News24

Woods, Mickelson renew battle

2009-11-03 13:21

Shanghai - Tiger Woods renews battle with Phil Mickelson in China this week as Asia hosts its biggest golf tournament ever with the HSBC Champions, now elevated to World Golf Championship status.

The last time the world's top two players met, Mickelson surged to victory at the Tour Championship, leaving Woods trailing in second.

It will be another intriguing showdown at the Sheshan International Golf Club in an event that has attracted a compelling list of the sport's best players.

"I played in the HSBC Champions in 2005 and 2006 and I am looking forward to returning to Shanghai," said Woods, who last month became the first sportsman to break through the billion-dollar earnings barrier.

"It is an event that symbolizes the amazing progress of golf in Asia and its new World Golf Championship status underlines how firmly China has established its place on the global golf calendar.

"I enjoy playing around the world when possible, and having a WGC event in China is very important to the global growth of the game."

Mickelson, who won the tournament in 2007 and finished eighth last year, is relishing another crack at the title.

"After The Open Championship, it is hard to think of a bigger and better tournament held outside America," said the American world number two.

"It has always attracted strong fields and so has a great reputation worldwide and I am really looking forward to trying to reclaim my title."

As well as Mickelson, Woods will come up against Asia's first Major winner, Yang Yong-Eun.

Not only did the Korean beat Woods to claim the PGA Championship but also memorably held him off to triumph here in 2006, setting up an enticing rematch.

"Even to this day, I try to revive the feeling I had the week I won the HSBC three years ago," said Yang.

"It was such a big tournament and yet I played with such poise."

In addition to Yang, the Asian charge is led by India's Jeev Milkha Singh, Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee and China's Liang Wenchong, who finished second to England's Ian Poulter at the Singapore Open on Sunday.

Other Americans teeing off include 2009 US PGA Tour winners Brian Gay, Jerry Kelly and Sean O'Hair, along with Stewart Cink, who pipped Tom Watson for The Open at Turnberry in July.

The European challenge is headed by defending champion Sergio Garcia, current Race to Dubai leader Lee Westwood, world number four Paul Casey and three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington.

With only three events left before the season-ending Dubai World Championship, England's Westwood continues to lead the European money race from Germany's Martin Kaymer and Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy.

Garcia said he was excited to be defending his title against so many top players.

"I suppose being defending champion brings its own unique pressure but, actually, I feel more excited than anything else about being back to Shanghai," said the Spaniard.

"I'll be the defending champion on a course I really enjoy and it goes without saying I'd love this to be the first tournament in my career that I successfully defend."

The elite World Golf Championships are sanctioned and organized by the International Federation of PGA Tours.

Its other events are all in the United States -- the Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona, the CA Championship in Florida and the Bridgestone Invitational in Ohio.

AFP