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.”


Setien plays down Messi and Griezmann uncertainty

Updated 04 July 2020

Setien plays down Messi and Griezmann uncertainty

  • Messi’s contract is due to expire next year

MADRID: Barcelona coach Quique Setien moved to ease concerns on Saturday about the futures of Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann.

Messi’s contract is due to expire next year and, according to Spanish radio station Cadena Ser, the Argentinian has stopped talks due to frustrations with the direction the club is going in.

Asked about suggestions Messi plans to leave Barcelona, Setien said: “I won’t speculate about this because I haven’t heard from him so I’m not aware of him saying anything.

“I see him well, everything else is speculation that I won’t get involved in. We speak about what we have to speak about and nothing else.”

Griezmann’s position is also in doubt after a disappointing first season since joining from Atletico Madrid.

Barcelona play away at in-form Villarreal on Sunday, with Real Madrid sitting four points clear at the top of the table.

“He’s fine, I exchanged a few words with him. He’s a great professional. He understands the situation because he’s seen it before,” Setien said about Griezmann.

“It will not affect him because he is a very positive person. We can count on him 100 percent.”

Griezmann has started three of Barca’s last four matches on the bench, including the crunch games against Sevilla and Atletico, both of which Barcelona drew.

Setien described Griezmann as “unquestionable” last month.

“I was talking about hierarchies but I haven’t said he is unquestionable. Griezmann is a great player and important to the team,” said Setien.

“When he plays, you ask me about Ansu Fati and vice-versa. Not everyone can play.

“I am not ignorant, every club has its hierarchies but at a club like Barca where there are so many players, not everyone is able to play.”

Barca’s form, as well as suggestions of unrest in the dressing room, have placed scrutiny on Setien’s job.

He has a contract until 2022, with a break clause in 2021, but it remains to be seen if he is in charge for next season, or even the Champions League in August.

“I have experienced it other times,” said Setien, when asked about the uncertainty.

“It is not something I can control. This the circus that we are in and we accept it.

“I don’t exhaust myself by reading or listening to the noise around me.”

Frenkie de Jong is not available to face Villarreal as the midfielder is still nursing a calf injury. Samuel Umtiti and Ousmane Dembele are also out.