Asian Tour Destinations has welcomed two new partners to the fold with Golfasian and the Wall Street Journal+ (WSJ+) becoming part of the exclusive network of golf clubs, with direct ties to the Asian Tour.
Golfasian is the leading golf tour operator in Southeast Asia, while WSJ+ a premium membership program exclusively for subscribers of The Wall Street Journal.
They join at a time when Asian Tour Destinations currently boasts eight venues, representing the top-tier of golf clubs in Asia.
Sentosa Golf Club in Singapore was the first to join and they were soon followed by Black Mountain Golf Club in Hua Hin, Thailand; Classic Golf & Country Club in New Delhi, India; and Kota Permai Golf & Country Club in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Last year, Horizon Hills Golf & Country Club in Malaysia, Laguna Golf Lăng Cô in Vietnam, and Sapporo Country Club plus The North Country Golf Club, both in Japan, became part of the programme.
Cho Minn Thant, Commissioner and CEO of the Asian Tour, said: “The Asian Tour Destinations network continues to gain momentum and so this is an opportune time for Golfasian and Wall Street Journal+ to join. We are delighted they have chosen to partner with our Asian Tour Destinations programme and we look forward to working with them collaboratively.
“The concept of Asian Tour Destinations is to help build the ideal ecosystem for the golf course industry and related sectors in the region, so we feel Golfasian and Wall Street Journal+ are a perfect fit.”
“Golfasian is thrilled to join Asian Tour Destinations as we pride ourselves on working with the best golfing venues in Asia, while this partnership will allow us to further raise awareness of our brand alongside exploring future opportunities with the Asian Tour,” said Mark Siegel, Managing Director, Golfasian Co. Ltd.
“Our business is based on delivering a personalised golfing journey combined with exploring the culture of the countries visited, and our management has over 49 years’ experience in the golfing, travel, and hospitality segments, so this is an exciting opportunity that will add an extra dimension to our level of commitment and service.”
In particular, Golfasian will be able to provide unique travel package offers to experience Asian Tour Destinations venue members, benefit from promotional opportunities across all of the Asian Tour Destinations multi-media platforms, explore cross-promotional opportunities with current and future Asian Tour Destinations partners and in the future explore the potential for building golf and travel packages around the Asian Tour schedule, once circumstances permit.
WSJ+ has had a long-established relationship with the Asian Tour as an “Official Media Partner” and sees the transition of the affiliation to Asian Tour Destinations as a natural evolution for the partnership and an amplified benefit to WSJ+ members.
“This is another great opportunity for WSJ+ and our members to enjoy a range of unique benefits by working with the Asian Tour Destinations platform and in particular many of the world-class golfing venues across the Asian region,” said Charles Ho, Marketing Manager WSJ+.
“WSJ+ members will receive access to unique offers, and we will also gain exposure across the Asian Tour Destinations platform.”
Asian Tour Destinations was set up to provide an affiliate membership programme between the associated venues and the Asian Tour which will help grow the industry in the region.
Being a part of the Asian Tour Destinations network means that each venue is certified Tour calibre and operates a comprehensive range of facilities and services to their members and guests under tournament-ready conditions all-year round.
Among the core benefits, Asian Tour members are able to play and practice at each venue, allowing for the members at each club to enjoy direct engagement with the region’s best golfers.
India’s veteran golf star Arjun Atwal predicts his partnership with Thai ace Kiradech Aphibarnrat in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans will see them producing “awesome golf” as the duo seek to surprise the stars gathered at TPC Louisiana.
This week’s US$7.4 million PGA TOUR showpiece sees 80 two-man teams slugging it out under a different format as in a typical week, with Four-Ball being used in the first and third rounds and Foursomes (alternate shot) in the second and final rounds.
Jon Rahm and Ryan Palmer will defend the title they won in 2019 – there was no event last year due to COVID-19 – with the likes of Xander Schauffele/Patrick Cantlay, Matt Wolff/Collin Morikawa, Justin Rose/Henrik Stenson, Marc Leishman/Cameron Smith, Tony Finau/Cameron Champ and Sungjae Im/Byeong Hun An amongst the combinations tipped to contend.
