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Phil Mickelson makes 1st trip to Middle East

Phil Mickelson made his first trip to the Middle East in an effort to improve upon his 2010 season.

The Masters champion will start his season Thursday at the Abu Dhabi Championship.

"My goal this year is to have the year I expected 2010 to be. With the exception of the Masters, it wasn't the year I had hoped for," Mickelson said Wednesday. "And so, I've been working hard in the offseason to make 2011 the year I believe I can have and the one I had hoped for last year."

Mickelson is a regular in Singapore and Shanghai for the end-of-year events.

"I am not exactly a global player like Gary Player or Ernie Els, not yet. But I'm trying to get there," Mickelson said. "But certainly, it is something that I would like to improve. I don't know if I'll ever get to that degree, but I'd like to play more internationally, and its really been great for us as a family to be able to experience so many different cultures and learn from them."

Mickelson last played in November at a tournament in Singapore.

"I'm excited to get the year started," the left-hander said. "I started practicing a little bit earlier than normal because I'm antsy and excited to start the year."

Fellow 2010 major champions Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell and Louis Oosthuizen also are in the field along with top-ranked Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, 2007 and 2009 winner Paul Casey, Padraig Harrington, Retief Goosen, Rory McIlroy, Francesco and Edoardo Molinari and Italian teen star Matteo Manassero. Last year, Kaymer won the tournament for the second time in three years, birdieing the final hole for a one-stroke victory over Poulter.

Mickelson also praised the selection of Jose Maria Olazabal as Europe's captain for the 2012 Ryder Cup.

"Everybody is excited that he is going to be the Ryder Cup captain," Mickelson said. "I know his players are excited, but the U.S. players are excited to see him as captain, too, because he's such a class act and a credit to the game."

Davis Love III is expected to be selected the U.S. captain.

"He has a lot of experience playing Ryder Cups, and I think over the years, he's able to take some of the things that he has liked from various captains," Mickelson said. "I think he will be a great captain, too. Jose Maria and Davis Love, you have two of the nicest guys that both sides could offer. I think it's going to be a very friendly and fun match."