Phil Mickelson'swire-to-wire romp in the BellSouth Classic (28-under-par 260) at the TPC atSugarloaf outside Atlanta was the lowest 72-hole total of his career and theninth of his 28 wins to come on a TPC course. The smashing showing was also akey part of his intensive Masters prep, which started in earnest the week ofthe Players Championship. In Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., Mickelson spent twopretournament days working with his swing coach, Rick Smith. Then after theevent Mickelson flew to Augusta for a series of practice rounds. He hit so manyballs that he arrived at Sugarloaf with tape around two of the fingers of hisleft hand. In fact, the only thing that slowed him down at the BellSouth wasoverpreparing for his Saturday round: He spent 40 minutes on a StairMasterbefore practicing for about three hours. The fatigue showed at the 18th whenMickelson's four-wood from 239 yards came up short, leading to a double bogey.He'll be sure not to make that mistake at Augusta. Says Smith, "Hisperformance this week puts an exclamation point on preparation." ... Overthe previous six years Mickelson has played both the BellSouth and the Mastersand has been out of the top 10 in either event only once. His two best finishesat Sugarloaf (wins) were followed by his two worst at Augusta (seventh and10th). His two worst finishes at the BellSouth (10th and an MC) were followedby two of his best at the Masters (first and third). Hmmm....
Michelle Wie'sdad, B.J., was whooping and hollering so loud at the Kraft Nabisco lastThursday that Michelle whispered to her caddie (in angst-ridden teen fashion),"My dad is embarrassing me." B.J. was no more restrained the next day,when he was bellowing and pumping his fist whenever Michelle made a putt, andleading the charge to the next tee, often while partner Ai Miyazato was tryingto hole out.... CBS's Sunday telecast of the LPGA's first major drew a 1.8overnight rating, up 64% from last year but still behind NBC's suspense-freeshowing of the BellSouth, which garnered a 2.5.
• Karrie Webb's 31st LPGA win was her 13th come-from-behind victory, and thelargest of her career, as she made up seven shots with a final-round 65.
• For liveMasters coverage, go to SI.com/golf.
"Our par-3 course has become outdated."--TEEING OFF, PAGE G14
Survey Says ...
Phil Mickelson carried two drivers at the BellSouth.One had 9.5 degrees of loft and a 45-inch shaft and was set up to hit fades,while the other, a 46-incher with 9 degrees, was for draws. Mickelson wentwithout his sand wedge, as he plans to do at the Masters. "There are nosand wedges at Augusta," he told the media. "Have you seen how long itis?"
The Darrell Survey has tracked equipment usage at golftournaments since 1938.
The LPGA says it will offer its players individualbrand managers
MOMS + BABES * [MBAS + PERSON AS BRAND] - BAD JUDGMENT= BRAND MANAGERS
SCOTT HALLERAN/GETTY IMAGES; ROBERT BECK (JULI INKSTER, NATALIE GULBIS AND MICHELLE WIE); WALTER IOOSS JR. (ANNA BENSON); TIMOTHY EAGAN/WOODFIN CAMP/GETTY IMAGES (BRANDING)
SCOTT HALLERAN/GETTY IMAGES
Mickelson's 13-stroke win was the largest on Tour since 2000.