Fit-again Lefty rediscovering his drive for success with family in tow
GIVEN all they've endured over the past year, it comes as no surprise that the Mickelsons -- Phil, his wife Amy and their children -- savour the opportunity to see the world and sample its rich diversity.
The US Masters champion has brought the family to Abu Dhabi for this week's HSBC Championship, for example, where the kids have been able to go camel-riding in the grounds of the 7-star Emirates Palace Hotel.
Like Tiger Woods, Mickelson deserves credit for being one of a small group of the US PGA Tour elite who are prepared to travel to far-flung destinations and play ... even if an appearance fee reputed to be €1.5m changes hands.
Mickelson's last two outings of 2010 were at the HSBC Champions in Shanghai and the Singapore Open, while last month he and Amy "took a trip to Egypt and experienced Cairo and Luxor".
"We tried to fly to Agaba (in Morocco) and drive to Petra but couldn't land because of a sandstorm that was 3,000 feet high," he said.
After a torrid battle with breast cancer, Amy Mickelson is "in a much better place now," her husband is delighted to report, while the psoriatic arthritis with which the player himself was diagnosed last summer has been brought under control by doctors. Mickelson is fit, healthy and is in an ambitious mood.
"My ambition in 2011 is to have the year I expected 2010 to be. With the exception of the Masters, it wasn't the year I'd hoped for, so I've been working hard to set that straight," he said.
Yet Mickelson's ring rust is likely to tell in a tournament contested by all three of his fellow 2010 Major champions. Louis Oosthuizen is on top form after winning the African Open, as is Graeme McDowell, who finished second at the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, while Martin Kaymer has won two of the last four titles here.
McDowell missed the cut twice in three outings in Abu Dhabi but has drawn so much confidence from a stellar 2010 that he should be a menacing rival this week.
After a six-week winter break devising myriad changes, Padraig Harrington should have too many swing thoughts buzzing in his head to contend, but a refreshed Rory McIlroy, third here last year, looks best of the nine-strong Irish contingent.