Mickelson aiming for glory in Singapore

American superstar Phil Mickelson hopes a month-long break will help ignite a worthy title charge at the US$6 million Barclays Singapore Open starting on Thursday.

Golf News: Phil Mickelson

The four-time Major champion, making his fifth visit to the Lion City, leads a star-laden field which includes fellow Major winners Graeme McDowell, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Padraig Harrington and Y.E. Yang at the Sentosa Golf Club and he is eager to improve on his best finish of ninth place at the 2008 edition.

In what is Asia's richest national Open, the cream of the Asian Tour will be led by 2008 Barclays Singapore Open winner Jeev Milkha Singh, three-time Asian number one Thongchai Jaidee and current Order of Merit leader S.S.P. Chowrasia.

A total of 204 players will compete over two courses - The Serapong and Tanjong - at Sentosa in the event sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour. The weekend rounds will be held at The Serapong.

"I have been very excited about coming here. I have been back home playing and practicing and just itching to come here and play because I feel that I have been playing well and shooting some good scores, so my excitement levels are really high at the moment for this event and next week's Presidents Cup because those are my last two events of the season before 2012," said Mickelson on Wednesday.

Known worldwide as "Lefty", Mickelson hopes to finally get it right and cash in on the US$1 million top prize at stake. He reckons his four previous visits to Sentosa will help boost his title hopes.

"Having played here a number of years, I just feel that every time I come here I play the course better and better. I have to accept that there are a number of holes where you have to accept par and maybe I have been forcing the birdies in the past. The more I come here the more I accept that," said the 41-year-old, who has won 39 titles on the PGA Tour.

"The Serapong course is really in incredible shape. It has become more challenging, the conditioning has gotten better and it really is a world class venue to host this event," added the 11th ranked player in the world.

After finishing fifth and third in the last two Barclays Singapore Open, McDowell, the 2010 US Open winner, is hoping for a natural progression to first place this week. A win in the morning session's Pro-Am could prove to be good omen for the Ulsterman.

"We were fortunate enough to win the Pro-Am although it wasn't really much to do with me. There were some interesting handicaps going on but we had a great time," said McDowell, ranked 14th in the world.

"The golf course is in as good a shape as I have ever seen it. They have had a lot of rain here but this golf course drains incredibly well and we are set for a great week. There is great balance to this golf course. Obviously the Tanjong is a lot easier where you can go and shoot five or six under. The Serapong is the big test. The rough can be really tough so accuracy off the tee is key."

Els, nicknamed the "Big Easy", makes a return to the Barclays Singapore Open where he plans to erase some bitter memories of finishing second twice. "I ran Jeev pretty close the year he won. I have had some good runs here but I haven't played the format with the two courses so that will make it interesting. I had a look at the other course and it looks like you will have to make a pretty good score there to keep the pace. The Serapong is an amazing golf course now - it has really come a long way," said the South African.

"I have been coming here forever - it's a great city, I love it here. It would be good to get the win here. I am really looking forward to this week actually. I'm definitely up for it - I have a bit of the hunger back and it will be great to get out and play."

Yang, Asia's first male Major champion, knows a first victory of the season will be difficult to come by at Sentosa. "It is a very tough field, one of the best fields in Asia. I have my work cut out this week. Hopefully I will play better than last year," said Yang, who finished equal 16th in 2010.



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