LONDON (Reuters) - Less than two weeks after Henrik Stenson bagged a $1.25 million bonus for finishing top of the money list, a new European Tour season will start on Thursday with simultaneous events in Australia and South Africa.
The Australian PGA Championship will be held on the Gold Coast in Queensland while the Alfred Dunhill Championship takes place in Malelane, on the border of the Kruger Park game reserve.
The full schedule for the season has yet to be released but there is likely to be almost 50 tournaments before the campaign ends at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai next November.
Former U.S. Masters champion Adam Scott leads a strong Australian challenge on the Gold Coast where Ian Poulter returns to the European Tour for the first time since April after being sidelined by foot surgery.
"To take myself out of trying to qualify for a Ryder Cup place, that was pretty hard to take because I obviously love that event so much," Englishman Poulter told reporters.
"But a rest was needed to get the rehab done and to come back strong at the back end of this year."
In South Africa, former U.S. Masters champion Charl Schwartzel bids to win the Dunhill again and thereby become the fourth player to claim the same European Tour title on five or more occasions.
It is an exclusive club to which only German Bernhard Langer and American pair Tom Watson and Tiger Woods belong.
Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke, Europe's Ryder Cup captain when they lost to the U.S. last month, and Branden Grace are also in the field at a course that is among the most picturesque on the tour.
South African Grace finished seventh in last season's Race to Dubai rankings. Swede Stenson topped the 2015-16 money list, the British Open winner securing an additional $1.25 million payday from the $5 million bonus pool awarded to the top 10.
(Writing by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Tony Jimenez; firstname.lastname@example.org; +27828257807; Reuters Messaging: Reuters Messaging: email@example.com)