From venues to the Ryder Cup to world rankings, there's a lot to digest from the European Tour's announcement
The European Tour has announced part of its revised 2020 schedule – here are the main talking points…
How many UK events?
OK, let’s get the big guns out of the way first. There will be a whopping eight events on British soil between now and the end of the year, including six in a row from July.
Where will they be?
Let’s break down each one by one…
The British Masters at Close House, originally on the schedule for July 30-August 2, moves forward by a week and will be held from Wednesday to Saturday. This is to avoid a clash with the WGC the same week and Lee Westwood will continue to be the host.
A week later it’s the return of the English Open at Forest of Arden. The English Open ran from 1988 to 2002 and its winners include Mark James, Colin Montgomerie, Ian Woosnam, Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke, who, if he plays, will be the defending champion when the event goes to the Warwickshire resort for a seventh time.
Then it’s down to Hanbury Manor – itself a three-time host venue for the English Open – for the inaugural English Championship.
An unprecedented two-week spell follows with another new event, the Celtic Classic, and the rebooted Wales Open – both of which will be held over Celtic Manor‘s TwentyTen Ryder Cup course. The Wales Open was hosted at the Newport venue from 2000 to 2014 and names etched onto its trophy include Ian Poulter, Paul Lawrie, Paul McGinley and Graeme McDowell. Joost Luiten will be the defending champion.
Finally it’s on to another former Ryder Cup venue in the shape of the Belfry for the inaugural UK Championship. (You can tell they didn’t put too much thought into these names.) As well as four Ryder Cups, the Midlands course has hosted 16 European Tour events – the last of which was the 2008 British Masters, in which Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano was triumphant.
Why those four venues?
It’s all about the large on-site hotels, you see. Not only from a housing players perspective, but cost too.
In a teleconference with journalists, the European Tour’s CEO Keith Pelley explained: “In order to make it as save as much as we possibly could, looking at venues that have hotels attached was a priority. For the British Masters, we are taking over the entire Hilton, so the hotel becomes a medical testing facility for us.”
Has there ever been a six-week run in the UK before?
Yes. There used to be loads of events over here before Middle East money started hogging them all.
The last time it happened was 1980: The European Open at Walton Heath, the Merseyside Open at Hoylake, the Haig Whisky TPC at Moortown, the Bob Hope Classic at Woodcote Park, the Dunlop Masters at St Pierre, and the World Match Play at Wentworth.
Why are they playing six in a row?
The original idea behind it was due to travel restrictions between countries, so having an extended run in one country took this problem off the table.
Will players have to quarantine?
The current government guidelines are that anyone coming into the country must self-isolate for two weeks. But Pelley said: “Lifting the quarantine is going to be critical for us to have a successful tournament. I’m certainly optimistic. We wouldn’t be announcing these events without having had significant dialogue with the UK Government [who] know all about the announcements.”
Will players be tested for Covid-19?
The short answer is yes.
The long answer I’ll leave for Dr Andrew Murray, the Tour’s chief medical officer.
“People will be tested before they come to the specific country that the event is taking part in and they will also have symptom checks before they arrive,” he explained. “Every single day that our players, caddies and staff are coming to the golf tournament, they will provide a symptom check: Have you had any persistent cough? Have you any shortness of breath? Have you any fever? Have you any loss of taste or smell.
“They will also have a temperature taken every day in line with the IOC and WHO advice. When they arrive, they will also have a further PCR test, the antigen test, so they will have symptoms checked every day.”
Sadly, the European Tour have confirmed the six-week UK swing will be behind closed doors, so no one other that players and officials will be allowed on the grounds. Even media aren’t allowed in!
If it’s any consolation, it will all be screened live on Sky Sports – so remember to re-add your package.
Maybe next year then…
Absolutely. Pelley told Sky Sports’ Golf Show that he is convinced next year’s British Masters will have a couple of tournaments either side of it in another mini UK swing.
"We could see another form of the UK Swing next year"
Keith Pelley – European Tour chief executive – looks at how golf is returning in the UK
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) June 2, 2020
And that’s not all…
Nope. Fans won’t be there but players will wear microphones during the UK swing events. So that’s fun.
What about prize funds?
The British Masters, which is still being sponsored by Betfred, will keep its €2 million prize pot, while the other five will each carry purses of €1 million which will be funded by the European Tour itself.
There will also be a mini Order of Merit running alongside these six events, with £250,000 being split between the top 10 players to donate to charities of their choice. Each of the five host venues will also get £50,000 each for local causes.
But that’s not all, is it?
Nope! We also have new dates for the Scottish Open and BMW PGA Championship, which will be played in back-to-back weeks in October.
They will make up part of the revamped Rolex Series that also includes the Nedbank Golf Challenge and DP World Tour Championship – where the Race to Dubai champion will be crowned – in December.
- Related: See the full revamped schedule here
Will there be more announcements?
Absolutely. Pelley said a second wave of events will be revealed but discussions are still ongoing.
Does this mean more UK events?
Yes. The Dunhill Links Championship, held over St Andrews’ Old Course, Kingsbarns and Carnoustie, is being discussed and will likely stay in October.
And the Irish Open?
More exciting news. Pelley said the Irish Open “is hugely important to us, so much so that we have three or four date options for it”.
He added: “We could have announced it today but it wouldn’t have been 100 per cent and I didn’t feel comfortable with that.”
The Ryder Cup is still on the schedule…
Yes, it is – despite Rory McIlroy’s claims. Pelley made it very clear at the top of the press conference that discussions about the Ryder Cup are off limits.
“At this time the Ryder Cup is on the schedule,” he said. “We will be having further dialogue with the PGA of America and will advise in due course.”
So that’s that.
And what about the world rankings?
Well they’ve been frozen since the week after the Players Championship, and it does seem a tad unfair on the European Tour players given the PGA Tour resumes more than a month before.
However, it’s been confirmed they will resume when the PGA Tour does in June.
If you have any questions about the revamped European Tour season, feel free to leave them in the comments below or tweet me.
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