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Mickelson keen to spread U.S. influence in Asia

Phil Mickelson of the U.S. smiles during a news conference ahead of the Barclays Singapore Open golf tournament in Singapore November 7, 201
Phil Mickelson of the U.S. smiles during a news conference ahead of the Barclays Singapore Open golf tournament in Singapore November 7, 201

By John O'Brien

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Phil Mickelson is something of an American Ambassador when it comes to spreading the PGA Tour's influence in Asia and the left-hander is hopeful more events in the region can force their way onto the U.S. circuit.

Back in Asia for the Singapore Open after competing at the WGC-HSBC Champions event in Shenzhen last week, Mickelson has thrown his support behind moves to bring more American golfers to the region.

"I've been playing here for the past six years now and I plan to continue to play and having a presence in some of the top Asian tournaments," the four-times major winner told reporters at Sentosa on Wednesday.

The CIMB Classic in Malaysia and HSBC Champions events both announced this year that they would be added to the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup itinerary for the 2013-14 season and Mickelson is hoping the $6 million Singapore Open becomes another addition.

"I would certainly love it if that happens," the 42-year-old Mickelson said. "It's great that tournaments in Asia are part of the FedEx Cup... I'm hopeful that at some point, the U.S. Tour can maybe have three or five events over here."

Mickelson's support for a greater American presence in Asia was tempered slightly by compatriot and world number two Tiger Woods's decision to skip last week's tournament, a move his Ryder Cup team mate was quick to defend.

"We certainly want to help promote and drive the game throughout the world, but Tiger is just one person, and I think it's a little unrealistic for every tournament, sponsor, city and country to expect him to play every week," Mickelson said.

"I think that he does the best he can, as do the other professionals to promote the game in other parts of the world."

COURSE DESIGN

Not content with just playing in Asia, Mickelson has started to dabble in course design and is set to complete two ventures in China within the next 12 months.

"Primarily, the golf course in Kunming has been completed but we have some hold-ups from the government on the finishing touches. It is fairly playable at this point," he added.

"Right around this time next year, the golf course in Shanghai, which I am very proud of, should be open.

"It has been coming along nicely, and I'm excited about the way it looks, the way it plays, the opportunity for spectators to view golf and the opportunities that the amateur players have to play effectively and enjoy it while still providing a difficult challenge."

Mickelson will have been encouraged by the progress of Chinese amateurs in recent months with 14-year-olds Andy Zhang playing in this year's U.S. Open and Guan Tianlang winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship on Sunday to seal a berth at next year's U.S. Masters.

"I think it is exiting that amateur players all across Asia have a chance to compete in probably the best tournament in the world," he said of Guan.

"It helps young kids dream and aspire to greatness in the game and I think this is really a great thing. I've not seen him play, I heard he's a really great putter which will be key factor in Augusta, and should help him score well."

(Editing by Alastair Himmer)

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