Olympic golf would help the game grow, says Mickelson

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SHANGHAI, Nov 7 (Reuters) World number two Phil Mickelson expects to see golf on the Olympic programme in the near future, believing its inclusion would act as a spur to help the sport develop around the world.

The 37-year-old American impressed when he stopped off with his family in Beijing - venue of next year's Olympics - on his way to Shanghai to play in this week's 5 million dollars Champions tournament.

''I think Beijing is going to be a wonderful host for the Olympics,'' the three-times major winner told reporters on Wednesday.

''Hopefully in the future, golf will become an Olympic sport, because then the Olympic foundations from every country will start to fund and support golf in all the countries throughout the world and golf will become a much more global sport.'' Golf faces a tough task getting into the world's biggest multi-sports event as the International Olympic Committee are trying to contract the size of the Games.

''The earliest it would be in the Olympics is 2016, the absolute earliest possible,'' Mickelson said.

''Hopefully I'll still be playing and maybe have a chance but I think it would be better if it was for amateur golfers.

''As professionals, we have a chance to compete in Ryder Cups, President Cups and World Cups and represent our country in so many different ways.

Mickelson said another way of making the sport more global was for top players to take part in international tournaments, something he was hoping to do more and more.

''In the past I haven't been able to because it hasn't been fair on my family,'' he said.

''Now that my kids are older they can grasp the cultural differences. So I want to make an effort to help globalise golf but also to give my kids a more global education.'' After a disappointing first foray into Asia at the Singapore Open last week, Mickelson is confident of a better showing in milder weather at the Sheshan International Golf Club starting tomorrow.

''I had a bit of a virus at the weekend and I think the heat made it a little worse,'' he said.

''But I've had a good practice session this morning and I'm starting to hit the ball much better, so I'm expecting to play well this week.'' REUTERS RaR RAI1559

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