Johor Bahru, Malaysia, July 25: The fifth edition of the prestigious Iskandar Johor Open (IJO) promises to be the best yet following a massive increase in the total prize money to a record US$2 million (more than RM6 million). Since its inception in 2007, the Iskandar Johor Open has been a full-field Asian Tour event, but from this year the eagerly-awaited championship will be co-sanctioned by the Asian and European Tours, ensuring an intriguing clash of continents in the tournament’s five-year history.
Reigning champion Padraig Harrington of Ireland is among the top European Tour players to headline the stellar line-up of stars in the championship which, for the second consecutive year, will be hosted by Horizon Hills Golf & Country Club.
“The Iskandar Johor Open has been an astounding success over the past few years, and naturally it fuels further growth for the championship as it rises to prominence,” said Chairman of the IJO organising committee and Menteri Besar of Johor, Y.A.B Dato’ Haji Abdul Ghani bin Othman.
“It’s certainly great news that Harrington will be defending his title, and his presence is a fitting testament to the prestige of the championship. I’m sure more top players will be announced in the coming months as preparation goes full steam ahead,” he added.
When Harrington snapped his two-year winless streak at the Iskandar Johor Open last year, his popular victory came with a US$198,125 reward from a total purse of US$1.25 million. This year, the championship offers a 60 per cent increase in prize money to a handsome US$2 million (approximately RM6.014 million), with the champion collecting US$317,000 (approximately RM954,000).
In the first edition in 2007, Filipino Artemio Murakami etched his name on the trophy as the inaugural champion and took home the US$47,750 winner’s cheque. A year later, South African star Retief Goosen ended a frustrating 21-month title drought with a magnificent two-stroke victory, and earned US$79,250.
In 2009, it was KJ Choi’s turn to rejuvenate his career with an uplifting effort to stay hot in a wet and cold week. The philanthropic Korean star won the weather-interrupted event with an aggregate winning total of 20 under par 196 to collect US$158,500, a portion of which he donated to various Johor-based charities.
Besides steady growth in the total purse over the years, the championship has also seen improved player fields. In last year’s edition, the championship featured a truly international field consisting of players from 24 countries from as far afield as Brazil, Mexico and Zimbabwe.
“From a modest purse of US$300,000 in its first edition in 2007 to US$2 million this year, it is satisfying to note that in five short years, the Iskandar Johor Open has reached such dizzying heights. We have seen the likes of established stars such as Sweden’s Niclas Fasth, multiple major winners in Retief Goosen and Harrington, Europe’s Ryder Cup captain, Colin Montgomerie and Korean superstar KJ Choi play in the Iskandar Johor Open, and I believe this year will boast an even better playing field with the support of the European Tour,” added the Menteri Besar.
One of the benefits of being co-sanctioned by The European Tour is the event’s inclusion as part of the Tour’s season-long Race to Dubai, which spans 52 tournaments on The European Tour International Schedule this year.
The top 60 players in The Race to Dubai will qualify for the Dubai World Championship, and the winner of The Race to Dubai will receive US$1.5 million from the US$7.5 million bonus pool and a seven-year European Tour exemption.
The Iskandar Johor Open’s elevated status also comes with a change in dates to accommodate the calendar of both Tours, which means the championship has moved from its traditional October slot to November 17-20, 2011.
“Co-sanctioning by The European and Asian Tours, more lucrative prize money on offer and new dates will definitely draw the world’s top players to Johor this November. Undeniably we are thrilled with these developments, and I’m sure local golf fans will be delighted with the opportunity to watch an exciting line-up of top professionals challenging for the Iskandar Johor Open title,” added the Menteri Besar.
Last year, the Iskandar Johor Open was broadcast to 40 countries reaching 400 million households worldwide. With an added platform, provided by The European Tour, the Iskandar Johor Open will reach a larger audience this year, offering greater visibility to Iskandar Malaysia as a major holiday and recreation destination.
Horizon Hill’s 6,271-metre, par 72 championship layout proved a popular venue last year. The sprawling 18-hole international championship golf course, designed by renowned architect Ross Watson, earned rave reviews from the players with Harrington describing it as a “very good course with immaculate greens”. The Irishman went on to shoot 20 under par 268 to win by three strokes.
“I am really looking forward to returning to the Iskandar Johor Open to defend my title. Any tournament win is special but after a two year wait, it felt especially good. I very much enjoy my travels to Asia to compete with their best players and experiencing the local culture,” said Harrington who was equally excited about coming back to defend his title.
