Denmark’s Thomas Bjørn, Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat and South Africa’s George Coetzee stood side-by-side on the beach in Mauritius to symbolise the historic first tri-sanctioned event between the European, Asian and Sunshine Tours.
The trio will play together for the opening two rounds of the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open at the Heritage Golf Club, as the three tours unite for the first time for the €1million event.
All three players epitomise golf’s global appeal, having amassed 19 European Tour titles between them in 13 different countries, with Coetzee and Aphibarnrat both winners already this season, having claimed the Tshwane Open in South Africa and Shenzhen International in China respectively.
After an injury-hit start to 2015, Ryder Cup player Bjørn finished fourth in Indonesia on the Asian Tour a fortnight ago and he will be hoping to mark the ground-breaking event with his 16th European Tour title.
The Chairman of the European Tour Tournament Committee welcomed the coming together of the three tours, with each one represented by 40 players, while a further 12 invites make up the 132-man field.
He said: “We are three tours that work very well together and we have strong ties with players playing on each tour. We’re at a time now where we need to move this forward and strengthen those ties and move things forward.
“It’s important for the development of the game outside of America that we stand together and are strong with that. There are good things going on with the tours right now, strong relationships and we are starting to understand at an executive level, but also at a players’ level, that we need to work together and stand together.
“That’s hugely important for growing the game around the world. It’s impossible for the various tours to do that individually and we are taking the first steps towards that now. There is a lot of credit to our executives who have sat down to get us here this week, and hopefully we will have a lot more of it in the future.”
Coetzee travelled to Mauritius after playing in last week’s WGC – Cadillac Match Play where he defeated US Open Champion Martin Kaymer and Thongchai Jaidee, but was unable to progress from the group stage. He also welcomed the inaugural tri-sanctioned event.
“It’s a big step for the Sunshine Tour and Asian Tour, and it’s obviously great for the European Tour to get another one on the schedule. It is great to give the guys some game time and play against some of the best players in the world.”
Aphibarnrat added: “It is great for players and for all the Tours. It gives us the opportunity to play overseas, especially in somewhere like Mauritius, and get bigger and bigger events. So it’s nice to have a tri-sanctioned event and it helps a lot for the players.”