Nov
5
2013
Phil Mickelson to open 2014 chasing money in Abu Dhabi
By Stephanie Wei under European PGA Tour
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Phil the Thrill!

Tournament organizers announced on Tuesday that Phil Mickelson, who has declared his intentions to cut back on his schedule, has committed to play at the European Tour’s season opener, the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, along with Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose. 

Which also means Phil won’t start his season as he has the past two years at the Humana Challenge in La Quinta, California. For now, we’re assuming we’ll see him in the States for the first time in the new year near his hometown at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.

As you may recall, Abu Dhabi was the site of where one of Woods’ rules incidents occurred in 2013. Earlier this year, Tiger incurred a two-shot penalty for taking an improper drop from a vine-y area that was actually a sandy area, which then caused him to miss the cut.

Well, apparently that led to bad taste in Tiger’s mouth or perhaps how he conducted himself afterward. It’s unclear, but Giles Morgan, the bank’s global head of sponsorship, was furious that Woods played in the one-day exhibition at Mission Hills (and then continued to chase money in Macau and Singapore), according to the Telegraph:

“For a meaningless game in China to take place only a few days before is disappointing,” said Giles Morgan, the bank’s global head of sponsorship. “This tournament has to be bigger than the individual.”

“We are disappointed not to have Tiger here,” Morgan said. “Ultimately he is a freelance agent, so it is his decision to do as he likes. I just feel that this tournament has an important role to take golf into an entirely different part of the world. It builds off the Olympic story in China and all the top players in the world have a responsibility, to an extent, to support it. Sponsors of our size deserve a modicum of respect for their investment.”

I suppose they’ve decided to invest in Phil — which isn’t a bad idea since he’s probably cheaper and you also likely get a higher return on your investment.

Here’s the media blast:

MICKELSON TO MAKE HIS MARK IN ABU DHABI

-       Five-time Major winner and reigning Open Champion to bid for Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship’s Falcon Trophy

-       Three of world’s top six players now confirmed

Abu Dhabi, UAE, Tuesday 5th November, 2013: Five-time Major winner and current world number four, Phil Mickelson, has confirmed his stake in the race for glory at January’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship 2014. Mickelson’s return to the UAE capital ups the ante for the season-opening event which now sees three of the world’s top six players competing on Abu Dhabi Golf Club’s National Course.

The top-ranking trio, including former world number one Rory McIlroy and reigning US Open title-holder Justin Rose, will challenge reigning champion Jamie Donaldson, world number 16 Luke Donald, and Abu Dhabi’s record-breaking Global Golf Ambassador Matteo Manassero for a share of the $2.7million prize purse, the richest of the European Tour’s ‘Desert Swing’ series.

As the reigning Open and Scottish Open champion, Mickelson, affectionately known as ‘Lefty’ amongst fans, is one of the world’s most popular and accomplished golfers.  At 43-years-old, he boasts 42 PGA Tour and nine European Tour titles, including five Majors, in his impressive career to date.

“His presence is sure to cause a ripple amongst the currently confirmed European field set to chase the coveted Falcon trophy,” said Faisal Al Sheikh, Events Bureau Director, Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), which owns and organises the Championship.

Mickelson, who recently revealed he will be cutting back on tournament commitments in 2014 in a bid to focus on capturing a career grand slam US Open win, was keen to fix Abu Dhabi into his early-season schedule.

“To play Abu Dhabi in the early part of the year is a great opportunity,” comments Mickelson.  “I’ve wanted to return since my first time there in 2011.  The golf course and facilities at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club are outstanding and the quality of the field and the good weather make it a great place to start my 2014 season.”

Mickelson’s return to the Championship sets a high bar for the greatly anticipated opening event on the European Tour’s Desert Swing.

HSBC Global Head of Sponsorship & Events Giles Morgan said: “This event is gathering huge momentum and gets the golfing year off to a flying start. The quality of the field speaks volumes about the tournament and Phil is undoubtedly yet another headline attraction.”

After consecutive wins this year at the Scottish Open in Inverness and the Open Championship at Muirfield, on-form Mickelson could well be in contention to become the first American to win in Abu Dhabi since fellow 2004 Ryder Cup teammate Chris DiMarco lifted the inaugural title in 2006.

“To win in Abu Dhabi would be wonderful although I know it will be tough,” said Mickelson. “The course can be very challenging but I’m playing some of the best golf of my career and feeling confident about my performance.”

Mickelson played in the 2011 Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship with his entire family present to support. Despite high hopes for his play on the straight-hitting National Course, he was only able to manage a disappointing 37th position finish.

“Abu Dhabi was a great way to kick off my season back then because it opened my eyes up to new cultures and traditions – an experience that my whole family found rewarding.  Next year’s tournament is strictly about the golf for me although my family is looking forward to visiting that fascinating part of the world again, too.”

Mickelson’s Abu Dhabi confirmation is fitting given his flair for building suspense on the course with tense finales. “The National seems to throw up new surprises for players each year so let’s see what 2014 will bring.  To be only the second American to win the event would be a nice accomplishment.”

The 2014 Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship will take place on January 16-19 at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.  Tickets are available via the event’s official website –www.abudhabigolfchampionship.com – and Ticketmaster (www.ticketmaster.ae) and are priced at AED50 for a daily pass and AED150 for a four-day pass.