Sat, Jan 23, 2016 - Page 18 News List

Asian, European tour merger talks resume

Reuters, SINGAPORE

Phil Mickelson putts during the first round of the CareerBuilder Challenge at the La Quinta Country Club in California on Thursday.

Photo: Joe Camporeale - USA TODAY Sports

The Asian Tour is set to resume negotiations with the European Tour over a proposed merger after appointing Jimmy Masrin as their board chairman yesterday.

The planned union, first announced in August, appeared in trouble last month when Asian Tour chief executive Mike Kerr resigned for unspecified reasons following player concerns about limited opportunities on the combined tour.

Last year’s Asian Tour featured only 12 standalone tournaments with many more cosanctioned with larger circuits like the European, US PGA and Japan tours, which all boast fuller schedules and bigger prize money.

The Asian Tour said their newly restructured board, which will be headed by Indonesian businessman Masrin, would work to ensure their players would benefit out of any merger with their larger counterparts.

“The board also agreed to resume discussions with the European Tour following the recent announcement on a proposed partnership between the two tours,” the Asian Tour said in a short statement following a board meeting in Malaysia last week. “The board remains fully committed to protect and enhance the careers and playing opportunities of the Asian Tour players.”

This year’s Asian Tour season kicks off next week with the Singapore Open, cosanctioned with the Japan Golf Tour, which will also join up to stage the Myanmar Open the following week and the Panasonic Open in April.

Five of the other six confirmed Asian Tour events for this year will be cosanctioned with the European Tour, with next month’s US$300,000 Bangladesh Open their only standalone tournament.

La Quinta

Reuters

Phil Mickelson, in his 2015-2016 PGA Tour season debut, carded a pair of late bogeys to end the first round of the CareerBuilder Challenge in La Quinta, California, four shots back of Indian coleader Anirban Lahiri.

Mickelson, a five-times major winner making his first start since the Presidents Cup in October last year, picked up six strokes over a seven-hole stretch from the fifth, including an eagle-two at the eighth, before a late stumble left him with a four-under 68.

That left Mickelson in a share of 32nd place, four strokes back of Lahiri and Americans Jason Dufner, Jeff Overton and Jerry Kelly, who were level at eight-under-par 64.

Dufner, looking to rediscover the form that won him the PGA Championship in 2013, capped a flawless round with a birdie at his final hole, the par-four ninth, to grab a share of the lead.

Americans Colt Knost and Jamie Lovemark were a further shot back.

Mickelson eagled the par-four eighth after his 110-yard approach hit the flag and spun right back into the cup. The eagle, along with a trio of birdies on the front nine, put Mickelson near the top of the leaderboard.

He went on to pick up another stroke two holes later, but fell back after bogeys at the 14th and 17th holes.

“It was a fun start to the year. I’ve had a lot of time off, it was fun to get back into the swing of it,” Mickelson said. “I had a good solid round.”

Lahiri, who last October became the first golfer from India to play at the Presidents Cup, carded eight birdies in a flawless round at the La Quinta Country Club, one of three cohosting venues.

Defending champion Bill Haas made a rousing start by holing out his second shot for eagle at the par-four first before going on to card a six-under 66 to sit in an 11-way tie for seventh.

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