Stars shoot east for riches raining down from Chinese boom

Asia set to overtake America in prize-money terms within five years. By James Corrigan
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The Independent Online

It is claimed the Chinese invented golf; but then it is also claimed Confucius said "he who has fastest buggy never plays from bad lie" so perhaps a little poetic licence should be applied. Yet what is becoming ever more certain is that the Chinese are determined to reinvent golf. And, in particular, professional golf.

Of course, the only way to cause a plus-foured revolution is to throw money at competitors who have been known to be swayed by the power of the greenback. It is fair to say they are being rocked to the core of their wallets as China steps to the forefront of Asia's would-be annexation of a sport. These last few days have been a gold-plated case in point.

In Malaysia, the PGA Tour have been hosting the second staging of the CIMB Asia Pacific Classic, a 48-man field playing for a $6m (£3.7m) prize fund. But alas for the American officials so keen to gain a foothold in the East, it is not the biggest event in the continent this weekend. That tag goes to the Shanghai Masters.

The purse is officially $5m, but that is the only area in which it is "beaten" by the Malaysian money-grab. Not only does it boast a $2m first prize, the biggest in golf, but i has discovered it has a $20m budget. "The appearance fees being paid at least match the $5m purse – at least," said an insider. No wonder 30 of the world's finest golfers have been enticed, including Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy, Padraig Harrington, Charl Schwartzel and seven other major winners.

Chubby Chandler, the founder and managing director of International Sports Management, confidently predicts that with China now bitten by the bug, the Asian explosion will mushroom. Says Chandler: "At the start of this year I forecasted that within five years a half of the European Tour events will be held in Asia – I was wrong. It will be within three.

"If we managed a young American we would try to make them international players rather than just staying in the US. I'd give them two reasons why. One: Travelling abroad will enrich their lives; Two: In five years' time the money in Asia is going to be bigger than the money in America."