/ 27 October 2009

Mickelson, Harrington fired up for Singapore Open

Phil Mickelson warns he is in top form heading into the Barclays Singapore Open this week, where he faces a quality field led by Padraig Harrington and Geoff Ogilvy.

The world number two returns to the city-state for a third time, fresh from helping the USA claim the Presidents Cup a fortnight ago as he continues his return from a difficult year in which his wife was diagnosed with cancer.

The popular American left-hander, who reclaimed the world number two spot with his victory over Tiger Woods at the Tour Championships last month, is on the first leg of a two-stop Asian swing.

Like others playing here, he heads to Shanghai for the HSBC Champions, now a World Golf Championship event, next week to resume his rivalry with Woods before taking a break and preparing for 2010.

”I’m excited about the way I’m playing. It’s been fun to finish the year strong with a win at the Tour Championship and a good performance at the Presidents Cup,” he said, adding that he has worked to improve his short game.

”It’s made a big difference and now I’m really looking forward to these two weeks, some serious time off, and a big year in 2010.”

World number six Harrington has not won a tournament since the US PGA Championship last year and is desperate to get back on the winners’ dias.

The Irishman’s form is finally on the up after emerging from a slump over the past three months triggered by major swing adjustments.

He finished third at his last tournament, the Portugal Masters, and still harbours hopes of ending the year at the top of the European Tour money list.

Languishing at 16th, he knows he needs to start winning.

”I probably need to win two and a few other things to go right, but that would be the goal at the moment,” he said.

Harrington lost here last year by a shot to India’s Jeev Milkha Singh, who is not returning to defend his title.

The European Tour is co-sanctioning the tournament for the first time with the Asian Tour, leading to a stellar cast of players keen to improve their standing in the Race to Dubai.

But it could have been a better line-up if the European Tour had not scheduled the Volvo World Match Play Championships in the same week.

It means Singh has opted to play in Spain instead, as have top-ranked Europeans such as Paul Casey, Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia.

Nevertheless, with $5-million at stake, Singapore has attracted a decent field with the likes of Paul McGinley, Robert Karlsson, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Justin Rose all teeing off.

Joining them are Singapore regulars Ernie Els and Adam Scott, along with world number 12 Ogilvy and Korea’s K.J. Choi, buoyed from winning the Johor Open on Sunday.

Choi has slumped down the rankings but his victory across the border in Malaysia boosted his confidence.

”It is not easy to win on the Asian Tour. The depth of talent of the players here is very deep,” he said.

”For me to win my first Asian Tour title outside of Korea is a testament of how difficult it is to play here.”

As well as Choi, Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee will be in action, spearheading a strong Asian Tour contingent that also includes his compatriot Thaworn Wiratchant, China’s Liang Wenchong and India’s Jyoti Randhawa.

”Our players are looking forward to challenging the best players in the world and they are also keen to maintain their winning form in co-sanctioned events this year,” said Asian Tour executive chairman Kyi Hla Han. — AFP