Golf: Time warp on Euro Tour

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The Independent Online
HAVING LONG ago expanded outside its geographical boundaries, the European Tour is set to bend the calender year to its own ends, writes Andy Farrell.

The Johnnie Walker Asian Classic, usually the star-studded season-opener in January will move to November next year - but will count towards the 2000 Order of Merit as it will be played a week after the 1999 ranking closes.

The new schedule, published yesterday, shows an acceleration towards a "world tour''as the US Open and the USPGA Championship are included for the first time on the money list, as are the three new World Golf Championships. It will be possible to clinch the European No 1 place by only playing in the Open Championship in Europe.

The three WGC events, organised by the Federation of World Tours, allow the European circuit to boost its pounds 24m prize fund for 1998 by a further pounds 9m. The first new event is the Matchplay tournament in San Diego in February, while Valderrama stages a season-ending event a week after the Volvo Masters, usually Europe's finale.

A third tournament features Ryder and Presidents Cup players and will be played in Ohio two weeks after the USPGA Championship in Chicago. In between, players will have to rush back to Munich for the BMW International, which finalises the Ryder Cup qualification. The two wild cards will only then know if they are eligible for Ohio.

Ken Schofield, executive director of the European tour, denied the schedule was too demanding for the players. "The reality is that international travel is less arduous these days and the rewards at the top of the game mean players can travel in the best style," he said.

n Bernhard Langer, twice a finalist in the Cisco World Match Play Championship, has replaced Stewart Cink in the 12-man field for Wentworth this week. Cink has withdrawn in order to try and qualify for the US Tour Championship.