India set to lose top event
India looks set to lose hosting rights of its biggest golf tournament after sponsors of the $2.3 million Avantha Masters pulled out on Thursday because of the country's plummeting currency and slowing economy.
The Avantha Group, which has sponsored the European Tour-sanctioned event in New Delhi for four years, said it would no longer be associated with the tournament from the 2014 season.
"The Avantha Group has concluded that in order to attract top talent, a substantial prize money increase will be required," the company said in a statement.
"Given the current economic condition, this is not the appropriate moment to do so and the group has therefore not renewed its contract with the European Tour."
India is in the midst of its worst economic crisis in decades and the local currency, the rupee, has depreciated about 22 percent against the dollar this year.
European Tour official Keith Waters told the Times of India newspaper that the March slot reserved for the Masters had not yet been alloted, but added it was unlikely to be held in the South Asian country.
"In the current scenario, it's a great challenge to support an event of this nature in India, especially when a sponsor is not sure how much revenue it would generate," Waters was quoted as saying.
India, one of the largest emerging markets for golf, will now be left with just three Asian Tour events: the $1.25 million Indian Open and two $300 000 tournaments, the SAIL-SBI Open and the Panasonic Open.
The Masters sponsors were also worried about the failure to attract top players due to the March slot which comes after the richer events in the Middle East.
This year's tournament, which featured Scottish great Colin Montgomerie, was won by Thomas Aiken of South Africa.