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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

India is Slowly Becoming a Golf Destination

Indian Open, to be held in Delhi October 11-14 and sponsored by Hero Honda, usually attracts second tier players because the prize money is small by international standards. Of course top local talent, like Jeev Milkha Singh, Jyothi Randhawa, with his peculiar golfing attire, Arjun Atwal and others, usually play. The prize money for the Open used to be $100,000. Now, in 2007, it'll be $500,000. Regular US PGA games have a total prize money of about $7mil per game with the winner usually taking about $1.25mil. Consistent top tier players in US usually earn between $5 and $10mil per year with a not too shabby $40-$50mil prize money earnings throughout their golfing careers. Tiger Woods makes close to $100mil per year including endorsements and will apparently retire a billionaire.

European Tour total prize money is not as high as US PGA's and Asian Tour is usually sponsored with European Tour, although lately Chinese tour seems to have lot of money with Chinese Open attracting top tier players from around the globe. Japanese tour also has good prize money but I don't think they have too many games through out the year. US PGA is the most active, attracts top talent, and is rich in prize money.

India is slowly joining the big leagues with 2008 probably being the turning point. Two events - both with prize money of $2.5mil and both in Feb 2008 - are to be held in India. Indian Masters, a European Tour event, and Johnny Walker Classic to be played in Delhi at DLF Golf and Country Club with Europeans, Asian and Australian tours sponsoring the event. Asian Tour doesn't like Europeans sponsoring Indian Masters. Europeans Tour hooked up with Indian Golf Union which is opposed by Professional Golf Tour of India, a rebel group formed by, mainly, players, and their Asian Tour partners. And Indian tour management itself is a mess with politics and power play between Indian Golf Union and Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI). We clearly have to be with in the Asian Tour. But the Europeans can divide and conquer, as usual, because we allow them to. If there is too much infighting among Indian tour managers, seeing how much money is floating around, the utterly incompetent GOI ministers and babus will probably take over. That's bad for the future of golf in India - we just have to look at hockey and any number of games other than cricket, which is in a different league all together. Hopefully Indian tour will get their act together fast and stay private.

Vijay Singh, who started the season ranked 3 in the world is in slump towards the end of 2007, now that he's 44, said he'll be playing the Johnny Walker Classic. Because US PGA doesn't start until later in the year, I won't be surprised if he shows up for Indian Masters as well. Another talent to watch for, if he shows up, is K. J. Choi, a great Korean player, who had wonderful season in 2007. There are also some good Chinese and Japanese and top tier young Australians players who may show up.

Both these February events along with Indian Open should increase interest in golf in India and hopefully there will be more courses and more people, young and old, taking up the wonderful sport of golf in the next decade.