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Tiger Woods & Phil Mickelson set for Chinese duel

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, starting Thursday, in an event that has attracted a compelling list of the sport's best players, with a seven million dollar purse.

Mickelson won in 2007 but Woods has only managed second here, in 2005 and 2006.

"I've come close a couple of times and hopefully this week I can put my game together and improve on those finishes," said Woods, who last month became the first sportsman to break through the billion-dollar earnings barrier.

"It is an event that symbolises the amazing progress of golf in Asia and its new World Golf Championships 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 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 gives us the strongest field in our fastest growing and potentially largest market. I'm convinced the HSBC getting WGC status is a truly great thing for our tours."

As well 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.

"Winning in 2006 changed my career. I don't think I would have done the things I have done since without that triumph," said Yang.

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 two 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 bring together tournament winners and the best players from the International Federation of PGA Tours.

The other three WGC events are in the United States—the Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona, the CA Championship in Florida and the Bridgestone Invitational in Ohio.


November 4, 2009

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