Asian golfers could lose out if Olympics go ahead: Tour chief

Cho Minn Thant
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Updated 20 March 2020

Asian golfers could lose out if Olympics go ahead: Tour chief

  • Asian Tour Commissioner and CEO Cho Minn Thant confirmed that all tournaments across the continent had been suspended until at least the end of May

HONG KONG: The Olympics going ahead in Tokyo this year is “highly unlikely,” the boss of Asian golf told AFP, and proceeding as planned could cost players the chance to qualify.

The International Olympic Committee said this week it was “fully committed” to holding the Games from July 24 despite the coronavirus pandemic, but acknowledged there was no “ideal” solution as pressure mounted for a postponement.

Asian Tour Commissioner and CEO Cho Minn Thant confirmed that all tournaments across the continent had been suspended until at least the end of May, in line with the US PGA and European Tours.

“I think everyone right now is more in a state of shock, just trying to figure out what they do with themselves,” said Cho, speaking by telephone from Asian Tour headquarters in Singapore.

With the prospect of scarcely any competitive golf before the Olympic rankings qualifying cut-off on June 22, Cho said it would be harsh on players from unheralded golf nations.

“Our plan initially was to have about 16 or 17 tournaments before the Olympic cut-off,” Cho said. “Today, we probably have only about four or five Asian Tour players eligible for the Olympics.”

On current rankings, only Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond and Gunn Charoenkul, the Indian pair of Rashid Khan and Udayan Mane plus Miguel Tabuena of the Philippines would represent the Asian Tour in the 60-strong Tokyo field.

“Given the amount of golf that was left to be played, we were hopeful that more players from nations like Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines would have the opportunity to get into the Olympics over the next two or three months,” said Cho.

“Obviously, that’s not going to happen.

“I can understand why they would want to push forward with the Olympics — there would be huge revenue ramifications on the economy of Japan — but it seems highly unlikely now in my opinion.”

Cho said that he had not yet heard of any players suffering financial hardship but acknowledged that a long layoff could have an impact.

Players such as the world No. 39 Jazz, last year’s Asian Tour Order of Merit winner, will remain in the US where he had been due to play a full schedule before a debut at the now-postponed US Masters next month.

“I keep in contact with quite a few players and a lot of them are comfortable,” Cho said.

“I feel for the guys who just came through qualifying school and they’ve probably played one or two events in their life.

“It’s very different to having a bad season where you’re missing cuts, but you still have got the opportunity to compete.

“Right now you’re deprived of the opportunity to compete. That’s a whole different ballgame.”

The Asian Tour can play all-year round, which means the crisis could lead to a permanent shift in the Asian golfing calendar to a wraparound season played from September to April.

“A tour like Europe’s going to have a lot harder time rescheduling events. Theirs is a very short golf season,” Cho said.

“I’m hoping that we can continue golf this year, whether it be July, September, October or November. It will definitely help mitigate the potential downside.

“If we could start between July and October, it means we will probably go through to April. We’ve been planning a wraparound season for the longest time but never really formalised it.

“We’re talking to sponsors and promoters. They’re definitely ready to go. They’re prepared to stage events whenever the world is ready to get back to normal.”


Formula One season starts amid shadow of Black Lives Matter movement

Updated 02 July 2020

Formula One season starts amid shadow of Black Lives Matter movement

  • ‘It is so important that we seize this moment,’ says Lewis Hamilton, the only Black driver to become F1 champion

SPIELBERG, Austria: Four months after the opening race was called off at the last minute, the Formula One season finally gets underway this weekend on another continent and in a different-looking world.
There will be no fans on hand at the remote Spielberg track in Austria, with the coronavirus still creating uncertainty over how many races can actually be held — and where.
That may not be the only unusual sight, as drivers are discussing whether to take the knee together on the grid before Sunday’s race in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Defending F1 champion Lewis Hamilton has been an outspoken supporter of the movement and will be competing in an all-black Mercedes car — instead of the usual silver — as a statement against racism.
“It is so important that we seize this moment,” said Hamilton, the only Black driver to become F1 champion.
The truncated campaign kicks off with back-to-back races in Austria, as part of a hastily reworked schedule. It was meant to start nearly 10,000 miles (16,000 kilometers) away in the Australian city of Melbourne.
But the fast-spreading impact of the coronavirus pandemic led to the Australian GP being canceled on March 13, two days before the scheduled race, while people were still queuing for the first practice sessions. Several other races, including the showcase Monaco GP, were also canceled.
A rescue package with eight European races squeezed into 10 weeks, culminating with the Italian GP on Sept. 6, was scrambled together. F1 still hopes to rearrange some of the postponed races in order to finish the season with 15-18 of the scheduled 22.
There will also be two consecutive races at the British GP. If the season continues beyond Europe, it will end with races in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi in December.
“We actually don’t even know the amount of races we are going to do,” McLaren and future Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz Jr. said. “It’s an unprecedented scenario.”
Spielberg’s Red Bull Ring, cut off from major towns or cities, offers a reassuringly secluded feel amid coronavirus fears.
But strict health and safety measures have been put into place.
Everyone entering the track, including a greatly reduced number of media representatives, must have tested negative for Covid-19 and further tests will be carried out every five days. F1 teams are not allowed to mingle with each other — on or off the track — and media have no access to F1’s paddock area.
Drivers would normally have faced a barrage of questions in a news conference room, but health requirements dictate that drivers hold news conferences via video link and with questions sent in advance.
And, of course, Spielberg’s 4.3-kilometer (2.7-mile) circuit will be largely empty. It is normally swarming with tents, camper vans, makeshift barbecues and tens of thousands of orange-shirted Max Verstappen fans.
The Red Bull driver, hugely popular back home in the Netherlands, has won the past two races here.
The track is among the shortest in F1 but also one of the most aggressive. Drivers spend about 72% of the time at full throttle, second only to Italy’s Monza track with 77%.
That’s perfectly suited to Verstappen’s bold and abrasive racing style. Last season he chased down the leading trio before making a typically brazen overtaking move on race leader Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari.
The 22-year-old Verstappen showed last season that he is closing the gap to Hamilton in terms of wheel-to-wheel driving. Red Bull’s car also made a considerable jump in speed, while Ferrari’s faded, and Verstappen is emerging as a major title threat to Hamilton.
The 35-year-old British driver is chasing a record-equaling seventh F1 title to equal Michael Schumacher’s record, and only needs to win eight more races to beat Schumacher’s mark of 91.
Aside from Verstappen and possibly Valtteri Bottas — Hamilton’s improving teammate at Mercedes — the other main challenger is Leclerc.
The 22-year-old Monaco driver is extremely quick and impressed observers in his first season at Ferrari with seven pole positions — two more than Hamilton — and two wins.
He is now Ferrari’s No. 1 ahead of four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel, whose star has faded after he wasted mid-season leads in 2017 and 2018 and lost those titles to Hamilton.
The German veteran is leaving at the end of the year after failing to agree on a new contract, and his future in F1 is uncertain.
Like so many other things this season.