BANGKOK: The Thailand Open has rejoined the Asian Tour after an eight-year hiatus, organizers announced Wednesday, confirming that Australia’s Scott Hend and local favourite Thongchai Jaidee will headline the event later this month.
The deal will be seen as a new blow to the struggling rival OneAsia Tour, who poached the tournament from the Asian Tour in 2010, and comes just weeks after the Asian Tour announced it had made a breakthrough deal to return to China, where OneAsia had previously had a foothold.
Thailand’s national championship, which dates back to 1965, will held this year at Bangkok’s Thai Country Club from May 18-21 with a prize fund of $300,000.
The 2016 Asian Tour number one Hend, three-time Order of Merit winner Thongchai and fellow Thai star Kiradech Aphibarnrat have all confirmed they will play.
“The Thailand Open is one of the oldest national championships in Asia and we are excited to welcome the prestigious tournament back into our fold,” Asian Tour CEO Josh Burack said in a statement.
The Asian Tour has been largely shut out from the East Asian golfing powers of China, Korea and Japan since 2008 when those countries’ professional golf associations threw their weight behind the OneAsia Tour.
But OneAsia has struggled in recent years. It currently has just three events confirmed on its 2017 calendar: last week’s China Open in Beijing, which was co-sanctioned with the European Tour, and two others in Korea.
Last month Burack announced a new strategic partnership with the China Golf Association (CGA) that will see the Asian Tour co-sanctioning four new tournaments with prize purses of between $300,000 and $500,000.
Burack also vowed that they would seek to host more tournaments in Japan and South Korea as the Asian Tour pushes for a greater slice of the lucrative Asian market.
The Thailand Open was last sanctioned by the Asian Tour in 2009, when it was won by India’s Jyoti Randhawa.