3 Min Read
* Six events in South Africa
* Just one tournament for Spain (Adds quotes, detail)
By Tony Jimenez
DUBAI, Nov 25 (Reuters) - South Africa has replaced Spain as the jewel in the European Tour crown after being given six tournaments on the 2012-13 schedule released by officials on Sunday.
The new campaign kicks off with the inaugural Nelson Mandela Championship in Durban from Dec. 6-9 before moving on to the Alfred Dunhill Championship at the Leopard Creek Country Club in Malelane a week later.
South Africa also stages the Volvo Golf Champions event in January plus three tournaments in February and March - the Joburg Open, Africa Open and the new Tshwane Open in Centurion.
Spain, which hosted seven tour events in 2011 and three this year, is down to one on the new schedule - the Spanish Open at a venue to be arranged in April.
The country's economic crisis has had a profound effect on top-level golf with sponsors disappearing and prize funds being withdrawn.
The Sicilian Open and Madeira Islands Open do not appear on the new schedule but there are three blank weeks and the tour are still hoping those two tournaments can continue.
The Hong Kong Open, which has been staged every year since 2002, is also missing from the calendar but will return for the 2013-14 season.
The schedule features a minimum of 45 tournaments and will end with a new four-event 'Final Series' involving the BMW Masters in Shanghai, the WGC-HSBC Champions in the same city, the inaugural Turkish Open and the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai.
The total prize fund for the four tournaments is worth $30.5 million.
"The introduction of the series...is being made to bring even more drama and excitement to the conclusion of our season and to further enhance the Race to Dubai (money list)," tour chief executive George O'Grady told reporters.
"We felt there had to be an additional level of commitment from the membership to these important tournaments. The response from our leading players to this change has been extremely encouraging."
The Russian Masters will be another new event on the schedule in July.
European players will start the race for qualifying points for the 2014 Ryder Cup team at the Wales Open in August. (Editing by Alastair Himmer)