Preview: Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic


Couples, Mediate headline Gulf Resort Classic

SAUCIER, Miss. (AP) Fred Couples returns this week to defend his title at the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic and he'll have plenty of competition when the tournament starts on Friday.

This year's field includes Champions Tour rookies Rocco Mediate, Steve Elkington and Bart Bryant, along with several others who have had success at Fallen Oak in the recent past, including perennial contenders Jeff Sluman and David Frost.

The three-round tournament starts on Friday.

Frost and Mediate already have victories this season. Mediate became just the 16th player in Champions Tour history to win in his debut, finishing first at the Allianz Championship in February. The two are in the same threesome for Friday's first round. Mediate said he hopes Frost's presence will inspire a quick start.

The 50-year-old said one of the biggest adjustments in switching from the PGA Tour to the Champions Tour is events have just three rounds instead of four.

``If the pedal is not down on Friday, you will not win the golf tournament, period. You will not even do well in the golf tournament,'' Mediate said. ``You have to be ready to go. ... You've got to come out firing fast.''

Mediate is sure to be a crowd favorite at Fallen Oak. The affable veteran is a six-time PGA Tour winner, but maybe best known for losing on the first sudden-death hole after an 18-hole playoff against Tiger Woods in the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.

The weather may make Fallen Oak play more difficult this weekend. The forecast calls for bouts of rain and wind, especially on Friday and Saturday.

Mediate said the course was in very good condition during Wednesday's practice round and had heard good - and honest - reviews of the 7,054-yard Fallen Oak coming into the week.

``It's one of our (tour's) hardest and one of our longest, so I'm intrigued by that,'' Mediate said.

Couples won the tournament last year after making a 15-foot birdie putt on the final hole to break a tie with Michael Allen. Couples led by two strokes with four holes to play, but bogeyed the 15th hole and had trouble on the 17th before a flawless final hole for the victory.

It was Couples' seventh career victory and first since the 2011 AT&T Championship.

The 53-year-old has had a good start this season, finishing in the top five in both events he's played, including second in last week's Toshiba Classic.

The hottest player on the Champions Tour is Bernhard Langer, who is also in the Fallen Oak field. Langer has finished in the top three in all three events he's played this season, and has finished in the top 10 in seven of his last 10 events dating back to last season.

The tournament's 2011 champion, Tom Lehman, withdrew earlier this week because of a knee injury.

This year's tournament has a $1.6 million purse with the winner earning $240,000.

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Mississippi Gulf field
Michael AllenTommy Armour IIIChip Beck
Jay Don BlakeMark BrooksOlin Browne
Bart BryantBrad BryantMark Bucek
Robin ByrdMark CalcavecchiaRoger Chapman
Bobby ClampettRuss CochranJohn Cook
Fred CouplesJoe DaleyAllen Doyle
Joel EdwardsDavid EgerSteve Elkington
Marc FarryBrad FaxonBruce Fleisher
Anders ForsbrandDan ForsmanDavid Frost
Fred FunkJim Gallagher, Jr.Bob Gilder
Bill GlassonMike GoodesJay Haas
Gary HallbergBrian HenningerScott Hoch
John HustonJohn InmanGene Jones
Steve JonesTom KiteNeal Lancaster
Bernhard LangerWayne LeviChie-Hsiang Lin
Steve LoweryChien-Soon LuSandy Lyle
Andrew MageeDick MastMark McNulty
Rocco MediateLarry MizeMark Mouland
Larry NelsonBob NigerMark O'Meara
Steve PateCorey PavinTom Pernice, Jr.
Tom PurtzerDana QuigleyLoren Roberts
Gary RusnakJim RutledgeGene Sauers
Peter SeniorScott SimpsonJeff Sluman
Rod SpittleCraig StadlerHal Sutton
Jim ThorpeEsteban ToledoKirk Triplett
Bob TwayBobby WadkinsDuffy Waldorf
D.A. WeibringMark WiebeWillie Wood
Course: Fallen Oak, Par 72 | Yardage: 565