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South Africa gets lion's share on 2012-13 European calendar

By Tony Jimenez

DUBAI (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 December 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country's economic crisis has had a profound effect on top-level golf with sponsors disappearing and prize funds being withdrawn.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.

(Editing by Alastair Himmer)

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