Top-10 stars Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia to tee off in Abu Dhabi Golf Championship
McIlroy says he is "feeling good mentally" as he prepares to start his 2014 season
Winning another major title in 2014 would make it a "remarkable" year for Mickelson
World No.1 absent Tiger Woods absent from the $2.7m desert showdown
If a rain dance brings relief for one kind of drought then golfer Rory McIlroy might just be hoping a few traditional dance steps in Abu Dhabi might satisfy his thirst for another major title in 2014.
McIlroy and reigning British Open champion Phil Mickelson joined a local dance troupe swirling golf clubs instead of the traditional sticks in a dose of Al Razfa dancing.
The entertainment was a curtain raiser for this week’s Abu Dhabi Golf Championship where McIlroy and Mickelson will tee off against fellow top-10 players Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia.
“That was a bit of fun and a great way to get into the rhythm of the season,” said former world No. 1 McIlroy, who put a miserable 2013 season behind him with victory in the Australian Open in November.
“Some skilful finger work and balancing is needed. I suspect it’s a bit like golf, practice, practice, practice.”
McIlroy, a two-time major winner, seemed in buoyant mood as he prepares to knuckle down to the new season.
The pair have been dating since September 2011, but if media rumors were to be believed their romance has endured some difficult moments, particularly as both slipped down the rankings in their respective sports in 2013.
But McIlroy, now the world No. 7, told the media ahead of the Abu Dhabi tournament that he is feeling more focused, especially as a would-be married man.
“I’m not going to sit here and say that all the stuff going on off the golf course wasn’t a distraction and say that it didn’t affect me,” McIlroy, who is involved in a court case with his former management company, told reporters. “Of course it did. You’re thinking of other things when you really shouldn’t have to.
“I don’t think there can be a bigger decision you have to make than asking someone to marry you.
“If anything, it will only help to have that stability and knowing everything in that regard in my life is set.
“I’m feeling good about where I am mentally. I feel good with everything that’s going on off the golf course, and it’s hopefully shaping up to be a good year.”
Mickelson has his own targets in mind as he begins his new season in Abu Dhabi. The American may have won his first British Open title last season but he had to swallow the agony of finishing as runner-up of the U.S. Open for a sixth time.
It is the only one of the four majors to elude Mickelson, denying him a career grand slam.
“Any major championship win would make the year special and memorable,” Mickelson told reporters in Abu Dhabi.
“I do believe that I’ll win a U.S. Open. I don’t know if it will be at Pinehurst this year – very well could be, or in the future. But any major championship would make 2014 a remarkable year.”
Joining the quartet of top-10 players at the desert showdown are former winners Paul Casey from England, Germany’s Martin Kaymer and Welsh defending champion Jamie Donaldson as well as major winners Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke and Ireland’s Padraig Harrington.
The $2.7m prize pot attracts some of golf’s big names to open their season under the desert sun of Abu Dhabi but the game’s biggest cat Tiger Woods is not in attendance this year and the world No. 1 has yet to open his campaign.