$40 million at stake in Asian Tour second half

Singapore, Sep 2 (IANS) The second half of the Asian Tour season will resume with this week's European Masters in Switzerland, launching a busy run of tournaments to conclude its 10th season.

The 2.2 million euro event which starts Thursday is co-sanctioned with the European Tour and will welcome back the top stars who will continue their battle for the Asian Tour's Order of Merit crown.

Asia's best will also be keen to rake up Official World Golf Ranking points which will determine the field for the $8 million World Cup of Golf in Melbourne in November and the 2016 Rio Olympics.

From the Swiss Alps, the Asian Tour will then travel to various countries in Asia-Pacific. A total of 18 events will be played from now until the third week of January with nearly $40 million at stake.

Thai ace Kiradech Aphibarnrat currently leads the Order of Merit with $664,620, courtesy his Malaysian Open triumph in March. Should he hold on to the top spot when the season concludes, he will receive invitations to The Open Championship and World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship in the United States next year.

"Winning the Order of Merit will be my goal for the rest of the season," said Kiradech, who knows with the likes of India's Gaganjeet Bhullar, Australia's Scott Hend and compatriot Thongchai Jaidee, the only man to win three Merit crowns, will be hot on his heels.

A host of stars led by American Phil Mickelson, who won The Open Championship in July, and South Africa's Ernie Els will grace Asia's fairways over the coming months.

Mickelson will headline the $7 million CIMB Classic in Malaysia, co-sanctioned with the PGA Tour, while Els will feature in the $800,000 Venetian Macau Open, both in October.

Golf in the Philippines will be greatly enhanced with the launch of the inaugural $750,000 Resorts World Manila Masters in November while the $750,000 Indonesia Open will also make its much-awaited return to the Tour's schedule after a three-year absence at the Pantai Indah Kapuk course.

The Asian Tour will also visit Japan for the Asia-Pacific Panasonic Open while Korea's K.J. Choi will aim to win his own tournament, the CJ Invitational hosted by KJ Choi, for a record third time next month.

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