The Macau Open has long been a favoured stop on the Asian Tour, and for good reason. The Macau Golf & 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 14-year history - the prize purse has grown from a relatively paltry US$300,000 to an impressive three-quarters of a million dollars. This year's event, which takes place between 17-20 October, raises the bar yet further; US$800,000 is what's at stake, which propels Macau into the league of the Tour's big-time events.
For years golf industry insiders have long seen Macau as a tournament with tremendous potential. And while US$800,000 is still a world away from the mega millions that are on offer at the continent's richest events in Shanghai - the WGC-HSBC Champions and BMW Masters, 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 has confirmed his place - although his participation will no doubt have been aided by a hefty appearance fee and the role of IMG, his management company, as the tournament's promoter - but we can expect to the cream of Asian golf - the likes of Thongchai Jaidee, reigning champion Gaganjeet Bhullar, China's Liang Wen-chong and possibly runaway Order of Merit leader Kiradech Aphibarnrat – to tee it up at scenic, cliff-top course.
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