DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Facing ongoing economic challenges at home, the European Tour announced a 45-tournanament 2013 schedule Sunday that is increasingly global with new tournaments in Turkey, Russia and South Africa.
For the first time, there will be six tournaments in South Africa including the season-opening Nelson Mandela Championship next month. Other new tournament venues include Russia and Turkey.
But there will be six fewer tournaments in Spain than two years ago and the schedule will not feature the Czech Open. The tour is also dropping the Singapore Open and the Hong Kong Open from the 2013 program.
"We are of course slightly disappointed that we have lost events in the eurozone countries and we are working on that every year," European Tour chief executive George O'Grady said of the schedule, which is one event down from the 46 in 2012. "The depth of the crisis is very, very strong. And I think we know if accountants are put in charge of the issue, the big thing is to cut cost wherever you can whereas the strength of the European Tour is you market your way out of problems with tremendous value for your money we feel."
The tour's chief operating officer Keith Waters tried to put a brave face on things, playing up the 45 dates and predicting the crisis that had hit the likes of Greece, Italy and Spain was nearly over.
"We have had a challenging year and we are trying to readjust and we also are aware that there are more and more opportunities outside Europe," he said. "We are in discussion with the other tours as to how we can improve and address some of the challenges we have had in the last year. But we are very hopeful that we have seen the worst in terms of the recession and the challenges on our schedule."
The Race to Dubai format will remain in place, despite criticism this year when top-ranked Rory McIlroy won it with two tournaments remaining. It will, however, provide bonus points for those taking part in the final three events and will offer $30.5 million in prize money. Still, the tour said they couldn't ensure there would be a race until the finish in 2013.
"We can't guarantee that and we actually don't want to because we feel it's there on an individual. If he actually plays incredibly well and much better than anybody else, he has the right to win the race earlier in the season," Waters said. "But the last three events are very high prize funds and, if somebody is focused on winning the race, he can obviously play all three and pick up a bonus. But it's possible that we come here again in a year's time, someone has already won the race. That's what sport is all about and we don't want to contrive the points to such a degree that it all comes down to the last nine holes."
O'Grady said the tour examined implementing something like the FedEx Cup in the United States. The American format features three playoff events that whittle the field down to 30, who then all have a chance to win $10 million in a final tournament. But it determined its "system is cleaner."
Along with loss of tournaments, the tour is also struggling to keep its top players who are increasingly moving to the more lucrative PGA Tour. Martin Kaymer, a former No. 1-ranked player and past winner of the PGA Championship, announced this week that he's joining the PGA Tour. Lee Westwood is moving from England to Florida. And big-hitting Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium told the Associated Press that he will cut his European Tour events to the minimum 13 next year so he can play a full schedule in America.
One way to lure more players back would be to have more of the World Golf Championships in Europe. Currently, three of the four are in the United States but O'Grady said he didn't expect that to change anytime soon.
"As I have said before, he who pays the piper calls the tune and a lot of the money being raised there is through the American networks," he said. "Whereas America has had financial problems, they market their way out of the problems."