“Hosting the Iskandar Johor Open last year was a great experience for us all at Horizon Hills Golf & Country Club. We look forward to welcoming many world-class players to our club for another fabulous week this year, and with experience we are determined to make it an even better show,” said Tang Meng Loon, General Manager of Horizon Hills Golf & Country Club.
Kyi Hla Han, Executive Chairman, Asian Tour, said: “On behalf of our members, I would like to put on record our deepest appreciation to the State Government of Johor for their tremendous support and commitment to the growth of professional golf in Asia. Certainly, the massive increase in prize fund will further cement Iskandar Johor Open’s status as one of the biggest and most important tournaments on the Asian Tour calendar. We look forward to another exciting week of top quality golf this November.
“With the continued growth of the Iskandar Johor Open, it speaks highly of the development of the professional game on the Asian Tour. We are truly excited to have with us great partners and sponsors who are committed to the game.”
Keith Waters, Chief Operating Officer of The European Tour, said: “We are delighted to co-sanction the Iskandar Johor Open with our partners at the Asian Tour for the first time. The tournament has grown in stature since its inception five years ago, and we hope our involvement will help continue this growth. Some stellar names have won the event in recent years, and with a significantly increased prize fund available this year, we can expect some of the world’s best players to compete for the title at the magnificent Horizon Hills Golf & Country Club in November.”
Meanwhile, Grant Slack, Vice President of Golf Division, IMG, commented: “It’s heartwarming to be a witness to Iskandar Johor Open’s steady rise in prominence. Being included on The European Tour International Schedule means the championship will now reach a far greater audience than before, further enhancing the status of Malaysia generally, and Johor specifically, as a preferred golfing destination.”
For more information on the tournament, please visit www.iskandarjohoropen.com.
About the Iskandar Johor Open
The Iskandar Johor Open is one of the fastest-growing tournaments on the Asian Tour, and has attracted some of the best golfers in the world. The event was successfully staged at the Royal Johor Country Club for the first three years, and at Horizon Hills Golf and Country Club in 2010.
It returns to Johor for the fifth time at Horizon Hills, where once again golf fans will be able to witness yet another exciting golf tournament which is staking its claim as one of the top events on the Asian Tour calendar. It reaches a new level on the international golf schedule with its elevation to a co-sanctioned tournament with the Asian and European Tours for 2011.
Iskandar Malaysia and Johor Golf Association are continuing with their support of this event, and have created the biggest international event in Johor. Since the inaugural event in 2007, the prize money for the tournament has increased by five-fold from US$300,000 in 2007 to US$1,250,000 in 2010. In 2011, the prize money will grow to a minimum of US$2,000,000.
Past winners include Artemio Murakami of the Philippines, who won the inaugural event in 2007, and South African Retief Goosen, who took home the prestigious prize in 2008. KJ Choi lifted the coveted trophy in 2009, and Ireland’s Padraig Harrington ended a two-year winless run in 2010 with a very popular win.
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Operating in 30 countries, IMG Sports & Entertainment’s diverse businesses include: consulting services; event ownership and management; fashion events and models representation; licensing; golf course design; and client representation in golf, tennis, broadcasting, speakers, European football, rugby, cricket, motor sports, coaching, Olympic and action sports. IMG Academies are the world’s largest, multi-sport training and educational facilities, delivering world-class training experiences to more than 12,000 junior, collegiate, adult, and professional athletes each year.
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About the Asian Tour
As the official sanctioning body for professional golf in Asia, the Asian Tour leads the development of golf across the region, enhancing the careers of its members while maintaining a commitment to the integrity of the game. The Asian Tour, through its membership of the International Federation of PGA Tours, is the only recognised pan-Asian professional golf tour in Asia. This unique feature positions the Asian Tour at the pinnacle of professional golf in Asia; providing its events with Official World Ranking status. Tour Partners include Rolex (Official Timekeeper), J.Lindeberg (Official Apparel Partner), Ricoh (Official Office Solutions Provider), Inetol Headwear (Official Headwear Supplier), Royal Selangor (Official Trophy Supplier), Singha Beer (Official Beer), BlackBerry (Official Mobile) and Srixon (Official Ball). The Asian Tour has offices in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
About The European Tour
The PGA European Tour, a company limited by guarantee, operates a broad range of business initiatives essential to its primary mission of administering professional tournament golf. It is a unique business which generates profits for the benefit of its Members – the tournament players – who receive their dividends by way of competing and winning prize money.
The growth and development of The European Tour is well documented. In 2010, The European Tour International Schedule consisted of 48 tournaments in 27 destinations, with prize money of €132,204,838 compared to a total prize fund of €350,000 when the Tour was born in 1972.
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