by Jeff Skinner
The golf season really heats up this week but unfortunately for the PGA Tour the heat won’t be found at The Bob Hope Classic in La Quinta, California but rather on the other side of the world in the desert at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship. The European Tour kicks it into high gear at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club in the United Arab Emirates. The field at the Hope only boasts two of the top twenty players in the world, Matt Kuchar (13) and Tim Clark (20). The Abu Dhabi has six of the top ten players and sixteen of the top thirty in the world. It is a star studded cast that only further illustrates the problem The PGA Tour is having getting top players to play at many of the its tournaments.
All of 2010’s major winners will play Abu Dhabi as Phil Mickelson makes his 2011 debut along with Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen and Martin Kaymer. Throw in Ernie Els, Paul Casey, Ian Poulter, Rory McIlroy and number one Lee Westwood and this has the feeling of a major, almost.
This will be Phil’s first appearance at this tournament. He has always taken trips to Asia for a few appearance fee checks but has yet to cash one from Abu Dhabi. Maybe Phil is looking for a little change of scenery to get him going this early in the season.
This won’t be the only time this year that the European Tour offers some hefty competition to the PGA Tour. With Westwood, McIlroy and Kaymer playing Europe as their home tour we will see less of them in the U.S. this season. Many of the “lesser” PGA tournaments are seeing fewer big names so it is kind of bittersweet to see Phil start his season overseas while the Hope struggles for survival.
With that said, this week will offer a ton of golf for the viewers. Both tournaments will be aired on The Golf Channel. The Hope starts Wednesday, remember this is 90 holes and The Abu Dhabi Championship will be telecast each morning starting Thursday, not a bad week for us golf fanatics.