April 2, 2006

No sand wedge for Mickelson at ultra-long Augusta

By Mark Lamport-Stokes

DULUTH, Georgia (Reuters) - Phil Mickelson, known for his
meticulous approach to the majors, has decided to compete at
next week's US Masters without a sand wedge.

Winner of the 2004 Masters, Mickelson believes it is more
important for him to have two drivers in his bag to tackle the
ultra-long Augusta National layout.

"There are no sand wedges at Augusta now," the 35-year-old
American told reporters after taking an eight-shot lead into
Sunday's final round at the BellSouth Classic.

"Have you seen how long that thing is? I don't know where I
would ever hit a sand wedge there.

"I've played it however many times the last couple of days,
played it however many times the last few years and there's
just no need for a sand wedge if they have lengthened it."

Left-hander Mickelson played practice rounds at Augusta on
Monday and Tuesday, his first look at the course since it was
stretched to 7,445 yards for this year's tournament.

Six new tees have been added to the par-72 layout since
Tiger Woods clinched his fourth green jacket last April, making
it the second longest in major championship history.

Mickelson has opted for the same strategy at the TPC at
Sugarloaf this week where he has spread-eagled the field with
rounds of 63, 65 and 67.

"I think the strokes that I have gained with having another
driver this week have offset that (not having a sand wedge),"
said the twice major champion.

"The other driver has gotten me down in the fairway more
often and I've been able to attack a lot of pins because of it.
I did it this week because I'm going to do it next week."

If he does find one of Augusta's bunkers he will use one of
the other two heavily-lofted wedges he carries and uses for his
trademark lob-wedge shots.

Under the rules of golf, a player is not permitted to have
more than 14 clubs in his bag during a round.

The 2006 Masters takes place from April 6-9.