x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood full of praise for 'a great tournament'

World's top stars and the European PGA Tour's chief executive say the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship is a model for other tournaments to follow.

Fans line the 12th green to watch Rory Mcilroy, Paul Casey and Miguel Angel Jimenez at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.
Fans line the 12th green to watch Rory Mcilroy, Paul Casey and Miguel Angel Jimenez at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.

ABU DHABI // George O'Grady, the European PGA Tour's chief executive, said the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship is a model that other tournaments should try to follow.

"Everything is so well set up here that we regard Abu Dhabi as a template in terms of how to make an impression on the global fixture list," O'Grady said. "The players like coming here, their caddies do and so do we."

The six-year-old event, played at the National Course, is the richest of the four "Desert Swing" tournaments in Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Qatar and Dubai, with US$2.7million (Dh10m) in prize money.

Many players praised the city's hospitality as well as the tournament. Phil Mickelson, the winner of four majors, played in the UAE for the first time last weekend and was impressed by the event - and by the Emirates Palace hotel. He brought his family along for the trip.

"We've all had such a great time in a clean, beautiful and fascinating place," he said.

Lee Westwood, the world No 1, has not enjoyed the best of playing times here - he missed the cut last year and finished joint 64th on Sunday - but that did not stop him from adding his support.

"They have made the course quite tricky," he said. "I found it tough in my first practice round and it's been a serious test of golf ever since."

This year's field included the four current major champions plus Westwood.

Keith Waters, the Tour's director of international policy, said the event was second in overall strength - outside the four majors - to the season-ending Dubai World Championship.

"A tournament's event rating determines how many world ranking points are available," Waters said. "So to have the top two tournaments taking place in this country over the space of two months speaks volumes for the way the game has developed here.

"There are some inherent things in this region that are ideal for golfers. It is not too humid. It is ideal for players to practise.

"It also helps that the players get to stay in one of the best hotels in the world [the Emirates Palace] on a complimentary basis and there are excellent transport facilities."

Waters said he welcomed the recent openings of courses at Saadiyat Beach and Yas Links.

"I think it is great that there are more golf courses here now," he said. "Abu Dhabi needed more than one course. To be honest they need more than three. But the two they have built recently certainly match up to this course.

"I think it is a commercial issue about where the tournament will go next. I think it is inevitable that one day it will go to Saadiyat and it is eminently possible it will also go to Yas."