JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The Sunshine Tour will make leading golfers choose between the world’s richest tournament in South Africa and Tiger Woods’ charity event in California from next year.
A new $10 million World Golf Championships event to be hosted by the tour was heralded by Sunshine commissioner Gareth Tindall on Tuesday as the launch of “a world tour” and “the most significant thing that has happened to South African golf in its history.”
Tindall, emboldened by Charl Schwartzel’s Masters victory on the 50th anniversary of Gary Player’s first green jacket, said the Tournament of Hope underlined the shift in player power away from the United States.
“The significance of what we’ve done is potential, and the U.S. tour might slag me for this, but essentially we are starting the world tour,” Tindall said. “It’s been a matter of time.
“I think what we’ve done could potentially create the impetus to start a world tour because Australia are certainly going to do what we’ve done, and Europe are going to have to do what we’ve done.”
The date and venue for the new WGC event – just the second outside the U.S. after Shanghai’s HSBC Champions – had not been finalized, Tindall said, but organizers are looking at the first week of December.
That would put the tournament with the world’s biggest purse on a collision course with Woods’ Chevron Challenge, co-sponsored by the U.S. PGA Tour, and the Sunshine Tour’s Nedbank Challenge at Sun City.
Chevron attracted Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy as well as Woods last December. Nedbank’s field included Lee Westwood, Padraig Harrington, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen.
Tindall said the Tournament of Hope would take priority over both.
“They will have to move it (the Chevron Challenge), unfortunately for them,” he said. “They moved the Tiger Chevron Challenge to the same date as the Nedbank Golf Challenge without any consultation so I suppose it’s a bit of payback time.
“They need to move that date.”
The five-year deal to hold the WGC event in South Africa was finalized after extensive meetings with the U.S. PGA Tour and the International Federation of PGA Tours during the Masters last week, Tindall said.
U.S. PGA Tour co-chief operating officer Ed Moorhouse, who specializes in international golf affairs, later confirmed the meeting at Augusta – where it was determined that pursuing a WGC in South Africa would be a good thing if they could get it worked out.
“It didn’t surprise me he’s (Tindall) talking about a World Golf Championship,” Moorhouse said, “but there’s still a lot of elements that need to be worked out, not the least of which is the date. At this time, they’re clearly in the planning stages.”
Moorhouse added there had been no discussions of a world tour.
“I don’t see it as a first step,” he said. “It’s a continuation of where we are, with independent tours trying to do (things) more cooperatively.”
Thanks to Schwartzel’s first major victory, none of the major titles are held by an American. Countryman Louis Oosthuizen holds the British Open trophy and another South African, Tim Clark, will defend the Players Championship – considered the “fifth major” and currently the richest event with a $9.5 million purse.
“The internationals now hold the power in world golf,” Tindall said. “For how long, we don’t know.”
The Tournament of Hope will be the fifth WGC event on the calendar. The world’s 70 top-ranked players qualify for WGC tournaments and Tindall was certain the best in the world would travel to South Africa.
The prize money was “too good to turn down,” he said.
He also outlined the Tournament of Hope forming part of a campaign to raise awareness for Aids and poverty, with pop concerts and cycling races in places like Australia and Japan planned to coincide with the tournament in South Africa.
AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson contributed to this report from Jacksonville, Fla.