European Tour to hit 50 events in 2011


European TourDUBAI, United Arab Emirates – The 2011 European Tour schedule will feature 50 golf tournaments – two more than this year – on 29 courses, with new events in Bahrain. Malaysia and Sicily.

The 2011 tour starts next month in South Africa and ends with the Dubai World Championship next December.

The European Tour said in a statement that from 2012 the schedule will be contained within the calendar year, starting in January and ending in December. The 2010 tour ends on Sunday.

Sicily will host a European Tour event at the Donnafugata Golf Resort in the south of the Italian island and Malaysia will host a second tournament, the Iskandar Johor Open, which has previously only been sanctioned by the Asian Tour.

The 2011 tour starts with four consecutive tournaments in South Africa, immediately followed by four in the Gulf as part of a desert swing. It includes the Volvo Golf Champions event in Bahrain. The Sicilian tournament will be the first to be held in Europe, in late March.

The Scottish Open, traditionally the last event before the British Open, will not be held in the town of Loch Lomond and a course has yet to be found. A new links course near the town of Inverness, Castle Stuart Golf Links, is reported to be favorite to host the event in 2011.

The tour leaves Europe in November and heads to China for the HSBC Champions event in Shanghai, followed by more Asian events in Singapore, Malaysia, China and Hong Kong.

“I think the new schedule … is in my own opinion, excellent,” said George O’Grady, the head of the European Tour. “It’s been quite complicated this year working it all through.”

O’Grady said he was especially happy with this week’s Dubai World Championship and he expected the season-ending event to remain in the Gulf emirate despite the city’s economic problems. O’Grady said the original five-year agreement has been condensed into a two-year deal that runs through 2011 “which if we secure a powerful sponsorship in that time, we anticipate going further.”

Developers have struggled to finish hundreds of villas that surround Jumeirah Golf Estates and organizers reduced the prize money 25 percent to $7.5 million even before the inaugural tournament last year.

“We have been looked at by Abu Dhabi, as well, but I think the intention is to try to keep it here in Dubai for as long as possible,” O’Grady said.

“We are rock solid for two years, and everybody has the drive to keep it going after that,” O’Grady said. “DP World, who are the presenting sponsor, are very excited by the tournament, and we give them some packages in other events around the world, which coincides with their market. And so I would be very confident this is here to stay.”

O’Grady also said he expects to see further growth in India and Chin and would like to see more tournaments on English soil, though he couldn’t say when that would happen.

“Ideally we would bring the British Masters back or the English Open would move forward, but these things tend to go in cycles,” he said. “We are very strong in Scotland … The Scottish Open is very strong. The new venue will be announced very shortly.”

O’Grady also said he expected a decision by early next year on the course for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil where organizers are discussing whether to upgrade an existing course or build a new one.

“There’s masses of people looking at it now,” he said. “They are looking at two existing golf courses and whether they can be brought up to the required standard. I would anticipate a decision on the venue early in the new year.”