Saudi Arabian influence on the Asian Tour expands with International Series, including English event

Greg Norman’s LIV Golf Investments have announced big plans.

Saudi Arabia's quest to influence world golf took on a new hue Tuesday with the announcement that LIV Golf Investments and the Asian Tour had created The International Series.

A roster of 10 marquee international events, they will be part of the 2022/23 Asian Tour schedule and, after starting in Thailand, will be followed by visits to England, Korea, Vietnam, the Middle East, China, Singapore, and Hong Kong.

The prize purses will range from US$1.5 to US$2million per event, similar to the lower end of the DP World Tour events.

The prospect of the Tasian our - and specifically the Saudi-backed sponsors - moving into England, the DP World Tour's backyard, is rather more shocking than the purses on offer.

Whether it becomes a threat is one thing; it is clearly a statement of intent.

LIV Golf Investments is mooted to be investing between $200 and $300million into the sport with a claim to be seeking "to drive greater engagement amongst fans, attract new commercial interest and to help stabilize professional golf following a sustained period of worldwide disruption and uncertainty."

"We are on the threshold of a new era for Asian golf," Cho Minn Thant, Commissioner and CEO, Asian Tour said. "The International Series is a new upper-tier of elite events, the likes of which the region has not seen before, that will mark the start of a phenomenal period of growth for the Asian Tour. It also signifies the beginning of our relationship with our new strategic partner LIV Golf Investments and its CEO Greg Norman."

"Importantly, The International Series will add to the Asian Tour's backbone of established events to comprise a 25-event season, expected to represent a record-breaking combined prize-fund. Each of the 10 events will be broadcast live across the globe, with plans to attract an international field of headline talent."

Norman was announced as CEO of LIV Golf Investments late last year. It is a newly formed company back by the Saudi PIF (the sovereign wealth fund).

"We are setting the Asian Tour up as a powerful new force on the world golf stage," Norman said. "In my 40 years as a professional golfer, I've seen many parts of the world that have benefitted tremendously from golf and its growth and development. We now have the opportunity to do that in the Asia Pacific region and the Middle East with this incredible investment platform. Everyone benefits - professional players, amateurs, grassroots golf, fans, economies, communities, stakeholders. I've never been so optimistic about the future of the sport."

This week's Saudi International has a stellar field and a prize pot of $5million, but it is widely accepted that the stars in the field are being paid eye-watering appearance fees.

Rory McIlroy, who is not playing this week, expressed concerns about the huge numbers. "It's the competitive integrity to me that's one of the biggest issues here, right," he said at the Dubai Desert Classic. "It's like how hard are guys going to compete when they know that they are guaranteed whatever the money is."

Whether non-Asian Tour players will be induced to play The International Series is, like much else about LIV, not yet fully known.

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