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McIlroy and Mickelson take centre stage for Abu Dhabi showdown

January 16, 2014

Two of the biggest names in golf today performed an impressive opening act ahead of Thursday's Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship opening when they added a new twist to traditional Emirati Al Razfa dancing.

As the world's top players roll into the UAE capital for the four-day 'Gulf Swing' opener, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson eased themselves into the season by joining a select Emirati dance troupe for an energetic, hair raising prelude to the showpiece event.

Holding aloft their clubs, the pair swayed to the sounds of Emirati drums and chants as they learnt the finer art of Al Razfa - a dance traditionally performed by male warriors who brandish and twirl sticks as they celebrate heroes.

"That was a bit of fun and a great way to get into the rhythm of the season," said McIlroy. "I enjoyed learning the traditional Al Razfa dance and putting my own spin on it. It's harder than it looks - some skilful finger work and balancing is needed here. I suspect it's like golf, practice, practice and practice can make the difference but anything can happen when you have to go out there and perform."

Mickelson, who returns to Abu Dhabi Golf Club for the first time since 2011, enjoyed experiencing a traditional art that has been part of Emirati culture for generations.

"I love learning about different cultures, and although I have been to Abu Dhabi before, this was a chance to really experience and understand the emirate's traditions a little better," said Mickelson. "I thoroughly enjoyed it, and was just glad I could keep pace with the dancers who did a wonderful job in showing us how it's done."

McIlroy and Mickelson headline a stunning line-up of the world's best players, which includes Super Swede and current world number three, Henrik Stenson, as well as Spaniard Sergio Garcia, who surged up the rankings to world number ten after winning the Thailand Golf Championship late last year.

Three-time Abu Dhabi champion Martin Kaymer, who first made a name for himself lifting Abu Dhabi's Falcon Trophy in 2008 and again in 2010 and 2011, along with Italian hotshot and Abu Dhabi Ambassador Matteo Manassero join the fray alongside former world number one, Luke Donald, and Irish charm, Padraig Harrington.

Tickets and Championship packages are available via the event's official website - - and Ticketmaster ( ), at AED50 for a daily pass and AED150 for a four-day pass. Guests staying at any Abu Dhabi hotel over the Championship period enter free.

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