/

Japan Tour keen to spread wings within current structure

Reuters

The Japan Golf Tour Organization (JGTO) is keen to increase its involvement in co-sanctioned events abroad but remains opposed to any radical changes to Asia’s organizational structure, according to a senior director.

The JGTO, along with the well-established China Golf Association, Korean Tour and Australian PGA, has seen the golf market in the region muddied by a turf war between the Asian Tour and OneAsia circuits over recent years.

The Asian Tour resumed merger talks with the European Tour last month but JGTO official Kenji Tanaka said China, Australia, Korea, Japan and others were better off running their own circuits rather than signing up to a single overlord.

“It’s necessary to have individual country tours because if there is only one tour, only a limited number of players can play that tour,” he said through a translator at last week’s Singapore Open.

“Right now, we are a member of the (International Golf) Federation . . . we are very much satisfied with that situation. Also we have lots of historical tournaments in Japan, some are 40 years old.”

The JGTO is the largest circuit in the continent with 25 events for the 2016 season, offering a wealthier prize pool and more tournaments than the Asian or OneAsia Tours.

Tanaka said his body would like to expand to 30 events with the help of the European and Asian Tours as well as the U.S. PGA Tour, which made a big drive in the continent by setting up the 12-tournament PGA Tour of China in 2014.

“As you know, the domestic Japan tournaments start in April. During the winter, its too cold to have a tournament in Japan. It snowed in Tokyo last week, so it would be nice to have co-sanctioned events during that time,” he said.

“Then the players can prepare for an April start. There is still room since there is a gap after next week.”

The Singapore Open and the Myanmar Open, which starts on Thursday, are two of four events the JGTO co-organizes with the Asian Tour, with the Panasonic Open and Asia Pacific Diamond Cup taking place in Japan later in the year.

After next week’s Myanmar event, the JGTO takes a two-month break before the Token Homemate Cup tees off in Nagoya on April 17.

Tanaka said increasing tournament numbers overseas would also help Japanese male players improve their chances of winning a first major, saying he wanted more to follow Hideki Matsuyama and Ryo Ishikawa’s example of playing around the world.

“This will be an advantage for our players to experience other countries and other golf courses and communicate with other players so they improve technique,” he said as he watched South Korean Song Young-han pip world No. 1 Jordan Spieth to the Singapore title on Monday.

“Foreign golf courses are different. It is easy to travel inside Japan but for the young players, going outside to learn something different benefits them.”