's a given but we will look at dates because seriously, we can't afford to have too much bad luck on one date any more."

Next year's October-November "Asian swing" will include Shanghai's $7 million BMW Masters and $8.5 million WGC-HSBC Champions, Malaysia's $6 million CIMB Classic – the region's first full-status PGA Tour event –and the Hong Kong Open.

Jordan admitted he was disappointed the current edition of Asia's oldest national open, which dates back to 1961, had not attracted more star names, despite the presence of world No 1 Rory McIlroy.

"The guys are tired. They've been on the road three weeks, four weeks, and then they're moving on to Dubai (World Tour Championship) which is a massive event. Somewhere they've got to take a week off," he said.

"A number of them have taken the week off this week, which is really disappointing for us, but if you're in golf you understand that. It's one of the factors we're going to be thinking about."

He added that it was not easy to find sponsors in Singapore, which has two other big golf tournaments as well as an annual Formula One Grand Prix.

"It's tough. You've also got a thing called the Formula One, which whilst it's not a golf tournament, it does suck an enormous amount of sponsorship dollars, particularly corporate dollars out of the marketplace," said Jordan.

"There's not much room for much more... we're probably at just about max. And anybody else that wants to bring a large golf tournament into Singapore, good luck."

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