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Couples Stays Around Lefty Returns

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DULUTH, Ga. -- Fred Couples didn't want to give himself the option of going home to get ready for the Masters, so he decided to play in the BellSouth Classic.
 
Couples has missed the cut both times he's played in the tournament on the TPC at Sugarloaf, including last year, when he shot a 78 in the second round.
 
'It's not one of the better courses I feel comfortable on, but I haven't played very much,' Couples said Wednesday. 'So my goal is just to come here and keep playing and swinging, trying to get better and better and then go to Augusta.

'I normally don't look too far in advance, but if I go home, I don't feel like I will play any golf at all.'
 
Despite back problems that forced him to withdraw from the Bay Hill Invitational two weeks ago, Couples finished in the top 10 in two straight tournaments. He opened with a 67 last week in The Players Championship, and stayed in contention all week until a final-round 74 dropped him to 10th.
 
Still, the solid play has him cautiously optimistic about winning at Augusta for the second time, even though he's trying not to think about it.
 
'I would love to keep playing well,' said Couples, the 1992 Masters champ. 'So I am trying not to look forward to Augusta because I feel like I am playing much better.
 
'My goal is to be playing like I am now when I get there and continue to hit the ball like that.'
 
Phil Mickelson's just happy to be playing. He took a month off for the birth of his third child, and his return to the PGA Tour comes only a week before the Masters. Not great timing for a player looking to win his first major.
 
'I'm anxious to get out here and play, but my game certainly is rusty, I'm not going to deny that,' Mickelson said. 'I'm not trying to light it up the first couple of days, but then hopefully I will progress on the weekend.'
 
He and his wife, Amy, had their first son, Evan Samuel, on March 23, and Mickelson skipped The Players Championship last weekend.
 
So Mickelson is back on tour for a final tuneup before heading across Georgia to Augusta National for the first major of the year, even though the decision to play wasn't as easy as it might seem.
 
'As much as I was excited to come out and play again, it was very hard for me to leave my family,' Mickelson said. 'Our family is in a state of transition with the newborn, ... and it was hard for me to leave.
 
'I enjoy the time that each one is at. As much as I want to come and play, it was just hard for me to get away from them.'
 
His return comes at Sugarloaf, a course where he's had plenty of success. Mickelson won in 2000, and in the past four years, he hasn't been out of the top seven. The only time he's missed the cut in this tournament was in 1995, when it was played on a different course.
 
'I love this golf course and I love what they have done to it this year, because the greens are the best I have seen them,' Mickelson said. 'They are so fast and they should be very firm. They are identical to what we'll see next week.'
 
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