VIRGINIA WATER, England -- The European Tour will visit Bahrain for the first time next January as its Middle East Swing stretches to four weeks.
As in recent years, the schedule for next season kicks off in South Africa with two tournaments either side of Christmas before moving on to Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Qatar and Dubai.
The new event is the Volvo Tournament of Champions on Jan. 27-30. It will see European Tour winners competing together with leading amateurs on one day and, by way of celebrating the first staging, a field of up to 126 players will bring together current and past European Tour winners, including champions of past major events.
From 2012 on, it will include only winners during the previous season – similar to the PGA Tour’s season-opening SBS Championship in Hawaii.
The early part of the schedule is as follows:
--Alfred Dunhill Championship on Dec. 9-12 at Leopard Creek in Malelane, South Africa
--South African Open on Dec. 16-19 at Durban CC in Durban, South Africa
--Africa Open on Jan 6-9 at East London GC in East London, South Africa
--Joburg Open on Jan. 13-16 at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club in Johannesburg, South Africa
--Abu Dhabi Golf Championship on Jan 20-23 at Abu Dhabi GC in Abu Dhabi
--Volvo Tournament of Champions on Jan 27-30 at the Royal Golf Club in Bahrain
--Commercialbank Qatar Masters on Feb 3-6 at Doha GC in Qatar
--Omega Dubai Desert Classic on Feb 10-13 at Emirates GC in Dubai
CALLING ALL CADDIES: Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke and defending champion Shane Lowry will have members of the public caddie for them in the Irish Open pro-am this week.
With money going to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the opportunity was available through the European Tour Players Foundation's eBay for Charity pages, where interested fans could submit bids to caddie for the player of their choice. The auctions closed Sunday night, and the winners will don their bibs on Wednesday.
TOUR HONOR FOR WATSON: Five-time British Open champion Tom Watson -- the player who nearly won it again last year at the age of 59 -- has accepted honorary life membership of the European Tour.
"What a great honor -- and totally unexpected," he said.
George O'Grady, chief executive of the Tour, commented: "This award is accorded to very special players who have won major championships or contributed significantly.
"Tom Watson is, without doubt, one of the greatest golfers ever to grace the game and his contribution to the game continues to amaze golf fans around the world."