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BellSouth golf tourney moves to May

DULUTH - For the past seven years, the BellSouth Classic has been the week before the Masters.

The tournament held at the TPC at Sugarloaf in Duluth is now moving from its early April slot to May 14-20 for the 2007 season, the week after the The Players Championship, a tournament considered the PGA Tour's fifth major. The complete Tour schedule was released Friday.

It's a move event director Dave Kaplan has been talking to the Tour about for several years, primarily because of the weather problems that have plagued the tournament.

In seven years, they've made the cut on Friday once. Last year, Kaplan said, solidified the need for a change.

Thursday and Friday rounds were completely washed out in 2005, one of the few times that's happened in Tour history. During Saturday's opening round, the weather included rain, sleet, snow and high winds. Ultimately, the BellSouth was reduced to 54 holes and won by Phil Mickelson on Monday in a five-man playoff.

"There were some good things about playing the week before the Masters - and there were some drawbacks," Kaplan said.

Higher temperatures and a lower chance of round-halting rain in May will have the course playing like it was meant to, hard and fast.

Daylight-saving time will also be in effect with the May date, just a week earlier of when the tournament was played before its move to April.

The last time the BellSouth Classic was played in May (1998), it was won by Tiger Woods.

And the new Tour schedule may bring the best of the best, like Woods, to Sugarloaf.

It's slot a week before the Masters drew some players, most notably Mickelson, but kept others away.

"I think it's going to be a year or two before we know (which players will participate), because the whole Tour is changing," Kaplan said. "We didn't have a chance for a Tiger Woods or Davis Love or Vijay Singh before. We now have at least the chance to get them."

Some of the high-profile international players may also find the new tournament dates more agreeable.

The Colonial Invitation and the Memorial Tournament will follow the BellSouth.

"There are a lot of positives," Kaplan said. "For sponsors, they have a better chance to entertain guests. How many years will a company continue to be rained out one, two, three days?

"And like William Pate, the Vice President of Advertising for BellSouth, said, in the springtime in Atlanta, it wouldn't matter if Tiger or Tony the Tiger was leading, people would come out."

This year's tournament will be played March 27-April 2. The event will offer a total purse of $5.3 million, up $300,000 from last year, with close to $1 million going to the winner.