There will be no Asian swing of the PGA Tour this calendar year. While two of the three events in the erstwhile Asian swing will be held on the West coast in the United States, the third one stands cancelled.
It was yet another blow for Asian fans and players, who have already suffered cancellations of tournaments co-sanctioned by Asia and Europe; co-sanctioned by Asia and Japan; and, of course, the Asian Tour events.
With murmurs that the PGA Tour players have been reluctant to travel outside the US, and understandably so, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, a change in the venues of status of the events was more or less expected.
This week the PGA Tour officially announced in quick succession the shift of the CJ Cup from Jeju Island, Korea to Shadow Creek in Las Vegas and of the Zozo Championship from Chiba, Japan to Sherwood Country Club in California.
The WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, China has been cancelled, as the sporting events in China in 2020 have been limited to those related to the 2022 Winter Olympics. That week is also scheduled to have the Bermuda Championship, which might now be elevated to a higher status with full FedExCup points and a Masters berth.
The $8 million 2020 Zozo event will now be called the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP @ SHERWOOD to be played at the Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, California Oct. 22-25, 2020.
As usual, it will feature 78 professionals, including the leading players from the 2019-20 FedExCup points list, players designated by the Japan Golf Tour Organization and sponsor exemptions
The CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges will now be called THE CJ CUP @ SHADOW CREEK and will be staged at Shadow Creek Golf Course in Las Vegas, Nevada, Oct. 15-18, 2020.
Apart from leading players from the FedExCup points list, the 78-man field will comprise the highest ranked player of Korean nationality from the Asian Tour Order of Merit, up to five players designated by the KPGA and the top-3 available players of Korean nationality from the Official World Golf Ranking.
The “Asian Swing” became had become very popular with the top stars. The 2019 champions were of the highest calibre – Zozo Championship (Tiger Woods), CJ Cup (Justin Thomas) and the WGC-HSBC (Rory McIlroy).
Massive purses, limited fields and no cuts made it hugely lucrative for the PGA Tour stars in the period after FedExCup Play-offs and raised the profile of the events.
The PGA Tour added sweeteners with chartered flights, uber luxury accommodation and luxury cars for local transport. It was a three-week bonanza for the stars, many of who travelled with their families. For others it was a chance to pick up early FedExCup points and good money coveted berths to the Masters and PGA Tour exemptions also available. The Asian players, too, benefitted from it all.
In the period from 2013 to 2019, almost all top stars had come over at some point. The CIMB Classic winners included Nick Watney (2012), Ryan Moore (2013 and 2014), Justin Thomas (2015 and 2016), Pat Perez (2017), Marc Leishman (2018).
The HSBC Champions (2005 to 2008) metamorphosed WGC-HSBC from 2009. In the first period, the winners included Phil Mickelson (2007) and Sergio Garcia (2008) and then from 2009 onwards, the roll call was even more star-studded – Mickelson (2009), Francesco Molinari (2010), Martin Kaymer (2011), Ian Poulter (2012), Dustin Johnson (2013), Bubba Watson (2014, he was the Masters champion that year), Russell Knox (2015), Hideki Matsuyama (2016), Justin Rose (2017), Xander Schauffele (2018) and McIlroy (2019).
The CJ Cup saw Justin Thomas win in 2017 and 2019 and in between Brooks Koepka grabbed the title in 2018.
The Zozo Championship’s first winner was none other than Tiger himself.
Of the three events in Asia, Zozo Championship attracted most attention in 2019 as Woods teed up for the Inaugural edition. Not just that, he went on to win it, too. The win, his 82nd success on the PGA Tour, tied him with Sam Snead for most wins on the PGA Tour.
The Zozo Championship had replaced the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia which was the first pro event co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour in South East Asia. After being specially sanctioned by PGA Tour from 2010 to 2012, CIMB Classic in 2013 was elevated to an official status on the PGA Tour with a purse of $ 7 million, a field of 78, FedExCup points and the winner getting a spot at the Masters. It lasted till 2018. With the sponsors not being able to confirm its continued conduct, the event went off the calendar and in came Zozo.
Meanwhile, the WGC-HSBC, which started out in 2005 as an event co-sanctioned by the Europe, Asia, Australasia and Sunshine (South Africa), became a specially sanctioned by the PGA Tour from 2009 to 2012.
In 2013, it attained an official status on PGA Tour with the winner getting the usual benefits of FedExCup points, Masters berth plus a three-year exemption on the PGA Tour. It was also part of the European Tour’s ‘Final Series’. At that stage there were two PGA Tour events in Asia.
When the CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges started in 2017, it became a three-event Asian swing.
The Asian fans will be hoping that this, like so much else in the world in 2020, will be a one-off happenstance, and all things including the Asian Swing will be back in its original form.