Korean players are flocking to the growing Asian Tour. Numerous Korean players challenged the Qualifying School, a seed match that grants the right to participate in the 2023 Asian Tour. And that’s not all. Top players of the Korea Professional Golf (KPGA) Korean Tour and the Japan Professional Golf Tour (JGTO) also began to consider the Asian Tour together when planning to participate in the season.
On the 10th, the Asian Tour Qualifying School Round 1 Section B match ended at the Blue Canyon Country Club in Phuket, Thailand. In the first section B match of the Asian Tour Qualifying School, which took place for four days from the 7th, 24 players won the right to participate in the final match.
Along with the finalists, it was the Korean players who drew the most attention. This is because 32 players, the largest number for a single country, were listed on the list for this competition, with a total of 128 players. Asian Tour officials were also surprised as 32 Korean players, twice as many as 25% of the total participating players, participated in Thailand, which had 16 players.
The number increases significantly if Korean players who are going directly to the first and final matches of the three Asian Tour Qualifying Schools to be held in January next year are included. According to an official familiar with the Asian Tour, well over 100 Korean players are expected to participate in the 2023 Asian Tour Qualifying School.
The biggest reason Korean players are interested in participating in the Asian Tour is the increase in the number of tournaments and prize money. The Asian Tour has announced that the 2023 season will be the largest ever, including 10 International Series tournaments with a total prize money of $2 million and the GS Caltex Maekyung Open.
The driving force behind the transformation of the Asian Tour, which was not favored by Korean players due to the small prize money despite holding tournaments throughout Asia, is the support of the Saudi Arabian Sovereign Wealth Fund (PIF). The Asian Tour, which invested $300 million last year in LIV Golf Investment, of which PIF is the majority shareholder, has become a completely different tour than before.
Park Sang-hyeon (39), who topped the Korean Tour prize money rankings, said, “Korean players’ views on the Asian Tour have completely changed. In the case of the International Series, most players think it is a special opportunity,” he explained. “As the Asian Tour continues to develop, more and more Korean players will take on the challenge.”
One of the reasons why Korean players are heading to the Asian Tour is that more than 5 points are awarded to the winner in the men’s golf world rankings. Each tournament is different, but in the case of the Asian Tour International Series, the winner receives an average of 6 points. As the average points the winner of the Korean Tour receives is only 3 points, more Korean players are considering participating in the Asian Tour to improve their world rankings.
Jang Hee-min (20), the winner of this year’s Korean Tour Woori Financial Championship, said, “We decided that it was necessary to run the Asian Tour in parallel to raise the world rankings, so we decided to take the qualifying school in January next year.” I think there will be more opportunities to accumulate world ranking points than this year if we go through the Korean Tour and the Asian Tour together.” 안전놀이터
The JGTO’s change in the minimum number of tournaments per season also plays a part in attracting Korean players to the Asian Tour. A management official said, “Last year, the JGTO added a new clause stating that in order to qualify for the next season, you must participate in at least 50% of the season, so more Korean players are leaving Japan.” As long as they are not pushed back, most of these players are heading to the Asian Tour.”
Meanwhile, there were several times, such as in 2013 and 2016, when more than 100 Korean players applied for the Asian Tour Qualifying School. At that time, the Korean Tour was extremely undermined, and Korean players had no choice but to attend the Asian Tour Qualifying School to make a living. But this time it’s different. As the number of Asian Tour events and prize money increase, Korean players are voluntarily taking on the challenge.