Phil Mickelson plans to start the 2011 in the desert, as he has done so often in his career.
Just not the California desert.
Mickelson, who only recently began to expand his global horizons, said he is planning to make the European Tour's Abu Dhabi Championship his first tournament of the new year. It will be held the same week as the PGA Tour’s Bob Hope Classic.
“I’ve wanted to go to the UAE (United Arab Emirates) for a while, and this is the perfect time,” Mickelson said, adding his entire family and swing coach Butch Harmon will be going with him. “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.”
This figures to be the second straight year that the Bob Hope Classic gets more attention for who’s not there.
A year ago, the PGA Tour granted nine conflicting releases to players to compete in Abu Dhabi. Tournament officials at the Hope were not thrilled, although they overlooked the fact that six of those players were European and all nine were European Tour members. What caused such consternation is one release went to Anthony Kim, who went to high school in the Palm Springs area.
Mickelson is a two-time champion at the Bob Hope Classic, although he has lost interest in recent years when the tournament started moving away from its traditional rotation of golf courses.
The four-time major champion is taking an interest in playing overseas, and making the most of it. He is immensely popular in China, where he is building golf courses and teaching academies. There also is appearance money to be made, part of the game for years.
“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.”
Mickelson will go straight from Abu Dhabi to Torrey Pines for the start of his busy West Coast swing. He plans to play Phoenix, Pebble Beach and Riviera, but is undecided on the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. He said that would depend on his kids’ spring break.