DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- The European Tour unveiled its 2013 schedule Sunday, with a minimum of 45 tournaments around the world.
Starting in Africa in early December, the 12-month golf odyssey will see the Tour travel though Asia, America, Australasia and its home continent of Europe before ending back in Dubai with the 2013 DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates.
For the first time, there will be six tournaments in South Africa, as well as new venues including Bulgaria, Russia and Turkey. But there will be six fewer tournaments in Spain than two years ago and the schedule will not feature the Czech Open. The Tour also has dropped the Singapore Open and the Hong Kong Open.
The DP World Tour Championship will itself be the culmination of a new climax to the 2013 Race to Dubai in which four tournaments will combine to form ‘The Final Series.’
The four tournaments are the $7 million BMW Masters in Shanghai, the $8.5 million WGC-HSBC Champions in China, the $7 million Turkish Open and the $8 million DP World Tour Championship -- making the total prize fund for the Final Series an impressive $30.5 million.
"With 45 tournaments already confirmed, we are hopeful of making additional tournament announcements in the near future which will further strengthen the playing schedule," said Chief Operating Officer and Director of International Policy Keith Waters.
"We have had a challenging year and we are trying to readjust and we also are aware that there are more and more opportunities outside Europe," he said. "We are in discussion with the other tours as to how we can improve and address some of the challenges we have had in the last year. But we are very hopeful that we have seen the worst in terms of the recession and the challenges on our schedule."
The Race to Dubai money-title format will remain in place, despite criticism this year when top-ranked Rory McIlroy clinched it with two tournaments remaining. It will, however, provide bonus points for those taking part in the final three events and will offer $30.5 million in prize money. Still, the tour said they couldn't ensure there would be a race until the finish in 2013.
"We can't guarantee that and we actually don't want to because we feel it's there on an individual. If he actually plays incredibly well and much better than anybody else, he has the right to win the race earlier in the season," Waters said. "But the last three events are very high prize funds and, if somebody is focused on winning the race, he can obviously play all three and pick up a bonus. But it's possible that we come here again in a year's time, someone has already won the race. That's what sport is all about and we don't want to contrive the points to such a degree that it all comes down to the last nine holes."
European Tour CEO George O'Grady said the Tour examined implementing something like the FedExCup in the United States. The American format features three playoff events that whittle the field down to 30, who then all have a chance to win $10 million in a final tournament. But the European Tour determined its "system is cleaner."
As in previous seasons, the 2013 European Tour is an eclectic mix of globally diverse locations, beginning in South Africa at the Nelson Mandela Championship on Dec. 6. A total of six events will be staged in South Africa, including the Volvo Golf Champions on Jan. 10-13, when many of the Tour’s 2012 champions will gather at Durban Country Club.
From there, the Tour moves into its formidable Middle East Swing before heading to the United States for the first two of the four World Golf Championship events scheduled for 2013.
Other highlights include the European Tour’s flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club, and the British Open at Muirfield preceded by four of the Tour’s most significant tournaments in the BMW International Open, the Irish Open, the Alstom Open de France and the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open.
Elsewhere, the Volvo World Match Play Championship breaks new ground by taking the Tour to Bulgaria for the first time, while the KLM Open returns to familiar territory at Kennemer Golf and Country Club in Zandvoort, where it was staged for four years in succession from 2006 to 2009. The 2013 KLM Open will be staged at Kennemer from 2013 to 2015 before a move to The Dutch in Spijk -- a Colin Montgomerie-designed course that is part of the European Tour Properties portfolio -- from 2016 to 2018.
The qualification process to make the 2014 Ryder Cup team will have a different beginning this year as the points race kicks off with the ISPS Handa Wales Open at Celtic Manor, the scene of Europe’s dramatic 2010 Ryder Cup victory, which has moved to its new date of Aug. 29-Sept. 1.
There are also significant date changes in 2013 for the Avantha Masters (March 14-17), the Maybank Malaysian Open (March 21-24), the Reale Seguros Open de Espana (April 18-21), the Nordea Masters (May 30-June 2) and the Lyoness Open (June 6-9), while the Russian Masters sees the Tour return to Russia for the first time since 2008.
2013 European Tour schedule:
Nelson Mandela Championship
Royal Durban GC, Durban, South Africa
Alfred Dunhill Championship
Leopard Creek CC, Malelane, South Africa
Volvo Golf Champions
Durban Country Club, Durban, South Africa
Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship
Abu Dhabi GC, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Commercialbank Qatar Masters
Doha GC, Doha, Qatar
Jan. 31-Feb. 3
Omega Dubai Desert Classic
Emirates GC, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Royal Johannesburg & Kensington GC, Johannesburg, South Africa
East London GC, East London, Eastern Cape, South Africa
WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship
Ritz-Carlton GC, Dove Mountain, Marana, Ariz., USA
Feb. 28-Mar. 3
Copperleaf Golf & Country Estate, Centurion, South Africa
Doral Golf Resort & Spa, Doral, Fla., USA
Jaypee Greens GC, Delhi, India
Maybank Malaysian Open
Kuala Lumpur G&CC, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Trophée Hassan II
Golf du Palais Royal, Agadir, Morocco
Augusta National GC, Augusta, Ga., USA
Reale Seguros Open de España
Blackstone GC, Icheon, Seoul, South Korea
Volvo China Open
Binhai Lake GC, Tianjin, China
Volvo World Match Play Championship
Thracian Cliffs Golf & Beach Resort, Kavarna, Bulgaria
BMW PGA Championship
Wentworth Club, Surrey, England
May 30-June 2
Bro Hof Slott GC, Stockholm, Sweden
Diamond CC, Atzenbrugg, Austria
Merion GC, Ardmore, Pa., USA
Najeti Hotels and Golf open
Aa Saint Omer GC, Lumbres, France
BMW International Open
Golfclub München Eichenried, Munich, Germany
Carton House, Maynooth, Co. Kildare, Ireland
Alstom Open de France
Le Golf National, Paris, France
Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open
Castle Stuart Golf Links, Inverness, Scotland
Muirfield, East Lothian, Scotland
Firestone CC, Akron, Ohio, USA
Oak Hill Country Club, Rochester, N.Y., USA
Johnnie Walker Championship
Gleneagles Hotel, Perthshire, Scotland
Aug. 29-Sept. 1
ISPS Handa Wales Open
Celtic Manor Resort, City of Newport, Wales
Omega European Masters
Crans-sur-Sierre, Crans Montana, Switzerland
Kennemer G&CC, Zandvoort, The Netherlands
Alfred Dunhill Links Championship
St. Andrews, Scotland
Vivendi Seve Trophy
Lake Karrinyup CC, Perth, Australia
Lake Malaren GC, Shanghai, China
Oct. 31-Nov. 3
Sheshan International GC, Shanghai, China
Montgomerie Maxx Royal, Antalya, Turkey
DP World Tour Championship
Jumeirah Golf Estates, Dubai, United Arab Emirates