Asian Tour returns to China after nine years
Golf's Asian Tour announced a new partnership with China on Friday, including the first co-sanctioned tournaments in nine years as it looks to establish itself in the world's most populous nation.
The Asian Tour, which organises dozens of tournaments around the region each year, has been largely shut out of China since 2008, but it will hold up to four new events there this season.
China Tour and Asian Tour members will both be eligible to play in the new tournaments, with prize pots of up to $500 000 and earnings counting towards both tours' merit lists.
The tournament winners will receive Asian Tour cards, while the top five non-exempt players on China's order of merit will gain access to the Asian Tour's qualifying school.
"Re-starting cooperation is a game-changer for the Asian Tour and CGA (China Golf Association) as the creation of new tournaments will greatly enhance playing opportunities for our players and for the many talented players coming up from China," Asian Tour CEO Josh Burack said in a statement.
"At the same time, these new tournaments will provide more playing opportunities for our existing Asian Tour members who will be delighted to return to China. This is a terrific new chapter for Asian golf."
The Asian Tour staged co-sanctioned tournaments in China from 1995 to 2008, until China, Japan, South Korea and Australia joined the rival OneAsia tour which started in 2009.
America's PGA Tour also has a partnership offering Chinese golfers a route to its second-tier circuit, but the new deal offers China's players another career pathway.
China has long been hailed as an important new market for golf, producing players like Zhang Lianwei, Liang Wenchong, Wu Ashun and Li Haotong, who have all won on the European Tour.
Despite its long absence from China, the Asian Tour has remained a sanctioning partner of the annual WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, which involves the world's major golf tours.