ANTALYA, Turkey — The number of events remains the same—47—but the European Tour’s “Race to Dubai” in 2018-’19 will change shape more than a bit as officials revealed their new schedule on Monday. Some of that can be attributed to the alterations in the PGA Tour schedule, in particular the PGA Championship’s move from August to May. As a result, the European Tour’s so-called flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, will be played four months later than usual, in September starting next year.
Happily too, nervousness about the future of the recently resurrected British Masters have been dispelled with the news that Tommy Fleetwood will follow fellow Englishmen Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Justin Rose in hosting the only regular event in England. The mid-May date is not ideal, one week before the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black, but the venue, the Hillside club next to Royal Birkdale in Fleetwood’s home town of Southport, is top-notch.
“I can’t wait to host the British Masters in my home town,” Fleetwood said in a release. “It will be such an honor, and I’m so grateful to have been asked. … 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.”
A continuing commitment to variety and innovation will also play a significant part in the schedule that concludes with the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai next November. As many as five events—Golf Sixes, the Trophee Hassan, the Victorian Open, the World Super 6 and the Shot Clock Challenge—will offer welcome departures from the traditional 72-hole stroke-play model. In three of those, the Trophee Hassan, Golf Sixes and the Vic Open, men and women will play alongside each other.
The French Open’s move from late June to October will provide a continental feel to autumn as the tour moves from Spain to Italy to France to Portugal. Africa is represented too, with the South African Open, the Alfred Dunhill Championship and, promoted from the Challenge Tour, the Kenyan Open.
Not everything has changed though. The Irish Open at Lahinch and the Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club will continue to provide two weeks of links golf preceding next July’s Open Championship, which will be played outside Great Britain for only the second time, at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland.
Perhaps most controversial given recent events will be the inaugural Saudi International, which joins the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, the Dubai Desert Classic, the Oman Open and the Qatar Masters in a now five-strong Middle East swing either side of two weeks in Australia and the WGC-Mexico Championship.
Otherwise, the overall schedule represents little more than a shuffling of a familiar European Tour pack, one that will be hoping the earlier finish to the PGA Tour season will allow more of its stars to make late-season appearances closer to home. Time will tell on that one.