Wednesday, December 09, 2009

(AP) — Tim Finchem held a press conference during the World Golf Championship in Shanghai that led to speculation about an "Asian Invasion" by the PGA Tour. Now there's some substance involved.

About a week after Finchem returned from an 18-day trip to Asia, the PGA Tour announced a new tournament in 2010 called the Asia Pacific Golf Classic in Malaysia with a 40-man field, 25 of them from the PGA Tour. It will be co-sanctioned with the Asian Tour and feature a $6 million purse, the richest ever for that region without it being a WGC.

Still to be determined are the dates. PGA Tour spokesman Ty Votaw said only that it will not count toward the money list and will be considered part of the challenge season. No one knows when the official PGA Tour season will end next year because the schedule has only been announced through the FedEx Cup.

Most golf observers in Asia point to Oct. 28-31 as the time that makes the most sense.

That's a week before the HSBC Champions and might help attract PGA Tour players to Shanghai. Plus, the $6 million purse - $1 million to the winner and $60,000 for last place - could serve as a substitute for appearance money, which is not allowed in WGC events.

Asked why any U.S.-based player would go to Malaysia that time of the year, Votaw said, "In this day and age, I would think a $6 million purse ... would be attractive to any number of players."

That would be the same week, however, as the Iskandar Johor Open in Malaysia on the Asian Tour.

Another possibility is the week after the HSBC, which would run against the Singapore Open, a strong event on the European Tour.

Either way, it's getting awfully crowded overseas during that time of the year. The European Tour is in Asia for three straight weeks in November leading to its season-ending Dubai World Championship.

Keith Waters, the European Tour's director of international policy, said PGA Tour executives spoke to him about going to Malaysia and they discussed the schedule.

"Our main concern is the actual dates, whether they clash with existing events we have on the Asian Tour and in Australia," Waters said. "There is a concern that if it's a direct clash, with the TV coverage in the time zones so similar, it will have an impact on media.

The European Tour and Asian Tour announced a television and marketing alliance in July, although Waters said it was not troubling to see the Asian Tour in a deal with the U.S. tour.

"It's where the PGA Tour goes from here," he said. "One event is not a concern for us. After that, it becomes competition."

When asked if the PGA Tour was pursuing other tournaments in Asia, Votaw said, "Not for '10."

BACK TO ITS ROOTS: Unless a title sponsor is found soon, the tournament at Torrey Pines will be called the San Diego Open.

The Buick Invitational is no more, with the automaker getting out of its contract early. It has been listed as the Century Club of San Diego Invitational - Century Club is the host organization - but tournament director Tom Wilson said it would go back to its roots.

It was called the San Diego Open when it began in 1952.

"Kind of rolls off the tongue," Wilson said. "It's a little easier than the Shearson Lehman Hutton Andy Williams Open (in 1988), which was hard to get on a shirt."

As for finding a sponsor? Wilson said there have been several strong suitors, and organizers continue to make contact. The tournament week is Jan. 25, however, and time is running out.

"We've been to the altar a few times, but no one has said, 'I do,"' Wilson said.

RIVIERA VIEW: One of the most memorable overhead shots in golf television came at Shinnecock Hills in the 1995 U.S. Open, when a camera caught the entire flight of Corey Pavin's 4-wood to the 18th green that clinched is lone major championship.

NBC Sports is planning a similar view for one of the most famous holes in golf - the par-4 10th at Riviera.

Minor changes in the TV lineup because of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver means NBC Sports will broadcast the Northern Trust Open at Riviera. The plan is to position a camera tower along the left side of the fairway, allowing for a view of the ball flight as it travels some 300 yards over bunkers and toward the green - assuming players try to drive the green.

DIVOTS: Stuart Appleby has decided to use his one-time exemption from the top 25 on the career money list for his PGA Tour card next year. ... Camilo Villegas will be getting an early start to his European Tour season by playing in the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the same week as the Bob Hope Classic. Also scheduled for Abu Dhabi are Lee Westwood, Geoff Ogilvy, Sergio Garcia and defending champion Paul Casey. ... University of San Diego junior Gunner Wiebe earned the exemption to the San Diego Open that goes to an amateur player, although he had to work for it. Wiebe defeated Tim Mickelson - his college coach and the brother of Phil Mickelson - in an 18-hole playoff. Wiebe, the son of former tour player Mark Wiebe, birdied the last hole to win by a shot. ... The European Tour is returning to Valderrama for the Andalucia Masters, to be played the last week in October. Valderrama for years hosted the season-ending Volvo Masters.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Four of the 18 rookies on the PGA Tour next year have never played in a PGA Tour event.

FINAL WORD: "You're usually nervous for a couple of holes in a tournament. But in Q-school, it never goes away." - Chris Riley, a former Ryder Cup player who earned his card through Q-school for the second straight year.

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