Chief executive Keith Pelley’s much-anticipated first European Tour schedule has been described as “pretty solid” by Richie Ramsay, even though there is still work to do in terms of cutting down the travel between events.
In a belated announcement, the wraps have finally been taken off the circuit’s full 2017 schedule, which will feature 48 events, one more than this year, and visit 28 different countries. With the new seven-event Rolex Series having already been announced, Canadian Pelley’s other main achievement has been the restoration of three tournaments, including one that has proved particularly lucky for Scottish players over the years. The Portuguese Open fell six times to Scots before it dropped off the schedule in 2010. Brian Barnes sparked that run of success in 1979, being followed on to the event’s roll of honour by Sam Torrance (1982 and 1983), Colin Montgomerie (1989), Adam Hunter (1995) and Gary Orr (2000).
It is returning next May, the same month as the circuit visits Sicily for the first time since 2012 for the newly-branded Rocco Forte Open, while the Andalucía Valderrama Masters, to be hosted by Sergio Garcia in October, is also back on the calendar. Venue for the 1997 Ryder Cup, Valderrama staged the Spanish Open this year but will now welcome back the Andalucia Masters, having hosted it in 2010 and 2011, when the winners were Graeme McDowell and the aforementioned Garcia, respectively.
“It seems like a pretty solid schedule,” said Aberdeen’s Ramsay as he surveyed the playing opportunites for what will be his ninth consecutive season on the European Tour. “Some prize funds are up, which is good to see. I believe it will take some time to get it to where they want to make travel easier.”
That is a reference to Pelley having vowed to try to create geographical swings similar to the one in the United Arab Emirates in January and February. Apart from a couple of long treks, notably from Morocco to China in April, progress appears to have been made in that respect.
The schedule includes two Scottish events – the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, being held at Dundonald Links in Ayrshire for the first time from 13-16 July, and the 17th Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns from 5-8 October. It had already been announced that, after two years in Scotland, the Paul Lawrie Match Play is moving next year to Bad Griesbach in Germany, while the Open Championship is at Royal Birkdale in Southport.
“The 2017 season promises to be a very significant one for the European Tour, with the start of the Rolex Series and the inclusion of three returning events, plus at least one more tournament to be confirmed shortly,” said Pelley. “That will give us 48 tournaments around the world, once again demonstrating the global footprint of the European Tour, while at the same time offering a wide range of playing opportunities for our members.”