The Australian Open might be without world No.8 Jason Day in November but organisers can console themselves with news that major sponsor Emirates Airlines has agreed to back the tournament for a further three years.
Day was forced to pull out of the Sydney event after being advised to spend the rest of the year rebuilding strength in his injured back in a bid to be fully fit for 2015.
However the Open will still headline Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy among a stellar field.
Emirates became the naming rights sponsor in 2011 and has now extended that backing.
"The Open provides us with the perfect platform to connect with our customers while promoting world class Australian sport on the international stage,”said Emirates boss Barry Brown.
In Australia, Emirates’ commitment to golf extends across a number of tournaments, including the Perth International and the PGA Championships on the Gold Coast.
Fans hope this year’s event can match the excitement of last year when Scott came close to securing a historic triple crown of Australian events before McIlroy birdied the final hole to clinch victory.
Golf Australia CEO Stephen Pitt said the Emirates commitment was an excellent boost to the championship.
“Emirates has an exceptional commitment to golf around the world and the Emirates Australian Open is a leader in the Asia-Pacific region," Pitt said. "We look forward to continuing to strengthen our relationship with Emirates and bringing the world’s best golfers to Sydney for the fans to enjoy.”
Day, who has battled injury and illness all season, was given little choice in electing to pull out of the Open.
His rehabilitation should be finished by the start of the November 27-30 tournament at The Australian Golf Club but Day’s doctors have warned against aggravating his back issue with a long flight from the US to Australia.
"I’m disappointed I can’t make the trip home for what I’m sure will be a great tournament but I have to give myself the best chance for an injury free 2015," Day told AAP. "I hope to be able to make up for it in the future and try to add the national championship to my trophy case."
Pitt said he was disappointed but understood the problem.
"It’s totally understandable that Jason needs to attend to his physical health at the end of a long season when he’s struggled with injuries," he said.
"We would have loved Jason to play at the Open again but it’s not possible. We think that it’s in Australian golf’s longer-term interests that he gets back to full fitness for 2015 and hopefully wins a couple of majors as well.
"In the meantime we still have an excellent field for the Open with the No.1 (Rory McIlroy) and No.2 (Adam Scott) ranked players in the world committed to playing."
Day’s season has been a stop start one, allowing him just 15 starts on the US Tour.
He fought a thumb injury, vertigo and a throat infection as well as suffering from a bad back.
But he still managed to win early in the year and took two runner-up finishes among a total of six top 10s in his 15 starts.
"I’m just trying to get healthy. I just want a healthy year where I can practise hard and get ready for tournaments and try and play the best I can without worrying about injuries in the back of my mind," Day said after the season-ending Tour Championship.
"I’m very encouraged with how I played this year with just 15 starts but I’m very motivated to get better for next season and really try and get to that No.1 spot in the world.
"I feel like I’ve got the tools to get there. I just need to make sure that the body is right for me to win a lot more and achieve that goal.
"This off-season is very crucial for me just to make sure that the back, the thumb and my hips are all progressing the way I want them to be."
By: Robert Grant