The 2006 season got underway in spectacular fashion last week when David Howell won the inaugural HSBC Champions tournament at the Sheshan International Golf Club, Shanghai, China, and continues in Asia with the Volvo China Open and the UBS Hong Kong Open before moving to South Africa to contest the dunhill championship and the South African Airways Open.
A new team contest between Europe and Asia ' The Royal Trophy at the Amata Spring Country Club, Bangkok, Thailand ' starts the New Year from January 7-8, 2006 while, two weeks later, The European Tour visits its 36th destination in its 34 year history when the Abu Dhabi Golf Club plays host to the inaugural Abu Dhabi Golf Championship from January 19-22.
Completing the quartet of new tournaments is the BA-CA Golf Open presented by Telekom Austria which graduates to The European Tour after having been a fixture on the European Challenge Tour since 1997. It will take place at the Fontana Golf Club in Vienna, Austria, from June 8-11.
Like their Austrian counterpart, the Madeira Island Open Caixa Geral de Depositos and The Cadillac Russian Open both had an association with the Challenge Tour in 2005 ' in the form of dual ranking events with The European Tour - but in 2006 they will be elevated to fully fledged European Tour events in their own right.
First, in chronological order, will be Madeira at the Santo da Serra course from March 23-26, followed by the trip to Russia and Le Meridien Moscow Country Club from August 17-20. The Aa St Omer Open at the Aa Saint Omer Golf Club, Lumbres, France, from June 15-18 will remain a dual ranking tournament with the Challenge Tour on the 2006 schedule.
As well as four new tournaments, two established events will feature new venues in 2006. The first of those is the Volvo China Open from April 13-16 which will take place at the Honghua International Golf Club in Beijing, while the WGC ' American Express Championship returns to Europe for a fifth time when it is played at The Grove, Chandlers Cross, Hertfordshire, England, from September 28-October 1.
Elsewhere, two other established events will exchange months, the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles moving to June 22-25 from August, with the slot in the schedule on August 10-13 being filled by The KLM Open after its departure from June. The other change for the latter tournament is a return to an established venue in The Netherlands, namely the Kennemer Golf & Country Club, Zandvoort, which played host to the tournament as early as 1920 and whose list of winners include Seve Ballesteros (1976) and Jos Maria Olazbal (1989).
While there are many tournaments to savour throughout the year, including the final counting event for Ryder Cup points in the BMW International Open at Golfclub Mnchen Nord-Eichenried, Munich, from August 31-September 3, it is later in September that the season will build to a crescendo.
For four weeks, the attention of the world will focus on The European Tour and on Britain and Ireland in particular, beginning with the HSBC World Match Play Championship at Wentworth Club, Surrey, England, from September 14-17, to be followed by the pinnacle of match play golf with The 36th Ryder Cup at The K Club, Straffan, Co.Kildare, Ireland, from September 22-24.
The following week the focus switches to England and The Grove for the WGC-American Express Championship while this outstanding stretch closes, fittingly, at the Home of Golf itself, when the Old Course at St Andrews, along with Carnoustie and Kingsbarns, plays host to the dunhill links championship from October 5-8.