The European Tour will break new ground this week when the 2000 International Schedule visits South America for the first time in the Tour's 29-year history for the Brazil Rio de Janeiro 500 Years Open, which will be played at Itanhangá Golf Club in Rio de Janeiro.
This is the first of two tournaments in the South American country over the next fortnight which further emphasises the European Tour's determination to internationalise the game of golf. Immediately after the Brazil Rio de Janeiro 500 Years Open on March 23-26, the Tour Members make the short hop to Sao Paolo for The Brazil Sao Paulo 500 Years Open at Sao Paulo Golf Club.
Prize money for The Brazil Sao Paulo 500 Years Open and The Brazil Rio de Janeiro 500 Years Open will total $1,400,000 (Approx 1.5 million euro), and these tournaments will unfold in the two weeks immediately before the Masters Tournament at Augusta National.
Costantino Rocca, a two-time Ryder Cup player, heads the list of entries for Rio along with new South African Open champion, Mathias Grönberg and Dubai Desert Classic winner, José Coceres of Argentina. Also in the field are seven winners from the 1999 season, who will guarantee stiff competition for the first European Tour title on that continent.
Apart from Coceres, there is a strong South American participation in the form of European Tour regulars Angel Cabrera, Eduardo Romero and Ricardo Gonzalez while Angel Franco of Paraguay - brother of US Tour winner, Carlos, will also be in the field on an invitation.
The Itanhangá course was designed by Arthur Morgan Davidson and opened in 1933. Vicente Fernandez won the 1984 edition of the Brazilian Open, which has been played seven times in the past. Angel Franco, who is in the field this week, won the last playing of the event in 1991 while others have been the legendary Roberto de Vicenzo (1957 and 1963), Raul Travieso of Argentina in 1967 and Americans Bruce Fleisher and Tom Sieckman in 1971 and 1981 respectively.
The course is located only two miles from the beach and 15 miles from the world famous Copacabana and Downtown. Feature holes are the 194 yards par three sixth and the 451 yards par four 18th, where water features come into play.
Joao Lagos, whose company Joao Lagos Sports will promote The Brazil Rio de Janeiro 500 Years Open and The Brazil Sao Paulo 500 Years Open, said: "I feel very honoured for being trusted with the responsibility of promoting the first official European Tour events to be played in Brazil.
"The fact that we are also celebrating in the year 2000 the 500th Anniversary of the discovery of Brazil by the Portuguese sailor Alvares Cabral adds even more meaning to it all.”