The elevation of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA to a Rolex Series event and the continuation of the British Masters with Ryder Cup hero Tommy Fleetwood as host at Hillside Golf Club are two of the many highlights of the 2019 European Tour International Schedule which is released today.
Once again, the expansive 12-month schedule from November 2018 to November 2019 emphasises the global nature of the European Tour with 48 tournaments in 31 countries spanning five continents – Europe, Asia, Africa, Australasia and North America.
As in 2018, there are 47 tournaments counting towards the Race to Dubai – in addition to the return of the inventive GolfSixes for its third staging in June. This total includes the eight tournaments which form the Rolex Series events, the premier tournament category on the European Tour, each of which has a minimum prize fund of US$7 million.
The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA has long been recognised as one of the stand-out tournaments on the European Tour and its elevation to the Rolex Series – with an associated prize fund rise from US$3 million to US$7 million – now properly reflects that.
It takes its place alongside the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open, the BMW PGA Championship, the Italian Open, the Turkish Airlines Open, the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player and the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, in the line-up for the third year of the Rolex Series, which again combines the leading fields with innovative coverage.
While the Rolex Series tournaments in Ireland and Scotland retain their July date and those in Turkey, South Africa and Dubai remain in November, there are changes for the BMW PGA Championship which moves from May to September, and the Italian Open which moves from June to October, both made to adapt to the ever-changing global golf landscape.
Other tournaments to alter their 2019 dates include the Open de France, which moves from June to October; and the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, which moves from October to June.
In terms of dates, Tommy Fleetwood will have an eye on the second week of May when he follows in the footsteps of his fellow countrymen Ian Poulter, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Justin Rose as the central figure of the British Masters hosted by Tommy Fleetwood.
The man who contributed four points to Europe’s remarkable 17 ½ – 10 ½ Ryder Cup triumph at Le Golf National last month, will assume the role at Hillside Golf Club in his native Merseyside, the celebrated links part of the glorious stretch of terrain recognised as England’s Golf Coast.
“I can’t wait to host the British Masters in my hometown,” said Fleetwood. “It will be such an honour and I’m so grateful to have been asked.
“I’m extremely proud to follow the great ambassadors of our game who have hosted this tournament. I am very confident that Southport will make everyone welcome and the north west of England, and its love of golf, will embrace this opportunity and show support to us all.”
The British Masters hosted by Tommy Fleetwood will mark the European Tour’s first visit to Hillside since 1982 when Tony Jacklin won the Sun Alliance PGA Championship – the precursor to the BMW PGA Championship – beating his fellow Ryder Cup Captain Bernhard Langer in a play-off.
Hillside Golf Club also played host to the European Tour in its inaugural season in 1972, when Tommy Horton won the Piccadilly Medal, and the following year when former Tour Chairman Neil Coles won the PGA Match Play title. It was also utilised by the R&A as a Final Qualifying venue for the Open Championship from 2014 to 2017.
As always, innovation remains an integral part of any European Tour season and in addition to the third staging of the GolfSixes event – which this year will be held in Portugal – the pioneering Shot Clock Challenge is also set to return in August after its ground-breaking debut earlier this year, as will the Belgian Knockout at the end of May.
Without question one of the major successes of this year’s GolfSixes was the introduction of women professionals into the format and the concept of men and women competing together remains prominent on the European Tour in 2019.
In addition to GolfSixes, men and women professionals will play together at the Trophee Hassan II tournament in Morocco in April as well as at the Vic Open in Australia in February, which makes its debut on the European Tour.
The AUD$3 million tournament is Australia’s richest and sees men and women professionals play on the same course at the same time for an equal share of the prize fund. Preceding yet another innovative tournament on the schedule – the ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth – this represents the first time the European Tour has staged back-to-back tournaments in Australia since 2004.
Another example of back-to-back tournaments in the same country comes at the end of this calendar year when the South African Open hosted by the City of Johannesburg precedes the Alfred Dunhill Championship at the wonderful Leopard Creek, a tournament which makes a welcome return to the European Tour International Schedule after a year’s hiatus.
South Africa and Morocco are not the only African countries to feature on the European Tour in 2019 – the third country from that continent to take its place is Kenya in the shape of the Kenya Open at the Karen Country Club in Nairobi in March, the tournament stepping up from the Challenge Tour where it has featured since 1991.
Keith Waters, Chief Operating Officer of the European Tour, said: “We are delighted with our 2019 International Schedule which illustrates precisely what we are all about; namely a Tour which delivers a significant breadth and scope of global coverage in addition to taking a leading role in innovation and transformation.
“Our grateful thanks go to our co-sanctioning partners at the Asian Tour, the ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia and the Sunshine Tour, in addition to the many sponsors, partners and promoters we work within so many different countries to deliver these world-class events.”