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European Tour announce 45 events in 2003

The European Tour has announced a schedule for 2003 consisting of 45 order of merit tournaments across 23 countries worldwide.

The schedule was officially released on Tuesday, even though the 2003 European Tour teed off with the Asian Open in Taiwan last week and is followed by the Hong Kong Open starting on Thursday.

After a six-week winter break, the first event of 2003 will be the South African Open in Cape Town from January 9-12.

The first 12 tournaments of 2003 will be played across the Asian, Australian and African continents before the Tour returns to European soil for the Madeira Island Open from March 20-23.

Tour officials were unable to confirm the total prize fund for 2003 because they are still in discussion with individual sponsors regarding prize money at particular events.

The 2002 European Tour consisted of 44 stops and had a total prize fund of $105.6 million. Next year's 48-tournament U.S. Tour offers $225 million.

Officials also confirmed that the 2003 Russian Open in Moscow (August 14-17) would form part of the European Tour for the first time.

The Russian Open has previously been a Challenge Tour event, but next season it will have dual ranking status with the European Tour.

The Tour also announced on Tuesday that the 2003 Irish Open (July 24-27) will return to the links of Portmarnock Golf Club near Dublin.

It will be the 19th time Portmarnock has hosted the Irish Open and next season's tournament will be sponsored by Nissan.

The first major of the season, the U.S. Masters, will be played at Augusta National Golf Club from April 10-13.

Olympia Fields in Illinois will host the U.S. Open (June 12-15), Royal St George's Golf Club in Kent, England will stage the British Open (July 17-20), while the U.S. PGA Championship (August 14-17) will be played at Oak Hill Country Club in New York state.

The season finishes with the Volvo Masters at Valderrama, Spain from October 30-November 2.

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