Playing the week before a major

Updated: March 30, 2006, 4:07 PM ET
ESPN.com/Golf World

Phil Mickelson prepares for majors by playing competitively the previous week. Tiger Woods prefers to take the week off and work on his game.

Obviously, each has proven that vastly different methods can find success. But is one theory better than the other?

Our experts sound off on playing the week before The Masters in this edition of Fact or Fiction.

• The greens at TPC-Sugarloaf will help players prepare for The Masters.

Bob Harig, contributor, ESPN.com: FACT. The greens at Sugarloaf are bent grass, just like at Augusta National. That is the biggest thing, as players have been on Bermuda for the last month in Florida and other surfaces out West. It doesn't hurt that the greens are undulating, just like at the Masters.

Brian Wacker, assistant editor, GolfDigest.com: FICTION. Sure, Duluth is just down the road a bit from Augusta, but players would be better putting off uneven linoleum to prepare for the greens they'll see at next week's Masters.

Jason Sobel, golf editor, ESPN.com: FICTION. Yes, they're of the bentgrass variety, but the only greens that help players prepare for The Masters are the ones at Augusta National.

• Playing an event the week before a major is the best preparation for top players.

Sobel: FACT. You can only hone your game so much by hitting balls at the range. Playing competitively prepares players for those grueling major weeks. Then again, taking the week off doesn't seem to have hurt Tiger too much.

Harig: FICTION. Just look at Tiger Woods. He almost never plays the week before a major, especially the Masters. In fact, he skipped his defense of the BellSouth in 1999 after it moved to the week prior. There is something to be said for getting rest and working on your game away from the glare of a tournament.

Wacker: FICTION. Hmm … Tiger's won four green jackets since turning pro in 1996, and never once has he played in a tournament the week before the Masters. Conversely, Phil Mickelson nabbed a 10th-place finish at BellSouth a week before winning the 2004 Masters. It really just comes down to a matter of personal preference.

• Pick to win -- BellSouth Classic.

Wacker: PHIL MICKELSON. The defending champ at BellSouth, Mickelson is winless so far in '06. He's only had two winless years in his career. There won't be a third.

Harig: RETIEF GOOSEN. The runner-up at The Players Championship, Goosen becomes the first member of the Big Five other than Woods to win this year

Sobel: BO VAN PELT. This guy's too good not to have a PGA Tour victory yet. With no Masters invite next week, he'll put everything he has into winning the BellSouth.

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