Atwal, India’s first winner on the PGA TOUR, was happy to be picked by Kiradech. Both are former Asian No. 1s and have won a combined seven European Tour victories between them.
“There’s nothing to not like about Kiradech. He’s such a cool guy, and he’s laid back just like me. We recently played a few rounds together and I realised how similar his game is to mine, at least during my peak. I know he’s struggled a little bit over the last few weeks but I think he’s found his form and I think you’ll be seeing some awesome golf from us,” said the 48-year-old Atwal.
Kiradech has failed to find his best form for nearly two years now, missing six cuts in 10 starts in the current season which have left him in danger of losing his PGA TOUR card. He hopes that partnering one of Asia’s golf legends will provide the missing spark.
“The reason why I picked Arjun is because he’s one of the best Asian players ever. He’s won on the Asian Tour, European Tour and PGA TOUR and there’s no doubt in my mind why I picked him. He’s also such a nice guy, a very positive guy and I’m looking forward to playing alongside him. We’re very comfortable with each other and I’m sure we’re going to have a lot of fun,” said the 31-year-old Thai.
Both Asian stars are competing for the first time in the tournament under this new team format, although Kiradech will lean on his more experienced partner who finished fifth at TPC Louisiana in 2005 when it was played as an individual strokeplay event.
“I’ve had some success on this golf course. I was leading and had a mishap in the third round but I like the course and I’m loving it that I get to play with Kiradech,” said Atwal. “I asked Kiradech if he was interested in partnering and he said ‘yes’ as he thinks I’m good luck. Our style is pretty similar … he can hit a fade at will and I can hit a draw at will. So that works for us and we will strategize. Our short game is pretty similar too but his is actually fantastic. I think we will have a great week. One thing I know for sure is that we’ll have a lot of fun playing together,” said Atwal.
Kiradech thinks a change to the team format will do him wonders as he seeks to improve on his current 183rd ranking on the FedExCup points list. The Top-125 at the end of the Regular Season in August keep their cards and also qualify for the lucrative FedExCup Playoffs.
“My game has been good over the last few days. We’ve been practising together and I think we’ll have a chance to do well. For the past two years, I’ve not been playing my best golf and not playing my A-game but now I feel my game is coming back,” said Kiradech.
“I just need someone to trust in me and believe in me and the right role model is Arjun. It’ll be a pleasure to play with him and I want to thank him for spending time with me. I’ve not set a target that we need to do well or need to win as we just want to enjoy ourselves. I’m sure this week will be one of the best times in my golf career.”
India’s Anirban Lahiri could finally put a smile back on his face and breathe a sigh of relief after months of struggles on the golf course.
After knocking in a closing birdie on the last at TPC San Antonio, the 33-year-old signed for a 3-under 69 to post his best finish of the season on the PGA TOUR with a fifth place finish at the Valero Texas Open on Sunday. His 10-under 278 total was some eight shots behind winner Jordan Spieth but the margin wasn’t a concern to Lahiri at all.
He made birdies on three of the four par-5s, including a five-footer on the last and earned 110 FedExCup points to move from 125th to 94th on the latest standings which enhanced his hopes of qualifying for the lucrative Playoffs in August.
Starting the day five back of co-leaders Spieth and Matt Wallace, the former Asian No. 1 put a stop to a poor run of form where he has missed five cuts from seven starts this year with some wonderful ball striking. All the hard work put in at the practice range in recent weeks has finally paid off, but Lahiri knows there is still plenty of work ahead if he is to eventually win on the PGA TOUR.
“I didn’t quite get into the hunt … there was too much separation between the leader group and the rest of us. I think overall through the week, I didn’t convert as many of my opportunities. I definitely hit the ball good enough to contend and maybe win but my bunker play and my short game, and putting from mid-range to short range was below par,” said Lahiri.
“Those are the things that I need to work on. I’ve put a lot of work in the full swing and ball striking in the last month or so, and to see that working and holding up under pressure is very pleasing. Overall, it was a great week for me. I’m very happy with how I kept my composure and kind of stuck to what I needed to do. It was one of those weeks that I could have done a lot more but I’d rather build on this and work on some of the areas where I came up short on.”
