By Amlan Chakraborty
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - A currency slump and slowing economy have cost India its biggest golf tournament after sponsors pulled out of the country's only European Tour event on Thursday.
The Avantha Group, which sponsored the first four years of the tournament, said it would have required a substantial hike in prize money, apart from a right slot in the European Tour calendar, to attract top talents for the 2014 and subsequent editions.
"Given the current economic conditions, the Avantha Group has concluded that this is not the appropriate moment to do so and has therefore not renewed its contract with the European Tour," the business conglomerate said in a statement.
India is currently grappling with an economic crisis with the local currency having fallen 20 percent against the U.S. dollar since the end of April.
The Avantha Group said it was exploring other golf events and formats, prompting the Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI) to look for other sponsors.
"Next year's Avantha Masters is off schedule," PGTI director Padamjit Sandhu told Reuters.
"But we will continue to talk to other interested parties and if anyone is willing, we will be happy to put a European Tour event back in India," he said.
European Tour chief operating officer Keith Waters said the tournament slot was still open.
"...it's a great challenge to support an event of this nature in India, especially when a sponsor is not sure how much revenue it would generate or get in terms of publicity with a minuscule target audience and following," Waters was quoted as saying by Times of India newspaper.
"We haven't awarded the slot reserved for Masters (March 20-23) to anyone. If a corporate approaches us in time, it's still possible," he added.
(Editing by Patrick Johnston)