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Australia hope to lure Masters champion Matsuyama Down Under

By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia hopes to lure Masters winner Hideki Matsuyama to its nationwide PGA Championship in Queensland in December as a part of plans to revive its {golfing} calendar after the 2020/21 season was impacted by COVID-19.

Japan’s Matsuyama turned the primary participant from an Asian nation to win the Masters on Sunday after holding on for a one-stroke win at Augusta National.

Securing Matsuyama can be a significant coup for Australia’s low-profile golf tour, 4 years after 2017 Masters winner Sergio Garcia was enticed to the Australian PGA Championship.

“We have a player strategy and Hideki will be part of that player strategy in working with our partners to see what his schedule will be like in Dec. 2-5 this year,” PGA of Australia Chief Executive Gavin Kirkman instructed Reuters.

“In ’17 we secured Sergio the year that he won the Masters. That was something we were very excited about.

“The following that (Matsuyama) would have in Australia by way of our Aussie followers but additionally the Japanese that reside out right here in Australia can be fairly thrilling.”

Organisers confirmed on Monday the Australian PGA Championship will be held in front of crowds at Brisbane’s Royal Queensland Golf Club in a welcome return to normalcy after the 2020 event was abandoned amid the pandemic.

Australia has virtually eliminated COVID-19, allowing professional sport to resume in front of large crowds.

But the country’s strict border controls remain a major impediment to international sport, with visiting athletes required to spend two weeks in hotel quarantine.

Australia’s slow vaccine rollout has also raised concerns that the country’s borders will remain closed for longer than anticipated.

That could complicate Australia’s hopes of coaxing international golfers like Matsuyama and top locals like Adam Scott and Jason Day, who compete mainly in the United States, to return home.

“I feel we’re all going to study a bit of bit within the subsequent three months what the vaccine protocols might be like and whether or not that restricts time-frames with quarantine or how skilled athletes quarantine,” mentioned Kirkman.

“Our main Australian gamers need to come again to Australia and play this summer time as a result of they did not final summer time.”

Kirkman said the local tour hoped to secure approval from authorities to allow players to train while undertaking quarantine if they were required to isolate later in the year.

He said they were also working with Golf Australia, which organises the Australian Open, to deliver a schedule that would encourage more players to head Down Under at the end of the year.

“It’s essential that we work and collaborate this 12 months to make it a worthwhile journey for gamers to come down and play two occasions — not simply isolate for one occasion,” he mentioned.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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