Updated: October 22, 2013, 4:50 PM ET

Asian swing a significant move for PGA Tour

By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

>Taking a few minutes away from the communications law book and the latest Tiger rules chatter to get to a few other subjects in golf.

Front Nine

To call it historic might be too strong, but this week's visit to Malaysia is nonetheless a significant first for the PGA Tour.

The CIMB Classic, which begins Thursday in Kuala Lumpur, marks the first time the PGA Tour will play an official points-earning, money-counting event in Asia. The following week it moves to China for the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai.

Two weeks, two Asia-based PGA Tour events, both of which earn FedEx Cup points and a spot in the Masters, and count toward the season-long money list.

How big is it? Well, Asia, one of the game's emerging markets, had sort of passed by the PGA Tour. While commissioner Tim Finchem has understandably sought to strengthen his domestic events while watching over the World Golf Championshp events -- three of which are played in the U.S. -- the European Tour moved into Asia.

This year the European Tour is playing five times in China, South Korea or Malaysia. Throw in four events in United Arab Emirates and Qatar, and that's nine tournaments total.

Now the PGA Tour can claim two.

Nick Watney
Stanley Chou/Getty ImagesNick Watney, 2012 winner at the CIMB Classic, is back to defend his title in Malaysia.

The CIMB Classic and the HSBC Champions have been around for awhile. This is the fourth year for the CIMB, which is being played for the first time at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club. Nick Watney is the defending champion. Tiger Woods, who is not playing, tied for fourth last year.

The HSBC Champions dates to 2005 but didn't become a World Golf Championship event until 2009, when Phil Mickelson won the tournament for a second time.

But it doesn't count among Mickelson's 42 PGA Tour victories because it wasn't official. It didn't count on the money list nor did he get FedEx Cup points for it. All of that changes now, and while it might not cause the earth to shake, it is a new step for the PGA Tour.

As for this week, the CIMB Classic has a 78-player field, with more than 30 who competed in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas. It includes the top 60 available players from the final FedEx Cup list as well as the top 10 available players from the Asian Tour money list.

Among those in the field this week are Mickelson, Keegan Bradley, Ernie Els, Bubba Watson, Bill Haas and Sergio Garcia. In all, there are 19 players from the top 50 in the world, a figure a good number of PGA Tour events would understandably covet.

The purse is $7 million, with $1.26 million going to the winner, and there's no cut. Next week, they'll play for an $8 million purse, again without a cut.

Now that these tournaments count on the PGA Tour, look for these events to gain even more traction.

At The Turn

Okay, so Jordan Spieth turned 20 in July. And he won a tournament and more than $3.8 million as a rookie.

But if that doesn't cause some feelings of envy, perhaps this will: Last week, Spieth played Pine Valley and Augusta National -- in the same day. The two courses are generally regarded among the top venues in the United States.

After playing Pine Valley, Spieth tweeted: "Golf Day to remember today. Pine Valley is incredible! The 18th is just one of the many amazing views." He then jetted to Augusta where he tweeted: "The back nine at Augusta this evening. Only group on the course. Heaven on earth."

Back Nine

When the PGA of America's Pete Bevaqua told GolfWorld recently that the organization will consider taking the PGA Championship overseas, it understandably was met with varying reaction. On the negative side, of course, is the fact that organization has "America" in its name, and thus the desire to keep in the United States every year.

But there are some intriguing ideas to explore when it comes an overseas move -– Bevaqua said perhaps once or twice a decade -– and it would finally give the PGA Championship a distinctive aspect to its résumé.

With three of the four major championships held in the United States while golf is growing around the world, it makes sense to move the tournament to some other locales at least occasionally. Australia immediately comes to mind, specifically Royal Melbourne -– where the Presidents Cup was played in 2011 and where the Australian Masters and World Cup of Golf will be staged next month.

Nobody would argue with the venue.

Other places mentioned were South Africa, China and perhaps South America, where golf will return to the Olympics in Brazil in 2016.

Olympic years might offer the best opportunity for a move. The schedule is extremely crowded in 2016, and the PGA Championship really gets squeezed as it needs to come after the Open Championship in July and prior to the Olympics, which begin in early August.

In 2020, it might be nice for the PGA to be played in the winter -- say, Australia's summer -- so as to move away from the Olympics and give golf a big boost in some great location.

One thing to keep in mind, however, is the desires of U.S. television networks. Playing overseas can be dicey with big time changes. Australia offers the possibility of nighttime golf in the U.S., although it is inevitable that the telecasts would run past midnight on the East Coast.

Bob Harig | email

ESPN Senior Writer


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