Notes Rules May Keep Lefty Out of BellSouth

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Horrible weather at The Players Championship, and PGA Tour rules might keep Phil Mickelson out of the BellSouth Classic.
 
Mickelson was four strokes off the lead after two rounds of The Players Championship, which could be stretched until Tuesday because of rain. That means Mickelson's expected practice rounds at Augusta National early this week might get pushed to Wednesday at the earliest, and make him unavailable for the BellSouth's pro-am.
 
PGA rules are clear: if you miss the pro-am without an excused absence, you can't play that week.
 
'There's a good chance I'll end up playing Augusta on Wednesday and that means I won't be able to play' at TPC at Sugarloaf, Mickelson said Sunday.
 
Mickelson, the defending Masters champion, said he's not a fan of the PGA Tour's pro-am rule because it affects only those scheduled to play in the pre-tournament event and not all competitors.
 
'I don't think it's a legitimate rule,' he said. 'I think the punishment should not affect the competition itself.'
 
Henry Hughes, chief of operations for the PGA Tour, said he didn't anticipate any exceptions to the pro-am policy just because a tournament ends on Monday, or even Tuesday.
 
'I would think that does not have any impact,' Hughes said. 'It's not a cross-country trip. I don't see any conflict.'
 
Earlier this year, U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen overslept, missed his pro-am tee time at the Nissan Open and was disqualified at the Riviera Country Club.
 
The rule went into effect before last season. PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said in the two years before that, 'we averaged 54 total no-shows' for pro-ams.
 
'We went from that to last year, two DQs,' Finchem said.
 
Pro-ams are significant revenue streams for tournaments. A spot in the March 30 pro-am at the Tournament Players Club at Sugarloaf cost $4,950, according to the tournament's Web site.
 
Goosen was the only disqualification so far this season. Finchem says there have been no excused absences.
 
As problematic as disqualifying a player can be, Finchem says 'there's always a silver lining in just about everything. I think it's really got the players focused on the regulation and the importance of making your tee time on Wednesday.'
 
KEEPING UP WITH JONES
Steve Jones seemed as happy to close out a second-round 77 Sunday at The Players Championship as he was with his first-round 64.
 
'Hey, I made it, I finished the round,' Jones said, big smile on his face.
 
He waved his arms in the air after finally reaching reach the halfway point at TPC at Sawgrass' Stadium Course. When you're 46 and off the PGA Tour radar for two years with a tennis elbow injury, any tournament golf is good golf.
 
'I felt so good Friday and even yesterday,' Jones said. 'You try and hold on to that good feeling, that good swing.'
 
He was tied for the lead when he left the course Saturday midway through the second round. Jones' last nine holes were nothing short of a golfing disaster. He had back-to-back double bogeys on the 11th and 12th holes and three more bogeys coming in for a closing 43. He fell seven shots off the pace.
 
No matter what happens at The Players, the former U.S. Open champion is pleased with his progress.
 
'I got to rethink some of my strategies on the fairways,' he said. 'I'll take a lot from this. I've got to play the back nine again real quick, so maybe I can improve myself.'
 
That's what Jones did, finishing seven shots better with a 36 before the third round was halted.
 
TAKING YOUR CUTS
Now that's going down swinging.
 
Andre Stolz came to the 18th -- and the final hole of his first Players Championship -- Sunday morning after back-to-back birdies on the 16th and 17th holes.
 
He must have felt the adreneline since he proceeded to pump three tee shots into the large lake along the left side of the difficult hole.
 
Finally, on his fourth tee shot, Stolz hit dry land in the right rough. By that time he was on his seventh stroke. It took two more to hit the green.
 
Two putts later, Stolz -- who made seven birdies during the round -- closed with an 11.
 
He ended with a 76 and a two-round total of 10-over 154.
 
Stolz, a 34-year-old Australian who won the Michelin Championship at Las Vegas last season, has missed the cut in six of his eight events this year.
 
DIVOTS
Hal Sutton, who won the 2000 Players Championship, did not return to Sawgrass' Stadium Course to finish his second round Sunday morning, citing a hip injury. ... Vijay Singh was 5 under par after the first round. In the 29 holes he's played since, Singh has only two birdies. ... Graeme McDowell's caddie thought his man was getting ready to tee off on No. 4 when he saw three kids walking down the left side of a cartpath. 'Stand on the path please,' the caddie called out. The kids immediately came to a halt. Only later did the caddie realize McDowell was waiting for the fairway to clear -- and one of the kids was the son of Davis Love III.
 
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