Han hails WGC’s move into Asia

Kyi Hla Hanhe says WGC’s move into Asia is further proof that the region has arrived on golf’s global stage.

Asia’s first staging of a World Golf Championship (WGC) event is another sign that the region has arrived on the global stage, Asian Tour chief Kyi Hla Han said today (Tuesday) .

This week’s WGC-HSBC Champions will take its place as the most lucrative tournament ever staged in Asia and will boast a stellar field which includes world’s two highest-ranked golfers, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson and Spanish star Sergio Garcia, the defending champion.

Two of Asia’s top stars, Jeev Milkha Singh of India and Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand will spearhead the region’s chase for glory at Shanghai’s Sheshan International Golf Club starting on Thursday.

“The elevation in stature of the HSBC Champions is a wonderful recognition for the game in Asia as we have come a very long way in producing great events and also great champions,” said Han.

“The Asian Tour would like to thank HSBC for its outstanding support towards professional golf.”

Han added that the increase in the prize fund to US$7 million this week was a highly positive development for the golf industry.

“It shows that sponsorship is very healthy despite the challenging times that we’ve faced with the economy over the past 18 months. This will generate a lot of confidence going into 2010 and beyond and it is a very positive development for the golf industry, including the Asian Tour,” he said.

Han believes that Asia’s top stars will relish the opportunity of challenging the world’s best players and believes that YE Yang’s triumph at the PGA Championship, where he beat Woods to become Asia’s first Major champion, has taken down all barriers that previously prevented Asians from thinking they could win on golf’s biggest stage.

“The opportunity to play against an international field in Shanghai will greatly enhance our players’ chances,” Han continued..

“I believe this significant development will have a huge and positive impact for the game here as sponsors now clearly recognise the value of professional golf in Asia and the Asian Tour,” he concluded.