Golf: Stormy season ahead as 'golf war' returns

Asia's "golf war" makes an unwanted return this week when the OneAsia season starts with the Thailand Open -- in direct competition with another big event on the rival Asian Tour.

While a strong field has been lined up for the Bangkok tournament, attention will inevitably be shared with the Avantha Masters near New Delhi, co-sanctioned by the European Tour and headlined by Colin Montgomerie.

The clash follows a landmark court judgement in Singapore in November that found the Asian Tour had illegally barred four of its players from OneAsia events.

OneAsia is expected to hold about 12 events this season, its fifth year of operations since emerging in 2009. It is seen by the longer-standing Asian Tour, which organised more than 20 tournaments last year, as a direct challenge.

The Thailand Open features local favourite Thaworn Wiratchant and a strong Japanese contingent led by Shingo Katayama, after OneAsia entered a partnership with the Japan Golf Tour Organisation (JGTO).

"It's wonderful to see so many great players from the JGTO in the field this week... their presence certainly raises the bar for our OneAsia stars," OneAsia commissioner Sang Y. Chun said in a press release.

"We are working hard to bring more tournaments on board and offer our players greater opportunities."

Meanwhile Montgomerie, plus fellow Ryder Cup players including Edoardo Molinari and David Howell, along with a host of Indian stars, are the main attractions at the $2.3 million Avantha Masters, which also starts on Thursday.

Last month, Asian Tour CEO Mike Kerr told AFP there had been no formal contact between the two tours, tempering hopes of a thaw in relations following the Singapore court ruling.

And according to Asian Golf Monthly's managing editor Spencer Robinson, "Asia is bracing itself for the first of what will inevitably be a number of absurd and harmful date clashes between high-profile tournaments".

"As well as diluting the media coverage for each of the events and creating conflict for the players, the confusion in the marketplace serves only to scare off potential sponsors," he commented during a regular video briefing.

"In short, it's a mess, and a situation that is unlikely to sort itself out any time soon."