THE golf industry is awash with speculation that an announcement on the resuscitation of the Malaysian Open championship is imminent, with some even suggesting that it could be within the next four or so weeks.
However, the Malaysian Golf Association (MGA), the custodians of the national Open, continue to give short shrift to inquiries regarding the matter, and without confirming or denying that it will indeed take place later this year as TeeUp first mentioned some time ago.
Talk within certain circles of the industry this week centred on what one source claimed was a reasonably fresh development with another local big bank brought into the equation and hinted that invitations might have already been dispatched to some players.
The possible venue also cropped up, with TPC Kuala Lumpur now mentioned, along with Kota Permai, who were for a long time seen as the first option, should the national Open make a comeback.
According to one source, who chose to remain anonymous – given that deliberations are said to be still on-going – the Malaysian Open is likely to be staged towards the end of the year, with the likelihood being in October or November.
It is thought the tournament, previously co-sanctioned with the European Tour, will carry prize money in the region of US$1mil and fall under the umbrella of either the OneAsia Tour or Asian Tour, with the former a firm favourite to get the nod. The co-sanctioning of the tournament could also be an option.
Speaking to TeeUp this week, MGA secretary Datuk Zulkifli Ismail said he was not in a position to divulge anything on the matter and added that if there was anything to share, he would do so when the timing was right.
“Of course, if there is anything that we can comment on with regards the Malaysian Open we will do so,” he said.
MGA president Tan Sri Mohd Anwar Mohd Nor said in an earlier interview that they were struggling to find a sponsor.
“Despite our willingness to scale down the tournament prize purse from US$3mil to US$1mil there are still no takers,” he is reported to have said.
But things certainly appear to have changed - for the better. A bank with strong ties to golf, as well as other sports disciplines, is said to be at the forefront of stepping in as the title sponsor.
And with OneAsia themselves looking to bounce back after a lull in activities and reported change in management, “things are heading in the right direction”, added the source.
The national association
has tried to revive the tournament previously and while it is
understood they made some headway there always seemed an obstacle of some sort that thwarted their advances.
“This time, though, it appears that they are very close to concluding negotiations that will see the Malaysian Open return after an absence of four years.
“The understanding is that almost all the parties concerned have agreed in principal to
bring the event back and that all which remains is just putting
pen to paper and a couple of
other outstanding issues.
“People ask, how close is it? Well there is a good chance of it being held in the fourth quarter of this year, although you never know, not with the Malaysian Open and what it has been through over the years,” added the source.
The last time the national Open was played, it was Maybank who sponsored it to the tune of US$3mil and the tournament was held at TPC Kuala Lumpur, then
known as Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club.
It has been suggested by some, that should the tournament return. TPC Kuala Lumpur would be the preferred venue.
The thinking behind this is that the Sime Darby property is widely viewed as the best golf club in the country with facilities and amenities that are unmatched locally. Its location in Bukit Kiara also outshines the opposition.
But perhaps the most telling factor that could tilt the odds in the favour of the event taking place at TPC Kuala Lumpur is the bank in question. It is understood that the said financial institution might prefer TPC KL because of their previous working relationship and strong bond.
Following in the awake of their decision not to renew their partnership with MGA, Maybank went on to establish their US$3mil tournament the following year
and has held it each season since, with the event co-sanctioned
by the European and Asian Tours.
The Maybank Championship has grown to become one of the best golf events in the region and following the demise of the now defunct CIMB Classic on the US PGA Tour and the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia Tournament, it is now the only significant international golf championship in the country.
Winners of the Malaysian Open include former world number ones Vijay Singh of Fiji who won it twice and England’s Lee Westwood, as well as 2010 British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa and young Italian Matteo Manassero who won it as a 17-year-old in 2011.
Among the Asian stars who have also triumphed are India’s Arjun Atwal (2003, 2008), who went on to play on the US PGA Tour, the Thai duo of Thongchai Jaidee (2004, 2005), now a nine-time European Tour winner, and Kiradech Aphibarnrat (2013), who also plays the PGA Tour.
Anirban Lahiri, of India, won it the last time it was played and he was crowned 2015 champion.
There is little doubt he would like to defend his title if the tournament does return and put an end to all the speculation swirling around at the moment.
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