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Rain Leaves Lefty, BellSouth on Hold

Associated Press
Friday, April 1, 2005; Page D03

Phil Mickelson's performance in the BellSouth Classic in Duluth, Ga., might not be as important as what he does off the course in preparation for defense of his Masters title.

But don't expect him to lose focus at the BellSouth simply because the first of this year's golf majors is a week away.

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"I don't think so," he said when asked about that yesterday. "This tournament has great practice facilities. It gives me a great opportunity to work on my game and get sharp and to not worry about what's coming up next week."

But Mickelson isn't entirely putting the Masters on the back burner. He spent about 10 hours at Augusta National on Tuesday before heading back to the Atlanta suburb and shooting a 3-under 69 in Wednesday's pro-am.

"It went really well yesterday," Mickelson said. "It was fun to get down there and see the course in such great shape."

Mickelson, the only one of the game's top four players in the BellSouth, had to wait another day to tee off after yesterday's first round was suspended because of rain.

The other top players in the world -- Vijay Singh, Tiger Woods and Ernie Els -- are passing on the BellSouth to get more practice time at Augusta.

But the BellSouth field is hardly weak, starting with defending champion Zach Johnson, third in his last three starts this year.

Also playing on the 7,293-yard, par-72 TPC at Sugarloaf are No. 5 Retief Goosen, No. 10 Stewart Cink, No. 13 Stuart Appleby and No. 15 Chris DeMarco.

But they'll have to wait, as the rain that has plagued the PGA tour this season struck again.

So far this season, eight of the 14 tournaments have been affected by the weather, including last week's Players Championship, which was delayed by storms on five occasions and didn't finish until Monday.

"What a surprise. We've had such great weather all year," Mickelson said.

Heavy rains fell for about nine hours before ending just before 1 p.m., rendering the TPC at Sugarloaf course unplayable.

Thunderstorms are forecast for today, which could delay the start of the tournament further. The weather is expected to clear up tomorrow.

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