Prior to the week, Lahiri ranked a lowly 150th in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green but he has worked hard on his swing which he said needed some “simplifying”. He ranked 25thin the Tee to Green stat category this week. With his coach Vijay Divecha scheduled to visit Lahiri in the U.S. soon, there is plenty for him to look forward to as the TOUR approaches the business end of the season.
“I gave myself a lot of good looks. The first day, I was guilty of not hitting it quite as close. The second day, I missed lots of opportunities, and could have shot 5 to 6-under. Third round, I hit it even better than I hit it today. I felt like if I was scoring better, I could have shot a few 5, 6, 7 under and that was the difference in the end,” said Lahiri.
“I need to clean up on some of the areas like I chipping and bunker play which has been my strength. I’ll go back to the drawing board and spend time getting more confidence in those areas and also in my mid-range and short range putts. I’ve done well outside of 15 feet but not done well inside of 12 feet. Those are the areas that I’ll be working on and hopefully get better in time to come.”
Korea’s Si Woo Kim closed with a 70 to finish T23 on 284 alongside countryman K.H. Lee while Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama and veteran K.J. Choi were a further stroke back in a share of 30th place.
Spieth, 27, claimed his 12th PGA TOUR victory following a final round 66. It has been 1,351 days, and 83 starts on the PGA TOUR from his last victory at the 2017 Open Championship. “I feel grateful,” Spieth said. “It’s been a road that’s had a lot of tough days. It kind of bounces off and on right now when it hits me that I’m back in the winner’s circle. I’ve had people in my corner that have always believed in me, even when I’ve kind of believed less in myself.”
On the back of the development of another world-class nine holes at Millbrook Resort, which is due to open for member play in late 2021, these new holes, combined with the existing nine, will complete the new championship “Coronet” course.
A field of around 152 professionals and 152 amateurs will tee it up over the new championship “Coronet” course and the ‘Remarkables’ course (previously known as the Arrows 9 and the Remarkables 9) on days one and two of the event, with the Coronet course being used for the final two days. Tournament organisers will however incorporate the Remarkables closing par-3 hole into the final day, to ensure that this exciting hole continues to be the climatic final hole.
Millbrook Resort’s Owner and Managing Director Gota Ishii, is delighted to have Millbrook host all four competitive rounds for the first time. “Since our investment in the new nine holes, it has been a dream to host the entire New Zealand Open tournament at Millbrook. This only enhances Millbrook as one of the premiere golf resorts in the South Pacific, now delivering not one, but two championship courses” said Ishii.
New Zealand Open Chairman, John Hart, expressed his pleasure at having the ongoing support of all three of Queenstown’s major courses, adding his excitement in seeing top professionals tackling the new course at Millbrook, in particular.
Hart added, “Millbrook has in recent years become the home of the New Zealand Open, and to have them host all four tournament rounds is testament to the backing they have given the event.”
“The new nine holes that will now make up the Coronet course are outstanding, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the professionals battle it out on this challenging new course. This signals a new era for the tournament and is very exciting all round” said Hart.
The Hills will continue to be closely involved, with the Saturday pro-am event (featuring professionals and amateurs who miss the day two cut) to be played at The Hills.
The Hills are delighted at maintaining a role in hosting the New Zealand Open, an event that was first brought to The Hills in 2007.
Sir Michael Hill commended Millbrook on effectively adding another full course to the region with the development of their new nine holes, adding that “It’s been wonderful to be part of tournaments evolution over the last 13 years. It makes sense for Millbrook to now take over the full hosting of competition play adding a new dimension to the New Zealand Open. We are pleased to continue our involvement by hosting a number of amateurs and professional players on the Saturday of Open week, I’m sure they will thoroughly enjoy The Hills experience.”
Jack’s Point continue their ten-year support of the tournament by hosting some of the other golfing events that now make up what has become a weekly ‘festival of golf’.
The TV broadcast will cover all four days of live play, and will include highlight packages from both Jack’s Point and The Hills, presenting the very best of golf in the Central Otago region.
The tournament will be broadcast to over thirty countries round the globe and will continue to showcase all three of New Zealand’s great courses to a global audience with a potential audience of over 320 million households.
Photo: Views from the incredible new 11th hole that will feature in the championship Coronet course at Millbrook Resort, Queenstown (Credit: Millbrook Resort)