| 19.9°C Dublin

Golf to return with five-week festival in Tour's British swing


European Tour pro Oliver Fisher was back on the course yesterday. Photo: Warren Little/Getty Images

European Tour pro Oliver Fisher was back on the course yesterday. Photo: Warren Little/Getty Images

Getty Images

European Tour pro Oliver Fisher was back on the course yesterday. Photo: Warren Little/Getty Images

If Great Britain feared that this year's summer of sport would represent a veritable desert, then the golf's European Tour has some positive news.

The circuit is set to announce that it will feature at least five tournaments back-to-back in England and Wales, the most in succession in almost 40 years.

The Tour has, so far, seen 21 of its tournaments either cancelled or postponed because of the pandemic, leading to a radical overhaul of the schedule that Keith Pelley, the chief executive, is expected to unveil next week.

With two-week quarantine regulations in place in the UK and elsewhere in Europe, Pelley and his staff have sought to play stretches of events in single countries, starting in England. And in an attempt to form a health-and-safety "bubble", the Tour is staging these one-off €1 million tournaments at British courses with hotels on site.

Unfortunately for fans, this five-week festival of golf will take place behind closed doors.

The hastily-assembled "British swing" will begin with the £2m Betfred British Masters, at Close House in Newcastle, moving forward a week to July 23-26. The Tour will then immediately move on to the Forest of Arden near Birmingham, before shifting to Hanbury Manor in Hertfordshire.

It will finish with two tournaments at Celtic Manor, the Gwent course that staged the 2010 Ryder Cup.

There might even be another event in the build-up to the British Masters, though it is understood that will take place over two days. It will be an intense run that will appear live in full on Sky Sports.

The four "emergency" tournaments will each offer prize funds down on what players have become used to. Yet considering the Tour must partly fund the purses itself, it is an impressive feat to present such opportunities for members who were concerned for the rest of 2020, having witnessed their circuit lock down at the beginning of March.

The US PGA Championship is due to take place the same week as Hanbury Manor, but the majority on the European Tour will not qualify for the season's first Major and others may skip San Francisco over travel restrictions.

In all, there could be as many as 22 Tour events before the end of the year, featuring multi-event stops in countries such as Portugal and Austria.

The UK may stage an autumn swing as well, taking in the BMW Championship at Wentworth, the Scottish Open at the Renaissance and perhaps the Dunhill Links at St Andrews.

Those will be big-money events in comparison, but are plainly dependent on the pandemic. In the near term, the pros will appear on British fairways in the sort of streak everyone believed was consigned to history long ago.

Where that leaves the Irish Open remains to be seen. The event was supposed to take place next weekend before being postponed - but with the calendar facing a squeeze, it could struggle to find an opening.

Armchair fans will be able to watch Sunday evening's exhibition match between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, despite Sky Sports not agreeing a deal. CNN International, on free-to-air TV, will screen the Florida fundraiser, worth $10million, that pitches Woods and former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning against Mickelson and Tampa Bay Buccaneers playmaker Tom Brady. (© Daily Telegraph, London)