The Macau Open, which will be played between 23-26 October, has long been a favoured stop on the Asian Tour, and for good reason. The Macau Golf and Country Club, and the risk/reward nature of its tricky layout, is a fine venue, while the myriad off-course attractions of the former Portuguese colony - from glitzy casinos, outstanding restaurants and vibrant nightlife - are a draw themselves for the 140-plus field of young professionals, particularly at the beginning and end of tournament week.
But these days there is an extra incentive. Since the Venetian Macao took over the role of title sponsor in 2012 - and incidentally becoming in the process the first title sponsor in the tournament's 15-year history - the prize purse has grown from a relatively paltry US$300,000 to an impressive US$900,000, making it one of the richest single-sanctioned Asian Tour events on the playing calendar. For years golf industry insiders have long seen Macau as a tournament with tremendous potential. And while US$900,000 is still a world away from the mega millions that are on offer at the continent's richest events in Shanghai - the BMW Masters and the WGC-HSBC Champions, which will be in the immediate weeks after Macau - the Venetian's input is to be applauded. As we have seen with both the Hong Kong and Singapore Opens, garnering golf tournament sponsorship is far from straightforward - even in Asia, which has been far less afflicted by the affects of the Global Financial Crisis than either Europe or the United States. The future it seems is bright for the Macau Open, and for those of us who want to see high-quality professional golf, this is great news.
More money generally - but not always - equates to stronger fields, and this month's event will likely boast arguably the best collection of players in Macau Open history. The biggest news is that four-time major champion Ernie Els is back - indeed, he is likely to become a regular fixture having signed a sponsorship deal with the Venetian Macao Resort - but we can expect to also see the cream of Asian golf - the likes of Thongchai Jaidee, 2012 champion Gaganjeet Bhullar, China's Liang Wen-chong and runaway Order of Merit leader David Lipsky - to tee it up at scenic, cliff-top course. The other major news? Miguel Angel Jiménez is joining Els in the helicopter over from the Hong Kong Open to tee it up in Macau for the very first time …
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