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Phil Mickelson tunes up for Masters

Phil Mickelson will be at the BellSouth Classic starting on Thursday, but his thoughts are sure to be on Augusta and defending his green jacket at next week's U.S. Masters.

The other members of the so-called 'Fab Four' -- world number one Vijay Singh, Tiger Woods and Ernie Els -- have taken the week off to fine tune their games for the year's first major.

But Mickelson will return to action in Duluth, Georgia, this week and follow the same meticulous build-up that led to his breakthrough victory last year.

A winner of the BellSouth in 2000, Mickelson had considered skipping the $5 million event when last weekend's rain-hit Players' Championships spilled over into Monday, threatening to cut into two practice rounds he had scheduled for Augusta.

It has taken some juggling, but the world number four will be able to get in his practice and keep his date at the BellSouth, where the greens on the Sugarloaf course will provide excellent preparation for Augusta's undulating putting surfaces.

"Everybody has a different way of preparing for events," said Mickelson, who has two wins already this season at Phoenix and Pebble Beach.

"When I came out on tour, it was difficult for me to know -- I didn't know what worked best for me, and a lot of it was experimental, and I would play the week before, I wouldn't play the week before.

"I'd work on driver, work on putting, work on different areas, and I wasn't getting out of my game what I felt I should.

"Now after last year's performances in the majors and implementing a certain preparation routine, it seems as though I've found my best way to prepare for big events."

South Africa's Retief Goosen, world number five and 2002 BellSouth winner, along with American Stewart Cink, ranked 10th in the world, will be the only other top-10 players to make the trip to tee off in Duluth.

But the field will also include some of the PGA tour's form players.

Luke Donald, who finished in a three-way tie for second at the Players Championships one stroke back of winner Fred Funk, is renowned for his accuracy from tee to green and course management which should put the Briton among the contenders.

Defending champion Zach Johnson, Joe Durant and Steve Jones, also spent time top the leaderboard at last weekend.

Johnson, who collected his maiden Tour title last year with a one-stroke victory over Mark Hensby, has prepared for his title defence with top 10 finishes in his last four events.

But like Mickelson and many other golfers here, Johnson has one eye on a bigger prize.

"I think Atlanta is a good tune-up for Augusta," said Johnson.


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