Mega-Tour no threat to Asian golfers, says Bjorn

Thomas Bjorn.
Thomas Bjorn.

CHONBURI • European Tour veteran Thomas Bjorn has described a proposed merger with the Asian Tour as "the only way forward", despite concern by Asian players.

Bjorn, who is chairman of the European Tour's tournament committee which represents players' interests, said Asian players should not worry about losing playing opportunities if the mega-Tour goes ahead.

The proposal to combine the Tours' business dealings and memberships could be a game-changer, but Asian players are concerned about being squeezed out by European stars.

However, Bjorn said the plan provided a great opportunity for Asian professionals - and denied that Europe was trying to take over tournaments in the region.

NOT A EUROPEAN TAKEOVER

Talented Asian players like Thongchai (Jaidee) and Jeev (Milkha Singh) had to change their style of play when they joined the European Tour... a merger would speed up that process.

THOMAS BJORN, on the benefits of a merger of the Asian and European Tours

"A merger is the only way forward," he said on the sidelines of the Thailand Golf Championship, which finished on Sunday.

"I appreciate some of the (Asian Tour) players are concerned, but they will actually benefit from it."

The merger talks have coincided with a shake-up at the Asian Tour, where chief executive officer Mike Kerr's resignation was announced without explanation last week.

The body's board has also seen changes in terms of its personnel.

When asked about the merger situation, Indian veteran Jeev Milkha Singh said in Thailand: "We have a new board and we will wait to see what they recommend."

Bjorn said a merged Tour would be particularly good for younger players, who will benefit from tougher competition and the chance to play in Europe.

Including the four Majors and four World Golf Championship events, the European Tour listed 48 tournaments on the 2015 season's schedule. The Asian Tour had 28.

The two Tours have a long history of cooperation, including co-sanctioning five events in Asia this year.

"Talented Asian players like Thongchai (Jaidee) and Jeev had to change their style of play when they joined the European Tour," Bjorn said. "They had to learn the hard way, but eventually they adapted because they are talented and they have done very well. A merger would speed up that process."

European Tour CEO Keith Pelley, who is spearheading the merger, flew to Macau in October to address a meeting of Asian Tour players. He later conceded some players are hostile, although negotiations are continuing.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 15, 2015, with the headline 'Mega-Tour no threat to Asian golfers, says Bjorn'. Print Edition | Subscribe