Top prize tournament joins European Tour

Yeovil Express: Rory McIlroy Rory McIlroy

The event in which Rory McIlroy grabbed the biggest first prize in golf last October - £1.24million - will become part of the European Tour later this year.

Lake Malaren in Shanghai will play host again to the BMW Masters on October 25-28, with 78 players competing for £4.3million prize money.

"I am already looking forward to teeing off," said McIlroy, who beat American Anthony Kim in a play-off last season.

"Thanks to the involvement of BMW (it was previously known as the Shanghai Masters) the tournament will now be one of the very best events in the world.

"That obviously makes it all the more exciting to defend my title there."

Open champion Darren Clarke helped to launch the event during the Beijing Auto Show in the Chinese capital, teeing off from the BMW exhibition stand using an exploding golden ball.

Clarke, en route to South Korea for this week's Ballantine's Championship, was the last man to win the BMW Asian Open in 2008.

The tournament will come the week before the WGC-HSBC Champions, which this year switched from Sheshan near Shanghai to Mission Hills in Shenzhen.

European Tour chief executive George O'Grady said: "We are proud of many partnerships we enjoy across the world of golf, but one of the most enduring is with BMW.

"This tournament represents the third title sponsorship on the tour in 2012 and the 45th in total over the past 23 years.

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