Mickelson Says He’s Starting Season in Abu Dhabi Because He Really, Really Loves Deserts
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

Phil's always been a fan of the sand

Phil Mickelson is kicking off his 2011 season at the Abu Dhabi Championship in the United Arab Emirates, which isn’t the best news for the PGA Tour. The event falls during the same week as the Tour’s Bob Hope Classic. While Phil hasn’t played in that event in a few years, it’s just another example of golf’s growing global reach — ha, yeah right! — and the lure of MoneyLand’s cool millions in appearance fees.

Bob Hope tournament organizers were disappointed that the Tour granted nine releases to players for the Abu Dhabi tournament last year. Six of those players were European and all nine were European Tour members, according to the AP. What caused a mini uproar was that Anthony Kim, who went to high school in the Palm Springs area, was among them. Some thought AK should have showed loyalty to play at a tournament held in an area where he has roots. Pfffft. He’s an independent contractor.

Of course Phil has an explanation that extends beyond a fatty check for his decision. Family vacation! He’s taking his entire family and swing coach Butch Harmon with him.

“I’ve wanted to go to the UAE for a while, and this is the perfect time,” Mickelson said. “It should give me great weather to work on my game, and it gives me a chance to get to the UAE. The whole family is going, and they’re pretty excited about it.”

“I feel like there’s an obligation as a player to try to bring the game to different parts of the world,” Mickelson said. “The UAE, especially Abu Dhabi, and China seem to be our greatest growth opportunities.”

He’s a savvy business man. (WHAT’S HAPPENED TO PLAYING FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME?) Don’t fret, though — Mickelson will fly straight from Abu Dhabi to Torrey Pines for the start of the West Coast swing.